I would like to learn some useful keyboard shortcuts. I have become a ninja of keyboard shortcuts in Windows.

Any must-have tips for Ubuntu?

Feel free to include Ubuntu defaults or custom ones you have found useful!

  • The answers section has become a collection of community wikis. Why can't people jut use one community wiki and add to it. – saji89 Sep 8 '12 at 12:01

21 Answers 21


You can set up whatever keyboard shortcuts you want through System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts. This will also tell you the current shortcuts.

Personally, I activate Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to restart the x server, use Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal, Ctrl+Alt+X as the xkill command so I can click on non-responding window to kill it and Ctrl+Alt+Delete to open the system monitor (a la Windows) instead of bringing up the shutdown prompt.

There is also a whole load of keyboard shortcuts set by compiz, which can be edited using compizconfig-settings-manager1 (installable from repositories).

I find keyboard shortcuts to be a personal preference and we are lucky that Linux is so customisable as to allow whatever configuration we want.


There's a fairly substantial list on the Ubuntu community wiki.


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When I found out about Alt + Mouse 1 on an open Window. I went nuts moving windows is easy now.

I also use Ctrl + Alt + (Left|Right) for switching workspaces.

Lastly I find myself using Super + Space which is the default binding for Gnome Do which I love.

Alt + F2 is very handy for starting programs, it has auto-completion and prevents you from clicking though the menus.

  • 3
    Not being able to Alt-drag windows to move them is my most frequent annoyance when I'm using Windows. – Matthew Crumley Aug 6 '10 at 16:58
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    Thank you for teaching me that Alt-drag lets you reposition a window in a very free and easy way. +1 – Smandoli Aug 22 '10 at 4:58
  • I usually use super+left/right for switching workspaces super+up for workspace picker and super+down to unfold the desktop cube to see. Makes for really efficient desktop switching. – Evan Plaice Sep 10 '10 at 7:04
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    I wonder if I'm the only one who re-binds Alt-F2 to "Run a Terminal" . I figure if I'm going to type something, I must be about to do something interesting, so I might as well have gnome-terminal or another terminal handy. – belacqua Jan 28 '11 at 0:25
  • @jgbelacqua That's not a bad idea. I usually use Synapse or Gnome-Do so Super + Space gets me everywhere I need to go - including the terminal. – Marco Ceppi Jan 28 '11 at 0:45

In Nautilus, you can have an extra pane by pressing F3. You get a Norton Commander kind of look.

(I learned this here: Add options to "Move to" (when you right click on a file).)

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    Cool! Never know this. – ariefbayu Aug 6 '10 at 9:36
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    That one is nice. A lot better than opening two nautilus windows >.< – Wayne Werner Dec 8 '10 at 3:14

ALT + F1 : launch applications menu, probably the most used keyword combination in my laptop.

ALT + Home : Jump to home folder.

ALT + Enter : Show file/folder properties.

ALT + F2 : Launch "run application" dialog box.

ALT + F4 : Close Window.

ALT + Left/Right : Go back/forward while navigation directories in nautilus.

ALT + Up/Down : Go up/down while navigating directories in nautilus.

ALT + Tab : Browse through windows.

Shift + Del : Permanently delete files, no backing up in trash folder.

F2 : Rename File/Folder.

F3 : Enable split view in nautilus.

F8 : Show/hide nautilus menubar.

F9 : Toggle nautilus side-pane.

Super + Tab : "Shift switcher", need to enable it in CCSM.

Super + M : Inverts all the colors.

Super + A or W : Arrange windows in a nice panel like appearance(Need Compiz).

CTRL + L : View/Edit full location path.

CTRL + A : Select all.

CTRL + N : New window.

CTRL + Shift + N : New folder.

CTRL + H : Show/hide hidden files.

CTRL + ALT + L : Lock Screen.

From http://www.techdrivein.com/2010/08/20-useful-ubuntugnome-keyboard.html

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ctrl+alt+l(lock) to lock your desktop.

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If your system has become complete unresponsive to where even hitting CTRL+ALT+F1 doesn't give you a terminal, it is possible to still gracefully stop your machine and reboot.

ALT+SysReq+r : Raw keyboard mode

ALT+SysReq+s : Sync the disk

ALT+SysReq+e : Terminate all processes

ALT+SysReq+i : Kill remaining process

ALT+SysReq+u : Remount all filesystems as read only

ALT+SysReq+b : Reboot

(Another way to kill all processes: ALT+SysReq+k)

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  • now I just need to remember alt-sysreq-rseiub next time my system locks bad. – Wayne Werner Dec 8 '10 at 3:20
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    I've always used R E I S U B instead. Makes since to me to sync the disks only after killing processes. – belacqua Jan 28 '11 at 0:27
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    To correct order is REISUB - notice that's BUSIER from right to left. – papukaija Jan 28 '11 at 2:05

Ctrl+W: Close Window/Tab

Ctrl+Q: Quit Application

Alt+F2: Open Run Application

SuperKey+Space: Runs Gnome-Do if installed (Very Cool App)


Once you get Compiz Fusion installed there are a ton of nifty keyboard shortcuts. It's like Exposé on Mac OS X, but even more powerful. I have shortcuts set up to flip between desktops, zoom out/show all windows, show the desktop, launch the console, etc. If you've never used Compiz check it out:



Haven't seen any shell related shortcuts yet, so here's a few I use a lot in bash:

Ctrl+R: Search incrementally backwards through command history.

Ctrl+T: Exchange characters under and behind the cursor.

Alt+.: Insert last argument from previous command.

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Another few helpful shortcuts while in terminal:

Ctrl+Shift+C: Copy.

Ctrl+Shift+V: Paste.

Ctrl+Arrow Left: Move to the start of the previous string (for long commands).

Ctrl+Arrow Right: Move to the next non-alphabet character (eg, '/', '.', '_', '-', etc).

Arrow Up or Arrow Down: Scroll through history of commands.

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I like using Ctrl + arrow keys to switch workspaces. I do it a lot. It's fun. I use Ctrl + Alt + arrow keys to move windows.

Super-T to open the terminal.

I took a note from the guy above, and made an xkill shortcut--I use Ctrl + Alt + X.

Alt + Tab is handy as always, but less so, as I just put things on different desktops.

As noted above, using compiz config is wise.

Anyway, there's a reason you're able to customize them all. Get a feel for what you need to do, and how you want to do it. Come on, man, you're using Ubuntu. Go nuts.


Some shortcuts relating to the mouse:

  • Alt + Left Mouse Button: move window
  • Alt + Middle Mouse Button: resize window
  • Super + Middle Mouse Button (drag): zoom to region of screen (Compiz)
  • Super + Mouse Wheel: zoom in (Compiz)
  • Mouse Wheel when at left or right screen edge: move viewport left or right (Compiz) (howto)
  • Middle Click on scroll bar: scroll immediately
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ctrl-alt-d is useful for quickly minimizing/restoring all the applications on the desktop.


Alt + F7 Move windows without using the mouse.

Alt + F8 Resize window without using the mouse.

Alt + F9 Minimizes the focused window.

Alt + F10 Toggles maximize.

Alt + Tab Cycle through open windows (bouth windows minimized and not-minimized)

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    Also, Alt + F10 to toggle maximization of the current window. – Lars Haugseth Aug 6 '10 at 18:19

These might not be a shortcuts but they do involve using the keyboard: turn on Mouse Keys in Keyboard Preferences and by pressing Fn + [keys that have the same colour as the "Fn" label] you can control the pointer and simulate clicks and click-holds. Keynav is a program in the repositories that is used to control the pointer by using the keyboard to divide a window in half continually. Thus one can click a link with no more than 10 key presses (in the rare case that Vimium/Pentadactyl/Vimperator can't do the job). Long winded it is, but I haven't touched a mouse or trackpad in ages!

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Only vaguely on-topic, but I like rebinding the Caps Lock key to the Compose Key. Preferences > Keyboard > Layouts > Options > Compose Key Position, set to caps lock. Try it! Done? Now press Caps Lock, then apostrophe, then e. Voila, e with an accent.

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If you haven't looked through the emacs tutorial yet, you might want to. It's got a bunch of keyboard shortcuts that apply to the bash prompt and throughout linux in general.

$ emacs

C-h t

Good luck!

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    You can also put: set -o vi in .bashrc and then you get vim commands at the bash prompt and everywhere else where readline library is used. – Sudhanshu Aug 7 '10 at 19:57
  • @Sudhanshu, that is just amazing. I consider myself an acolyte in the cult of vi, but I love the key commands. I try to use them quite often, and that little tidbit just made my day. – Wayne Werner Dec 8 '10 at 3:17

Alt+F1 to pop up a main menu at your mouse pointers position.

Alt+F2 to execute commands.


enter image description here

Default keyboard shortcuts in Ubuntu 13.10

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Well, you can get go on System then Preferences and then Keyboard Shortcuts. You will see the ones that are in use and you can also edit to any key/keys you like or can remember easily...

  • i cant remember the defaults so i create some that i can remember easily – Azul Mascara May 16 '12 at 21:34

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