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
    Commented Sep 8, 2012 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.



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. Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 16:58
  • 1
    Thank you for teaching me that Alt-drag lets you reposition a window in a very free and easy way. +1
    – Smandoli
    Commented Aug 22, 2010 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. Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 7:04
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 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. Commented Jan 28, 2011 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).)

  • 1
    Cool! Never know this.
    – ariefbayu
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 9:36
  • 1
    That one is nice. A lot better than opening two nautilus windows >.< Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 3:14

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


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


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)

  • now I just need to remember alt-sysreq-rseiub next time my system locks bad. Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 3:20
  • 1
    I've always used R E I S U B instead. Makes since to me to sync the disks only after killing processes.
    – belacqua
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 0:27
  • 2
    To correct order is REISUB - notice that's BUSIER from right to left.
    – papukaija
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 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.


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.


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

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)

  • 1
    Also, Alt + F10 to toggle maximization of the current window. Commented Aug 6, 2010 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!


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.


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.


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!

  • 1
    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
    Commented Aug 7, 2010 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. Commented Dec 8, 2010 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


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 Commented May 16, 2012 at 21:34

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