In a GNOME terminal, the standard ways of moving forward or backward by one word do not work.

In spite of what the documentation says:

alt+b : Goes back one word at a time.

alt+f : Moves forward one word at a time.

If I do the above, I just open the drop-down menu for Tabs and Edit. How can I fix this?

3 Answers 3


just press ctrl- and ctrl-

  • Uh! I totally prefer this! Mar 11, 2014 at 10:59
  • 3
    And I'm so psyched that this command seems to work everywhere: on a terminal, on gedit, on this very text box too!! :-o Mar 11, 2014 at 12:58
  • 1
    @RickyRobinson: This little feature is one of the top 5 reasons I prefer Linux over every other OS :)
    – Reeno
    Mar 11, 2014 at 13:11
  • 3
    It's even available on Windows
    – Kroltan
    Mar 12, 2014 at 2:21
  • 1
    NOTE: It will not work if you have an .inputrc on your home directory which does not include /etc/inputrc. The reason it works is because they are set such in /etc/inputrc.
    – Haggra
    Jun 5, 2020 at 13:03

In the Terminal, go to EditKeyboard Shortcuts... and untick the Enable menu access keys box.


From the readline manpage (readline is the library that implements these commands):

An emacs-style notation is used to denote keystrokes. Control keys denoted by C-key, e.g., C-n means Control-N. Similarly, meta keys are denoted by M-key, so M-x means Meta-X. (On keyboards without a meta key, M-x means ESC x, i.e., press the Escape key then the x key. This makes ESC the meta prefix. The combination M-C-x means ESC-Control-x, or press the Escape key then hold the Control key while pressing the x key.)

@Galgalesh is correct that you use the Ctrl+arrow keys to jump words in Ubuntu. In many (most?) other distributions the key combo is Alt+arrows.

In order to use Alt+f/Alt+b without interfering with the menus, use Esc, f (press Esc, THEN press f, not both at the same time).

The reason I mention this is that you can use the Esc then (key) trick for other commands, too. E.g., if you've started editing a previous command and decide you want to revert it, use Esc, r.

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