Although everything was working perfectly well, keyboard shortcuts like Alt+F4, Alt+TAB, etc. have suddenly stopped working in my Xubuntu 14/Xfce4 installation.

Nothing happens if I hit them, and oddly, if I try to close a terminal by Alt+F4, the letters ;3S get written in the console.

Of course, the shortcuts in "Settings>Window Manager>Keyboard" are all correctly configured, and I have checked in xev that the keys are still mapped correctly.

Where could this come from ?

EDIT: I localized the problem: it comes from xmodmap:

I have a .Xmodmap file in my home folder, containing only

keycode  21 = asciicircum dead_grave dead_circumflex dead_grave dead_tilde dead_ogonek dead_tilde
keycode  77 = NoSymbol NoSymbol NoSymbol

(so nothing related to Alt). If I remove it, shortcuts work again. Why ? How could I have both working at the same time ?

  • What happens if you rebind it under xfce4-keyboard-settings or test another combination for Alt+F4 ?
    – TuKsn
    May 5, 2014 at 16:14
  • Did you have activated some special keys like Fn ?
    – TuKsn
    May 5, 2014 at 18:44
  • Completely resetting xfce by deleting ~/.conf/xfce4 did not help either.
    – Klaus
    May 8, 2014 at 15:46
  • Is your alt key working?
    – Alex
    May 9, 2014 at 11:33
  • I have the same problem which started recently on Ubuntu 14.04. Some keys work (Alt-F4) but not all (Alt-F2), and I think none of the keys I set in the XFCE keyboard shortcuts work Jun 23, 2014 at 12:11

4 Answers 4


This looks like it could be bug #1292290 - Window manager keybindings don't work after reboot. A workaround is mentioned there:

I found a workaround: clear before reassign!

To make a shortcut to work ok, select an action you want to reassign and click 'Clear' button until it will really empty. Sometime if there is some (hidden?) duplicates, you will still see some shortcut (the same or different), even you clicked 'Clear' button. In this case just click the button again. Since the action shortcut is really empty, just assign your custom one as usual, and it will work ok :)


Someone on #xubuntu or #ubuntustudio (can't remember) mentioned a workaround for this:

You simply have to delete the current key mapping twice before setting a new one. Then the new mapping will be stored in the config.

  • Probably not, since it is affected by xmodmap (see my edit).
    – Klaus
    May 13, 2014 at 2:49
  • Clear before reassign new keybinding do the job (for 14.04) Aug 10, 2015 at 10:24

This seems to still be an active issue. I found a solution for Studio Ubuntu 14.04 that should work for other xubuntus:

  1. Set your file manager to "show hidden files"
  2. Navigate to ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/
  3. Open xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts.xml in a text editor

Look for two lines:

  • <property name="<Alt>Tab" type="empty"> should be first
  • <property name="<Alt>Tab" type="string" value="cycle_windows_key"/> has to come after that

You could search on "Tab" to locate these more quickly. If either of these are missing or they are out of order or the wrong value is assigned, then the Alt-Tab function will not work. Fixing a missing value assignment got my computer working right again. (I had disabled Alt-Tab while working with Inkscape and could not get it back again until I did this).

Be careful in there! You might want to make a backup before fooling around in this file


After suffering from the same problem for months (yes, xmodmap is to blame), I have finally found a workaround:

setxkbmap -option will reset the state of the Alt key.


In Xfce4 (v4.14.1) keyboard shortcut window has a bug. It doesn't close after set the shortcut. For this you must edit the shortcut yourself. Your file is that: ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-keyboard-shortcuts.xml

After editing this file you must restart your computer.

<property name="custom" type="empty">
    <property name="&lt;Shift&gt;Print" type="string" value="gnome-screenshot -c -a"/>

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