Skip this section, unless you want to read some really boring background.

I often prefer to navigate via the keyboard, and I typically launch my most frequently used apps via a system-wide hot-key.

For less frequtnely used ones I had developed my own quirky menu-navigation system (in Windows, where I've spent the last 20 years).

It relies on the principle of "jump to the next item in the list which matches the letter/character I've just typed"... I am only referring to first-letter/character.

I created a folder called ` (ie. a single back-tick)
In this folder was a simple list of my "secondary" apps... with one minor difference.
Each of these was prefixed with with either `, ~, or !
All these keys are conveniently located near the menu-launch key (Win-key, or Alt-F1)
... I have my Main Menu popping up (like Windows)

This enables me to start any of my secondary apps with a simple consistancy; even blindfolded.

Aside from a minor difference in how Ubuntu/(Gnome) submenus must be specifically naviated into (...wheras Windows automatically moves the focus into the sub-menu)... I have this same system working in Ubuntu.
I love the way Ubuntu(Linux) is so configurable!

But! (such a small word)... there is a problem.

For some unknown reason, the "jump to next item starting with **letter/character**" feature behaves oddly in the Gnome menu.
Is it a bug, Is it a feature, Is it tweakable? .... I don't know, but this is how it (mis-)behaves:

It remembers the most recently accessed item of a letter/character group.. even across seperate open/close cycles of the menu...

This beaks the do-it-blindfolded consistancy which is why I use this first-letter method.

Does anyone know if this is tweakable? so that each new access to a menu-list causes the "first-item" to be the topmost item (within that first letter/character group), and not the next one on from a previous Menu session...

1 Answer 1


First, sorry for not quite answering your question, but it seems to me that there are other solutions that may fit your bill...

From what I gather, you want to quickly launch applications from the keyboard and you'd like to retain the "muscle memory" you acquired from the windows days :)

There are a couple of fantastic apps that do fulfill your first requirement, but may somewhat fail the second. However, from personal experience, after using these for a while I feel seriously handicapped on any computer without them:

  • Gnome-do (http://do.davebsd.com/) similar to Quicksilver on Mac OSX. Hit Win+Space and a window pops up that lets you type the first letters of any program installed, and then lauches it. Gnome-do is smart, so it learns your habits. It also has a large number of plugins -- it can post stuff on twitter, search the net etc..

  • Cardapio (https://launchpad.net/cardapio) a main menu replacement, which includes similar functionality as gnome-do -- quick search of apps etc (I think it's also similar to the start menu in Win 7).

  • Thanks Nicke. Your suggestions are appreciated. I'll certainly try them out. I've watched a couple of Gnome-do demo videos, and it looks to be quite versatils... (and for anyone reading this, I'm still keen to know about the "is it a bug?" issue).
    – Peter.O
    Oct 9, 2010 at 13:12

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