I'm trying to simulate a media key press using a custom shortcut.

So far, I've been able to achieve the simulation I need using the command:

xdotool key XF86AudioPlay

It works perfectly, it pauses or starts the music player every time it is run.

The problem comes when trying to run it as a shortcut.

First I tried to run an alias with a custom shortcut, but it did not work.

As explained on this question:

The commands run by keyboard bindings are not parsed via a shell. Your best bet is to create a directory bin in your homedir.

Next I created the suggested script and named it simplay:

xdotool key XF86AudioPlay

It is located inside a bin folder which is part of the PATH, this works fine and can be run from any location.

When trying to create the Custom Shortcut, I was unable to get it to execute, the configuration is the following:

Name: test
Command: simplay

Shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+R

After searching a bit more I found another way to execute the shortcut:

gnome-terminal -e simplay

I tried it on a terminal and noticed that when executing it it would rapidly open a new terminal window, execute the child process, pausing the music and immediately close the window.

I changed the command on the shortcut and when hitting it I noticed the same behavior opening a terminal and immediately being closed but this time the child process did not pause the music, which makes me think that the script has been called on all my previous attempts but it is somehow not being able to execute.

How can I solve this problem according to your knowledge?

3 Answers 3


The issue

Your shortcut is performed at the same time as your simulated key press

If you run a command, simulating a key press, called with ... another key press, you will actually simulate a third key press, which is the combination of both :)

To solve

You need to prevent your shortcut to run at the same time as the simulated key press, in other words, add a delay:

/bin/bash -c "sleep 1 && xdotool key XF86AudioPlay"

Add this command to a shortcut, and it should work.


Of course you can play a bit with the value in sleep 1, to set it to the best value that feels comfortable, depending on how "sticky" the combination is pressed. sleep 0.5 might very well do, and make the shortcut act more promptly.


You can also use the command directly in the shortcut definition, so you do not need to create a standalone script for it.

Instead of using the "sleep 1" workaround you can use the --clearmodifiers flag, i.e. your custom shortcut would look like this:

Name: test
Command: xdotool key --clearmodifiers XF86AudioPlay

Shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+R

For me this works when mapping the shortcuts to Super+F9.

  • Is the code snippet above meant to be a file? If so, do you have to put it in a particular place or run a particular command to implement the shortcut? Jun 26, 2018 at 15:58
  • 1
    The snippet is just a description of the shortcut I used. In Ubuntu you can create custom shortcuts in the keyboard settings. However, I have since upgraded my Ubuntu version and now am able to directly map the action "Play (or play/pause)" to a key combination of my choosing, which proves to be more reliable than using xdotool.
    – Jan
    Jun 27, 2018 at 12:31
  • 1
    Even better than a --clearmodifiers is to issue a "keyup" for the hotkey you are using to call the script. Slight drawback is that you need to update the script if you change the hotkey to call the script.
    – vanadium
    Nov 22, 2019 at 8:54

An alternative (for snappier performance) to using sleep 1 && xdotool ... is to use xdotool to release your shortcut keys. A bit lengthier, but you can also use

/bin/bash -c "xdotool keyup R Alt_L Ctrl_L && xdotool key XF86AudioPlay"

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