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GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams


Menus will often have combinations of keys that can be used as a shortcut. These keyboard shortcuts will usually appear to the right within the menu itself as a reminder. The associated keyboard shortcut is usually a combination of keys beginning with Control or Alt. Pressing the specified key combinations has the same result as choosing the menu item. For example, if the Edit menu has a Cut choice with a keyboard shortcut of Ctl+X then holding down the Control key while you type the X key has the same effect as choosing the Cut menu item.

Many shortcuts are in common usage amongst Gnome applications and will be familiar to users of the Win32 OS. These include:

New Ctl+N Cut Ctl+X      Find F6
Open Ctl+O or F3 Copy Ctl+C Replace F7
Save Ctl+S Paste Ctl+V    
Print Ctl+P Select All Ctl+A    
Close Ctl+W Undo Ctl+Z    
Quit Ctl+Q Redo Ctl+R    

A powerful feature is that you can choose your own shortcuts whenever you wish. To do this, simply move the mouse over the menu item whose shortcut you wish to redefine (or to define if it currently does not have one) and type the keyboard shortcut you wish to associate with that menu item. For example, to map Cut to Shft+Ctl+Alt+X simple move the mouse to the Cut menu item and press all four keys at the same time. This is probably not a very useful binding, but it's unlikely to be used for anything else, so it's a save choice to play with! Note that if the new shortcut previously was associated with another menu item, the previous binding is lost.

If you use Shft+X as a shortcut it will be accepted but may not be useful. If the context is a text editor then Shft+X will be captured to capitalise the x rather than passed on as a shortcut. Other combinations involving the Shft key work just fine, such as Shft+Alt+X and Shft+Ctl+X. Some applications (e.g., nautilus) automatically save your shortcuts so that next time they will appear. Others (e.g., bluefish) provide an option for you to save them if you decide they are suitable.

Finally, some shortcuts might be identified by the applications as immutable so that you are not able to re-bind them.

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