Handy GNOME Keyboard Shortcuts

Jack Wallen
Mar 18, 2009
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

Are you like me and one of those users who HATES going back and forth from keyboard to mouse? Such a waste of precious time that back and forth movement. To be a seriously efficient Linux user it's best to know keyboard shortcuts for the desktop environment (or window manager) that you use.

In this article I am going to list some of the handier shortcuts for the GNOME desktop. So get your fingers stretched and ready...


The following short cuts will focus primarily on open windows.

Alt-tab: This combination cycles through the currently open windows. This is handy when you have a lot of windows open and you constantly are moving from one to another.

Ctrl-alt-d: This combination minimizes all open windows to the far corners of the screen. To get them back just hit the combination again.

Shift-alt-up arrow: (requires Compiz) This combination takes all open windows, shrinks them, and organizes them on the screen so you can see all open applications. You can then use the arrow keys to highlight the window you want. Release the keys and the highlighted window will have focus.

Alt-F9: Minimizes the focused window.

Ctrl-Alt-s: Shade window. To unshade window hit the same combination.


The following combinations effect the desktop.

Ctrl-Alt-Backspace: This combination will restart X Windows (this logs you out).

Ctrl-Alt-l: This combination will lock the screen. You will need your user password to unlock the screen.

Alt-F2: This combination opens the "run" dialog. From here you can enter a command to run (similar to the "cmd" Windows command).

Alt-F1: This combination opens the main menu.

Print Screen: This key will take a screenshot of the whole desktop.

Alt-Print Screen: This combination will take a screenshot of a single window.

Ctrl-Alt-left arrow: This combination will move one desktop to the left.

Ctrl-Alt-right arrow: This combination will move one desktop to the right.

Ctrl-Alt-down arrow: Show all desktops on one screen. Because there are more desktops than will fit across your screen (even in this small size), you use the left and right arrow keys to move one way or the other.

There you have it. Some of the handiest GNOME keyboard shortcuts. But don't think you're limited to the default. Creating your own keyboard shortcuts is simple. Go to the System menu and click on the Preferences entry. From within this new sub menu click on the Personal menu where you will find the Keyboard Shortcuts entry. Click on that to open up the Keyboard Shortcuts window. From this window you can edit the existing keyboard short cuts, but you can not create new ones.

Final Thoughts

If you have never been a big user of keyboard short cuts you should give it a try. Once you realize how efficient you computing can become you will never look back. I will say that I miss the older style gconf-editor where you could create a multitude of keyboard shortcuts in GNOME. With GNOME 2.24 it seems you are limited to the keyboard shortcuts listed in the keyboard-shortcuts tool.


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