Ctrl-Alt-shortcuts considered harmful

I’ve written about this before, but Ctrl-Alt-workspace switching key-presses nail me routinely.

Let’s go through some history:

We have Ctrl-Alt-Delete, the “three-fingered-salute”, meaning reboot, right? That combination was designed to NEVER be pressed by accident. And it never used to be.

The X guys needed a kill-X key-press, as things can sometimes get broken in X. So they chose Ctrl-Alt-Backspace, which is also a pretty sensible combination. It’s very similar to Ctrl-Alt-Delete, so we remember it, and backspace has milder connotations than delete, so we understand it to mean that it’ll only kill a part of the system.

X also has some other Ctl-Alt- shortcuts. Some of these are also suitably obscure, i.e. NumPad+ and NumPad-. Others like Ctrl-Alt-F1 mean change to virtual console 1. That one might do by accident, if you are an old WordPerfect user, but should be safe enough otherwise. They were designed to look like big brothers of (and even work as) standard VT-changing behaviour.

For changing workspaces, Alt-F1 style key-presses were used, mimicing VT-changing key-presses. This is great for *nix users, but people coming from Windows expect Alt-F4 to close a program, not take them to workspace 4.

So GNOME came along, and decided that instead, they’d use Ctrl-Alt-Arrow key-presses to change workspace. That’s fine, but it’s a pretty common action, so I’m often holding down Ctrl-Alt without even thinking about it. If I start editing something and press delete/backspace, before I’ve released Ctrl-Alt, boom! And I run screaming and write a blog post.

Now, I know that Ctl-Alt-{Delete,Backspace} can be disabled (even if the latter is a little tricky to do), but I’d really like to change them. I like to be able to kill X without using another machine and ssh, I just don’t like this to happen by accident. And no, the solution isn’t for me to change my workspace-changing keys, because this problem must affect every GNOME user, not just me.

Dangerous key-presses should be really unlikely key-presses. Alt-SysRq- key-presses are good in this regard, they’ll always be unlikely. (Oh, and they are insanely useful.)

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shift?

I thought it was just alt+sysrq+?

Whoops

Good point

agreed

I have this ctrl-alt-backspace by accident on more then one occasion. It really is annoying.

I've never liked Gnome's

I've never liked Gnome's keybindings particularly. I use alt-f to change workspaces out of habit, which bites me on Windows because my fingers think alt-f4 takes me to the workspace my web browser lives on.

If I were to start again (and I probably will if I ever switch WM) I'd use Super/mod4 (bound to the Windows key) to switch workspaces. I already bind all my personal system-wide shortcuts to mod4-, since none of the applications I use bind this by default. I really hope this trend continues, although as mod4 is available by default on more and more systems, I suspect it won't. On my mac, it's pretty hard to find a key combination that is unused everywhere that I can use for my own (occasionally nefarious) purposes, which leads to far less efficient use of my keyboard.

I was really astonished by

I was really astonished by the content that was shared here about the use of shortcuts. I have been regular using shortcut keys for my daily desktop use and I never considered any wrong in doing it until I came across this article about snoring remedies

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