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Elementary OS keyboard options

Date: 2019/12/08

Note: this post is part of my new series of posting every day for December.

Note: Depending on the future development of Elementary OS, some of the options might be different for you later. This post is based on Elementary OS 5.1 Hera.

And when I am talking about keyboard options of course I am talking about shortcuts. I grew up typing on my mother's typewriter, and I love keyboards.

What I like about elementary, that we have a keyboard shortcut overlay, that you can use it as a cheat sheet, just press the Super/Windows key. keyboard-shortcuts-overlay-elementary-os.png These seems very basic, but very useful collection of shortcuts. If you click on the wheel at top right corner you will get the Keyboard part of the System Settings.

Elementary OS Keyboard Settings


Here you can add multiple languages for your keyboard on the left side (bottom + or - to add or remove. Note the language on the top is your default keyboard language! keyboard-layout-elementary-os.png You can also test your keyboard, very useful if you have some problem with it, or just want to see that you choose the correct layout, which can be very important if you are using multipley languages.

On the right side we have some options:

  • Switch layout: with this shortcut we can change our keyboard layout. Alternatively you can click on the language icon on your panel.
  • Compose key: for inserting special characters. (more information see Wikipedia)
  • Super/Windows key behavior: you can decide what the windows key - pressing solo, not in a combination - will do. You can active the shortcut overlay (see above), use it for the application menu, or disable it. My choice is the
  • Caps Lock behavior: as an Emacs user, I switch this to as Ctrl. But you can use it for Escape, Backspace, etc.
  • Key to choose 3rd level: Activates another layer.


This is where the fun begins! We have a lots of shortcuts for interacting with the following parts of Elementary OS: keyboard-shortcuts-elementary-os.png For modification just click on what you want to change and it will ask for a new shortcut. If you accidently clicked on it, you can hit Escape and it won't save it. To disabling, deleting a shortcut, use the Delete key.

  • Windows: closing, tiling, manipulating size, etc. My new favorite is the Picture in Picture mode. With tiling I could organized my windows so I don't have to switch when I write. If you hit the same shortcut again, the window will go back to the same size and position, with a nice animation.
  • Workspaces: switching and moving to workspaces. Moving means that the active window will move to the specific workspace. There are no predefined workspaces in Elementary OS, only your first workspace exists, others are dynamic as they are created with let's say moving a window to that workspace. You can always experiment with this.
  • Screenshots: Wonderful and simple screenshot tool. You can make screenshots, or copy the created image directly to the clipboard, which you can use it in image editors, like in GNU Image Manipulation Program.
  • Applications: these are some of the shortcuts for some default software like email, home folder in files, music, terminal and browser. For creating other shortcuts, go to Custom.
  • Media: shortcuts for music player. If you have a multimedia keyboard, it is probably already set.
  • Universal Access: if you have disability, this is a must have to modify them to give you the most comfortable access.
  • System: how to reach applications menu, lock the screen or log out from the system.
  • Custom: here we can add custom shortcuts for our favorite programs. It would have been even nicer if you could browse for the commands, but I guess we don't want to make it that much easier…


This is a setup for repeat keys and cursor blinking, plus a test area for testing it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Elementary OS tries to give you sensible defaults, but we all have our preferences. I am glad that we have some options to that with keyboard shortcuts too.

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