Five keyboard shortcuts you should know in Ubuntu


Keyboard shortcuts can save you time and make repetitive, common tasks a lot simpler.

Keyboard shortcuts can make your life a lot easier. In many cases, they eliminate extraneous mouse clicks, saving you time with simple tasks you find yourself doing over and over.

Although Ubuntu and its Unity interface were designed to run on a wide range of devices, the desktop version appears to have been designed with the keyboard in mind (see features like the Dash and the HUD).

To get the most out of Ubuntu, there are several basic keyboard shortcuts you should be familiar with. Not only will they save you time, but they’ll also make you feel like a wizard as you launch programs and navigate between applications without even touching the mouse.

1. Super (Windows key)

You can use a mouse to find programs in the Dash, but it's really designed for use with a keyboard.

You can use a mouse to find programs in the Dash, but it’s really designed for use with a keyboard.

The super/Windows key is an essential part of the Ubuntu experience—tap it to open the Dash. Any time you want to open a program or search for a file, simply tap the super key and start typing. When you see your desired application/file, press enter to open it, or use the arrow keys to scroll through multiple results.

The super key also unlocks a lot more keyboard shortcuts—just press and hold it to see a cheat sheet with a bunch of other nifty shortcuts.

2. Ctrl-Super-D

Ever had a bunch of windows cluttering your screen and wanted to just get back to the desktop? Just press Ctrl-Super-D simultaneously to minimize all your open windows. You’ll still have the issue of dealing with all those windows, but at least they’re whisked away for the time being.

3. Alt

The HUD can be accessed by pressing the Alt key. It allows you to search through the menu items for an application.

The HUD can be accessed by pressing the Alt key. It allows you to search through the menu items for an application.

The Alt key activates the Head-Up Display (HUD), which allows you to search for a particular task or item within an application’s menus. For instance, to print a webpage in Firefox, hit the Alt key and type “print”. Navigate down to the “File > Print…” option using the arrow keys and press enter.

To be honest, I don’t really use the HUD that often, but it seems like it could be useful for certain tasks. For more information on the HUD, this article from OMG! Ubuntu does a good job of explaining the feature.

4. Alt-Tab

This is a carryover from Windows. If you’ve got a lot of applications open and don’t want to move your mouse all the way to the launcher just to switch between them, just press Alt-Tab. You can use the arrow keys to switch between applications, then press enter to select one.

Additionally, if you have multiple windows open within the same application (e.g.- multiple LibreOffice documents or multiple Firefox windows), you can press Alt-` to switch between them. The ` key is located right above Tab.

5. Ctrl-Alt-T

Finally, if you ever need to open the terminal, you can do so by pressing Ctrl-Alt-T. Compared to opening the Dash and typing “terminal”, this could save you a few seconds.


You certainly don’t have to use keyboard shortcuts, but they can speed up simple tasks and save you time. In addition to the shortcuts mentioned in this article, there are many more—just hold down the super key to see a list of Ubuntu-specific ones, or check out this page for a more in-depth list.

Posted on July 6, 2013, in Tips and Tweaks and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Five keyboard shortcuts you should know in Ubuntu.

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