Window Manager Modifiers

James Richard Tyrer tyrerj at
Sat Aug 4 22:12:53 PDT 2007

Ted Gould wrote:
> Hello all,
> In the Inkscape project we're constantly butting up against the problem
> where there simply aren't enough modifiers for everything we'd like to
> implement.  This means for most of our tools there is a constant battle
> to figure out how we can fit everything into Alt, Ctrl and Shift.  We
> manage.  But, many window managers are using alt click to drag windows
> which takes 1/3 of our options away.
> There are lots of solutions to this, I'm curious which way makes sense
> to people.
> - Applications could start using the "Meta" key.  I don't like this
> because it seems to be something that is rather machine specific.  I
> don't think applications should be using this modifier.
> - There is some Freedesktop spec that says Window Managers should only
> use the meta modifier for their actions.
> - Somewhere there is a spec that allows a window manager hint to be set
> by applications to say "I'd really like Alt, please!!!"
> - Some users don't get functionality out of some apps unless they
> reconfigure the apps or their desktop.
> My personal favorite here is "2" -- I think that the Meta key could be
> turned into the "desktop" key where other desktop actions could be
> assigned to it also.
I think that it might be worth mentioning that the OS knows which key 
you press.  That is, a standard 101 key AT keyboard (genuine IBM here -- 
they can have my click keyboard when they pry it from my cold fingers. 
:0D) has two Shift, Ctrl, & Alt and the OS can tell which one you press. 
  IIUC, this information is passed on to X11 so it knows as well.

So, the standard setup would be to assign Meta to Alt-Left or Alt-Right.

Pinball games use Ctrl-Left and Ctrl-Right for the flippers so these are 
probably detectable separately as well.

IIUC, you can also use the Space Bar to modify the function keys.

Some sources say that SpaceBar+Alt is the correct combination for Meta. 
  IIRC, Meta behaves a little differently: it is always persistent -- 
stays on till you press the next key or Esc to cancel it.


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