Window Manager Modifiers

Sanel Zukan sanelz at
Mon Aug 6 03:51:36 PDT 2007

> 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.

AFAIK, you are not the only one; seems that blender uses alt+mouse
for it's own options too (presumably there are a lot of other apps with 
the same needs). Altought I'm not an artist, occasionaly usage of these 
tools gives me feeling that everybody likes alt+mouse combination :)


As example, edewm wm didn't come, for a long time, with these bindings
by default (just because of these problems), and people started to complain about 
'non-standard' behaviour. Looks like chicken-egg problem; on other hand, like 
Raster said, wm simply have advantage in this field.

> - Somewhere there is a spec that allows a window manager hint to be set
> by applications to say "I'd really like Alt, please!!!"

And this would mess things a lot. Let say end user expecting
alt+mouse behaviour from wm (like window moving), and after that app starts, 
I simply wanishes, giving priority to application. For most of them
this will look like a bug, if not properly documented that X and Y apps modify 
wm's alt key. Or what if that app crashes or forget to send hint 
"Ok, I'm done, revert that alt key" ?

> 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.

And this will be very hard to change now; older wm's and current ones
already heavily use alt, not to say that a lot of people expecting 
the same from wm.

> No, the reason that I was suggesting that a WM use meta is because in
> general, I think the desktop knows a lot more about the hardware that
> it's working with.

Not quite true; desktop might see just plugged in keyboard but have no
advantage over app (except ordering wm to steal buttons or whatever).
Things (in case of desktop) complicates even more; there are expeced keys 
for taskbar, etc. etc.

> 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.

Uh, things with Meta key are not better either :). Sun keyboards come with 
true key, some apps emulates it via Alt, some via Win key...


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