Window Manager Modifiers

Carsten Haitzler (The Rasterman) raster at
Mon Aug 6 16:05:38 PDT 2007

On Mon, 6 Aug 2007 12:51:36 +0200 Sanel Zukan <sanelz at> babbled:

> > 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 :)
> But... 
> 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" ?

well advantage - and "we got the binding first". so from our point of view apps
are coming in and asking us to change what we have been doing for a decade
because they suddenly want to use bindings we have been using for a decade,
instead of being configurable or finding other combinations/modifiers to use :)

> > 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.

yup. i can say now - users will revolt if it is removed.

> > 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.

yup. and each desktop may have different featuresets and thus have differing
needs for bindings - some may use a lot, some a few, 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...

some - though these days the win key ends up being super it seems.

> Best,
> --
> Sanel
> _______________________________________________
> xdg mailing list
> xdg at

------------- Codito, ergo sum - "I code, therefore I am" --------------
The Rasterman (Carsten Haitzler)    raster at
Tokyo, Japan (東京 日本)

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