I’ve been using Unity now for a week or so and I still stand behind what I stated in my last blog. Ubuntu Unity is a winner and, I believe, will help to make users focus more on the work at hand and less on the desktop. But there is one issue with Unity that might slow down a few types of users. If you’ve worked with Unity much, you know that getting to some of the settings and/or administration tools can be a hassle. Instead of just clicking System | Administration, now it’s required to click on the Applications launcher, and then either search for the tool you want, or select the System category and then search through the list of installed System tools for the desired tool. That can be a pain, especially if you are either in a hurry or frequent those administration tools.

There is one way to get around that — keyboard shortcuts. The Linux desktop (like most desktops) has always enjoyed a solid set of keyboard shortcuts. Ubuntu Unity is no stranger to making the keyboard work for you. Not only are their plenty of pre-configured shortcuts, you can also create your own. Those user-created keyboard shortcuts are the primary way to make some of those administration tools quick to access. Let’s first look at a list of common shortcuts, and then we will create a unique keyboard shortcut for a common administration tool.

Common Unity shortcuts

Here is a list of some of the more common keyboard shortcuts for Ubuntu Unity:

  • Super – Invoke the Launcher.
  • Super1 or 2 or 3 and so on until 0 – Open or focus an application.
  • SuperT – Open the rubbish bin.
  • AltF1 – Put keyboard focus on the Launcher.
  • AltF2 – Invoke the Dash in a “special mode” to run a command.
  • CtrlAltT – Launch a terminal window.
  • Super (tap) – A tap opens the Dash
  • SuperA – Open Applications place
  • SuperF – Open Files & Folders place
  • F10 – Open the first menu on the panel
  • SuperD – Minimize all windows; hitting it again restores them.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 7 – Place window in top left corner of screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 8 – Place window in top half of screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 9 – Place window in top right corner of screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 4 – Place window on the left side of the screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 5 – Center/Maximize the window in the middle of the screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 6 – Place window on the right side of the screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 1 – Place window in the bottom left corner of the screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 2 – Place window in the bottom half of the screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 3 – Place window in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • CtrlAltNumpad 0 – Maximize window.
  • Super-W – Expo mode.
There are also some tricks you can do with your mouse, such as:


  • Maximizing – Dragging a window to the top panel will maximize it.
  • Middle click on Maximize – Maximize Window Vertically.
  • Left click on Maximize – Maximize Window Horizontally
  • Tiling – Dragging a Window to the left/right border will auto tile it to that side of the screen.
  • Restoring – Dragging the top panel down on a maximized window will restore it to its original size.
  • Middle click on an application’s launcher icon – Open a new instance of the application in a new window. If the application isn’t running it will just open it normally.
  • Middle click on the top panel (but not the menu) – send the current window behind all other windows.
  • Middle click on Maximize – Maximize Window Vertically.
  • Right click on Maximize – Maximize Window Horizontally.
But now, what about those user-configured keyboard shortcuts? Let’s create one for the Ubuntu Update Manager. Here are the steps:
  1. Hit Super-A.
  2. Type “keyboard” (no quotes).
  3. Click on the Keyboard Shortcuts icon.
  4. Click the Add button.
  5. Enter a name (Update Manager) and a command (update-manager) and click Apply (see Figure A below).
  6. Click the Disabled “button” in the new entry which will then ask for the new keyboard shortcut.
  7. Click the keyboard shortcut you want to apply to the action.
  8. Click Close to close the keyboard shortcut window.
  9. Test your new keyboard shortcut.
Figure B
It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s one that will allow anyone using Unity to create keyboard shortcuts to get to tools that might not be so readily available. Of course, for the tools you use the most, simply create an icon for the tool in the launcher. How do you do that? Simple:
  1. Open the tool.
  2. Once the tool is open, right click the icon in the launcher.
  3. Select “Keep In Launcher” (see Figure B).
That’s it. You can do that with as many applications you need. Once the amount of applications has exceeded the size of the Launcher you will have to scroll through them.

Final thoughts
Much to the chagrin of the haters out there (of which I was one) Unity is actually a very nice desktop with features that will make work simple. And although keyboard shortcuts are not new to any desktop — by any stretch of the imagination — they will become much more of a necessity on this desktop than they might have been on your previous desktop.