GNOME Annoyance: Alt + Tilde / Backtick (~ or `) Behavior

By | November 11, 2013

One of the first things I do when I set up a new Linux system with GNOME is configuring a hotkey combination for launching the terminal. For a long time, my go-to key combination has been “alt + `” (pressing the alt and tilde** keys at the same time).

This is less straight-forward than you might expect in GNOME3.  GNOME3 has different “alt + tab” functionality than previous versions (the functionality is now closer to OSX’s).  Now, “alt + tab” switches between different applications, but not different windows for a given application:

Application Swapping

Pressing “alt + `” switches between different windows for a particular application:

Window Swapping

So, assume you have one Google Chrome window active.  In the background, you have two more Google Chrome windows, one terminal window, and a VirtualBox window.  Pressing “alt + `” will switch between the different Google Chrome windows.  Pressing “alt + tab” will switch between the different applications (in this example, Google Chrome, the terminal, and VirtualBox).

The issue, though, is that GNOME3 does not give you an easy way to override this default “alt + `” behavior.  Even after installing a GNOME extension to replace the new application/window switching behavior with standard “alt + tab” behavior, “alt + `” won’t work if you assign it to do something else through GNOME3’s keyboard settings menu.  So, how do we tell GNOME to stop intercepting the “alt + `” keypress and allow us to assign it different behavior?  Simply enter the following command at the command line:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-group "['disabled']"

After that, you should be all set.

**Apparently some people call the tilde key the “backtick” key.  I guess this makes more sense, considering that “`” (the backtick) is what the keyboard outputs when you press the key, and “~” (the tilde) requires holding down shift…

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