How To Customize Keyboard Shortcuts On Gnome Shell [Guide]

Accessing the list of system keyboard shortcuts on Gnome Shell is quite straightforward, compared to many other desktop environments. To view the list of keyboard shortcuts on Gnome Shell, press the Windows key on your keyboard to open up the search menu. In search, type “keyboard shortcuts”.

Customize Keyboard Shortcuts

Writing out keyboard shortcuts in Gnome Shell will show a Gnome Settings icon, followed by a brief sentence related to “customizing the keyboard”. Select it to instantly launch the keyboard section of Gnome.

Under “keyboard” in the settings area of Gnome Shell, there’s a long list of shortcuts pertaining to the desktop. The list is divided into sections. These sections are “Launchers,” “Navigation,” “Screenshots,” “Sound and Media,” “System,” “Typing,” “Universal Access,” and “Windows”.

Underneath each section, there’s a brief description of what the action does, along with the keyboard combination to execute it.

Though the shortcuts for Gnome Shell are easy to access, it’s a good idea to keep a cheat-sheet for easy reference. To create one, scroll through, find the shortcuts you’d like to keep and press the PRNT SCREEN button.

Changing Shortcuts

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Changing existing keyboard combinations on the Gnome desktop environment is a simple process, and it starts by accessing “Keyboard” in the settings app. To re-map, a shortcut, scroll through the list, find the one you want to replace, and click it. Upon clicking on the shortcut, a window will appear with a keyboard icon.

Press the new keyboard combination to instantly remap the shortcut.

Reset Shortcuts

Changing keyboard shortcuts on Gnome Shell is very intuitive, and as a result, any user can easily modify how the keyboard interacts with the desktop. Thankfully, resetting modified shortcuts is just as easy.

To reset the Gnome keyboard shortcuts back to their original state, do the following.

First, open up search (by pressing the Windows button) and type “keyboard shortcuts”. Open up the keyboard section of the Gnome Settings app, and look to the top right area of the app. Once there, look for the “Reset All” button and click it.

Selecting the “reset all button” will warn the user that “resetting the shortcuts will affect your custom shortcuts.” To continue with the reset, click the red “Reset All” button.

After clicking “Reset All,” Gnome’s keyboard shortcuts should be back to normal.

Custom Shortcuts

Aside from re-binding keyboard shortcuts in Gnome, users can make their own custom ones. To create a new, custom shortcut for the Gnome desktop, go to the keyboard shortcut list, scroll down and click the plus sign at the bottom.

Clicking the plus sign will open up a custom shortcut creation tool. This tool is basic but very powerful.

Opening Programs

There are many possibilities with custom shortcuts on Gnome Shell.  One of the most common uses for custom keyboard shortcuts on Gnome is to make launching programs easier. To set up a custom program shortcut, open up a terminal window.

In the terminal, use the CD command to move to /usr/share/applications.

Inside the /usr/share/applications directory, use ls and grep to filter out the program you’d like to use for your shortcut. In this example, we’ll use Firefox.

ls | grep firefox

Running ls returns firefox.desktop.

Now that we know the name of the Firefox shortcut file, run it through cat to determine the terminal command for Firefox.

cat firefox.desktop | grep Exec=

The cat command returns 3 separate commands for Firefox (new window, new private window, and the standard Firefox command.)

From here, we can return to the custom Keyboard shortcut window and assign a shortcut to the commands.

To create a custom shortcut that opens a Firefox private window, paste “firefox –private-window %u” in the command box. For a traditional new Firefox window, paste “firefox %u” instead.

Finalize the shortcut by writing “Firefox” in the “Name” box, and clicking “Set shortcut” to set the button combination.

Opening Websites

Along with launching programs, custom keyboard shortcuts can also be used to launch websites. As custom shortcuts work via commands, we’ll need to make use of xdg-open.

After opening the custom keyboard shortcut window in Gnome, write the following command in the “Command” section. Be sure to change “,” to your preferred website URL.


With the command set, name the shortcut and click “Set Shortcut” to finish up.

Launching Shell Scripts

Have a custom shell script you’d like to launch at the click of a button in Gnome? If so, here’s how. First, click the plus sign to create a new shortcut. Next, go to the “Command” section and write out the following command.

sh /location/of/shell/

Write “Script launch” in the name box, and click “Set Shortcut” to apply the keyboard combination to the custom shortcut.

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