Specification title



Implement Keyboard-Shortcuts overlay/window



Sean Davis, Simon SteinbeiƟ


Quantal Quetzal

Detailed specification


In this section we'll briefly outline what the KSO is and why and how it could help to improve the current situation of keyboard shortcuts.

What is the Keyboard-Shortcuts Overlay?

Ubuntu introduced an interesting small goody in the Precise-cycle, namely a keyboard-shortcuts overlay. This can easily be triggered by holding the Super-Key a bit longer. It shows an overlay (i.e. semi-transparent window without window-decoration) that displays an overview over the most important keyboard shortcuts. This gives users quick access to something that is usually only for power-users and I think it could improve the workflow of Xubuntu users as well.

Keyboard Shortcuts in Xubuntu/Xfce (currently)

Currently keyboard shortcuts can easily be accessed in two settings-dialogs, window-manager settings > keyboard and keyboard-settings > applications. Personally I think it's a pity that these shortcuts are spread over two very different places, even if the type of shortcuts differ by category. It's just not very discoverable at first.

How this could be improved

Obviously one way of fixing this would be to create one place in the settings-manager where all keyboard-shortcuts can be accessed and edited. The Keyboard-Shortcut Overlay could help by providing an overview and theoretically it could contain links to the respective dialogs for editing an existing shortcut.


This section will contain more practical stuff that concern the implementation of the KSO directly.

Technical Stuff

  • How the keyboard-shortcuts can be queried via xfconf-query.
  • How to create an overlay that has some transparency/alpha and now window-borders. Look at other applications.
  • Fallback-mode for people without compositing, what could that look like?
  • Show user-defined keyboard shortcuts as well, or show only our specialized set?


The KSO in Unity uses the following categories: Launcher, Dash, HUD & Menubar, Switching, Workspaces, Windows. Xubuntu does not have the first three, but does have application specific shortcuts. I propose the following categories:

  • Applications (Open the Menu, Firefox, Thunderbird, Thunar, etc.)
  • Switching
  • Workspaces
  • Windows

Screenshots/Current look in Unity

Keyboard Shortcuts Overlay in Unity (Precise)Keyboard Shortcuts Overlay in Unity (Precise)

Mockups for Xubuntu

Current Python Implementation Current Python Implementation --

Xubuntu/Roadmap/Specifications/Quantal/KeyboardShortcutsOverlay (last edited 2012-12-22 10:39:35 by smd-seandavis)