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Using Keyboard Shortcuts in Unity

 Using Keyboard Shortcuts in the Unity Desktop

What is a Keyboard Shortcut?

Keyboard shortcuts are simply key combinations that you can press which initiate actions that you would normally perform via menus and icons.

Why is this important? Research shows that whilst menus and icons are great for new users, they are long-winded and can become tiresome for more experienced users. So, once you know your way around Unity, it will often pay dividends to memorise the many keyboard shortcuts available in order to save yourself time!

Note: there are some shortcuts (-such as Super + W) that implement features we cannot find via the standard Unity desktop!


Available Keyboard Shortcuts in Unity

The majority of Unity keyboard shortcuts can be viewed by holding down the Super (-also known as the Option or Windows) key. This will display a help overlay on your desktop similar to the one below:

Unity Keyboard Shortcut Display

For those of you with less than perfect eyesight, here is a list of what we find are the most useful keyboard shortcuts in Unity:

ShortcutAreaUsage
Super (hold)HelpList the most common keyboard shortcuts (-see above)
Super + WWindowsDisplay an overlay of thumbnails of all open windows
CTRL + Super + DWindowsMinimize all open windows
CTRL + Super + Up ArrowWindowsMaximize the current window
CTRL + Super + Down ArrowWindowsRestore the current window size
CTRL + Super + Left ArrowWindowsSize the current window to fit the left half of the screen
CTRL + Super + Right ArrowWindowsSize the current window to fit the right half of the screen
Super + TabApplicationsScroll through the Launcher icons and run/activate the selected application
Alt + TabApplicationsSwitch between open applications
Alt + Tab + `ApplicationsSwitch between open applications using a preview window
Super + SWorkpacesDisplay the workspace switcher
CTRL + Alt + Arrow KeyWorkpacesSwitch to a different workspace
Super (tap)DashboardOpens the Dash home
Super + ADashboardSearch for applications
Super + FDashboardSearch for files
Super + MDashboardSearch for music
Super + VDashboardSearch for videos


Application Switching Shortcuts in Unity

Let us take a simple example of using shortcuts. Imagine you have several applications open in Unity, with their windows either minimized or obscuring each other. If you press down the Alt key then, still keeping it pressed down, press the Tab key, the application switcher will appear:

Unity Application Switcher

This lists the icons of all the currently open applications in the currently active workspace. If you now release the Tab key - still keeping the Alt key depressed - you can use the arrow keys to select the application you wish to switch to:

Unity Application Switcher Move

If you cannot recall what you doing in the application, simply press the ` (backquote) key - still keeping the Alt key depressed of course:

Unity Application Switcher Thumbnail

This will display a thumbnail of the open window for the currently selected application, as shown above for GIMP.


Window Switching Shortcuts in Unity

Alternatively, by pressing the Super key followed by the W key, a thumbnail of all open windows in the currently active workspace will be overlayed on the desktop:

Unity Window Picker

If you hover your mouse over each window, you will see the title bar with a red close (X) icon to the left hand side. In the example below, you can see this in the Firefox (bottom left) thumbnail:

Unity Window Picker

If you click on any window thumbnail then you will be taken to that window; if you click on the close icon, that window will be closed.


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