Keyboard Shortcut Nightmares

Abstract:Keyboard shortcuts that are inconsistent or even contradicting between programs and platforms irritate quite a bit. Examples are given.

I really like to use keyboard shortcuts for a lot of my work, I feel that I work faster and it takes less effort. Just as there are inconsistencies in the graphical user interfaces, there are a lot of inconsistencies in the keyboard shortcuts as well.

Deleting Words

In Vim and other most terminals, one can delete a word with Control W. I believe that this comes from Emacs. But that keyboard shortcut will close a window in a lot of other programs. So pretty often I find myself writing something in Firefox and hit Control W and be surprised that the tab has closed on me. With Control Shift T one can open the tab again and sometimes the contents in the form field are still there. If not, I can recover that with Lazarus.

Firefox and other applications use Control Backspace to delete words. That does not work in Vim or the shell by default.

“@” Sign

On Windows and Linux with a German keyboard layout you create an “@” sign with AltGr Q. If you do that on a Mac, the keyboard layout is such that you press Command Q, that closes the current application. I have seen a lot of Windows people closing my email program when typing in their email address.

On the Mac, you get the “@” sign with Alt L. Doing that on Windows becomes Windows L which locks the screen. That way, it is mean in both ways.

Copy and Paste

The now common way to copy and paste something is Control C and Control V. The problem is that in shell, Control C is used to abort the currently running command. My terminal app Konsole uses Control Shift C and Control Shift V to copy and paste stuff. On the Mac, one uses Command C anyway, so Control C in the shell is not in conflict with the shell command.

In Vim, neither method works. There you have to type ", +, p in order to paste something from the console. With my keyboard layout, the + actually is Shift =.


In Vim, the Escape key will get you out of the insert mode. Whenever I am done typing, I hit Escape.

In LibreOffice Calc, pressing Escape while editing a cell will abort editing, whatever you have typed it lost.