Giving voice to silent function keys

Marius Gedminas marius at
Sun Mar 11 22:09:07 UTC 2012

On Sun, Mar 11, 2012 at 01:53:58PM -0700, Kevin O'Gorman wrote:
> I'm trying to customize vim in various ways.  I've run into a puzzle
> with function keys, in that some of them don't do anything at all with
> certain modifier keys.  I'm running under gnome 2 on Ubuntu 11.04.
> I'm using the showkey(1) command to get the ASCII sequence from
> combinations of keys, except Alt-Control or Alt-Control-Shift, all of
> which switch console windows.
> I've found that most of them send an escape sequence, a few of them do
> something special, and a few are silent.
> The silent ones are control-F1, Alt-F5, Alt-F6, Alt-F7, Alt-Shift-F6
> and Alt-Shift-F7.
> The question for each of those 6 is the same:
>   1) Does the key actually do something, and I just didn't notice.

Alt-function keys are traditionally used for window management:

- Alt-F5 restores a maximized window to the original size.

- Alt-F6 and Shift-Alt-F6 switch between windows (without popping up the
  Alt-Tab dialog)

- Alt-F7 lets you move the window using the keyboard

I'm not sure about Ctrl-F1 or Alt-Shift-F7.

The function of the keys depends on your desktop environment (or window
manager, more specifically), and are usually configurable.

>   2) Is there a way to make the key available to an application like Vim?

Take it away from its current function in System Settings -> Keyboard,
and it should become available to Vim.

Marius Gedminas
Mosher's Law of Software Engineering:
        Don't worry if it doesn't work right.
        If everything did, you'd be out of a job.
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