You can use Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts to improve your productivity and make repetitive tasks faster and easier to perform.

Now, you probably know a stack of keyboard shortcuts already. General actions like copy (ctrl + c), paste (ctrl + v), and undo (ctrl + z) are the same across most operating systems and throughout most (if not all) software, Linux included.

Keyboard shortcuts help improve productivity by making repetitive tasks easier to perform

In this post we focus on a crop of Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts you might not already know about, as well as a few you probably do but regularly forget about!

Reading all the way to the end to snag a bonus tip on how to create your own custom keyboard shortcuts in Ubuntu. We’ve also created a newbie-friendly Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts cheat sheet that you can download and share with others.

Useful Ubuntu Keyboard Shortcuts

All of shortcuts listed below work with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and up.

Many of the shortcuts also use the Super key.

What is the Super key in Ubuntu? Well, it’s the button that sits between the ctrl and the alt keys on your keyboard, adjacent of the space bar. This key may also have a small “Windows” logo on it.

If you’re using an Apple keyboard then the Super key is mapped to the cmd ⌘ key, which is directly left of the space bar.

1. Open A New Terminal

Being able to quickly access the command line is super important on Linux distros like Ubuntu because, like it or not, it’s often faster that clicking your way around whatever “GUI” option is available.

To open a new Terminal window on the Ubuntu desktop, regardless of what you’e doing, just press the shortcut keys ctrl + alt + T.

Bam! Instant command line access.

2. Instantly Show the Desktop

The Ubuntu 18.10 desktop

Having too many application windows open can really hit your productivity by making it difficult to access files on the desktop, by distracting you, and so on.

Next time the clutter gets too much press Super + D to hide all windows and instantly show the desktop.

Press the same shortcut again to instantly restore those hidden windows back to where they were!

3. Log Out Quickly

If you plan on leaving your laptop or PC unattended for a short while (or if someone else wants to use it) you should always log out first.

I find it quicker to log out of the Ubuntu desktop and return to the login screen (GDM) using the Ctrl + Alt + Delete shortcut rather than the system menu, so you might too.

4. Take a Screenshot on Ubuntu

Ubuntu 19.04 desktop with neofetch

Do you know how to take a screenshot on Ubuntu without opening the ‘screenshot’ app? Press the Print Screen button to instantly save a full-screen snap of your entire desktop to the ~/Pictures folder.

But what if you only want to screen grab a specific section of your screen? You could take a full screenshot (see above) and then crop it using an image editor like GIMP — but there is a faster way…

A fast way to take a partial screenshot on Ubuntu is to press Shift + Print Screen, then use the crosshair that appears on screen to select the portion of the screen you wish to snap.

Release your mouse button to take the partial screenshot. It is saved to the ~/Pictures folder by default.

5. Control Window Snapping

Ubuntu lets you “snap” windows to the left and right edges of your display using the mouse. You just drag a window to the side of the screen for a few seconds and then let go.

But did you know you can also snap windows using your keyboard, too?

Focus the app you want to snap left or right and press Super and or  to instantly do that.

You can “un-snap” a window the same way: just give the window focus then press the same command again.

6. Quick Command Prompt

If you’ve used Linux for a while you’ll know how handy the alt + f2 shortcut is.

With a simple key press you can call up a powerful command prompt from which you can issue commands, like force quit an unresponsive app, restart the GNOME Shell desktop, or launch a specific utility with command line arguments.

So versatile is this box that it merited a mention in our list of the best app launchers for Ubuntu & Linux Mint!

While alt + f2 is something you (hopefully) rarely need to use, it’s worth remembering.

7. Hide Any App, Instantly

Here’s a shortcut that’s ideal for those of you working with eagle-eyed bosses and/or curious partners: instantly hide the app you’re looking at by pressing the super + h shortcut, with it in focus of course.

8. Record the Ubuntu Desktop

screen recorder ubuntu
Keys, Pressed, Action

We’ve shone the spotlight on the GNOME Shell screen recorder before, but it’s always worth highlighting as people still don’t know it exists!

To record your Ubuntu desktop (i.e. create a screencast) press Shift + Ctrl + Alt + R. A small red dot will appear in the status area letting you know that recording is active.

By default each screen recording will only last 30 seconds, but you can extend the duration using the dconf editor tool, which we cover in the aforementioned guide.

9. Window Spread

a screenshot of the ubuntu window switcher

You can get to that overview by clicking the “Activities” label in the upper-right of the screen but a much faster way is to simply hit the Super key.

The (much missed) Unity desktop had a nice window spread when you pressed the Super + W shortcut. The Activities Overlay in the GNOME Shell desktop is broadly similar, showing you all windows from the current workspace.

This instantly opens the window spread. You can quickly close windows using your mouse (click the ‘x’) but, alas, not using your keyboard. What’s up with that?

On the subject of windows, there are various ways to switch windows on Ubuntu using keyboard shortcuts, (e.g., alt + tab, alt + esc, alt + `) but I find the expansive “overview” of the Activities Overlay (Super) to be quickest.

10. Quickly Maximise Windows

It’s difficult to concentrate on a specific task when there are multiple app windows on screen, vying for your attention. So when you need to focus just maximise your app so that it takes up more screen space.

Maximise an in focus app on Ubuntu by pressing Super and .

To “un-maximise” (i.e. restore back to a small window) just focus the window and press the Super + down.

11. Launch Apps on the Dock

You can hold Super and press 1 to 9 to quickly launch the corresponding app that is pinned in the Ubuntu Dock, e.g. the first item being 1, and so on up to a maximum of 10 (with 10 being launched by 0).

12. Focus the Top Bar

screenshot of the top bar focus

You can navigate the Top Bar (the black panel across the top of the screen) using your keyboard — you just have to be explicit about it by pressing ctrl + alt + tab.

You’ll see a on-scren dialog that lets you choose whether to give focus to application menus or the top bar. Select the Top Bar using the Tab key and hit Enter.

Now you can use your keyboard to navigate and action status menus, applets and GNOME Shell extensions.

Move between menus using the Tab key; use Return/Enter to “click” on an item to open (or expand it); and use the left and right arrow keys to move sliders (e.g., Volume) up or down.

When you’re done using the keyboard in the top bar press Esc.

13. Move Workspaces

If you’re a big user of workspaces — I’m not, but i’m not everyone — then you’ll definitely want to be come familiar with the Super + Page Down and, when you’re not on workspace 1 the Super + Page Up combos.

Using these keyboard shortcuts allows you to moving around your workspaces without needing to take your hands off the keyboard.

14. Learn more Shortcuts!

The final Ubuntu keyboard shortcut that’s worth remembering is rather meta in that it’s a keyboard shortcut which reveals more keyboard shortcuts!

Press ctrl + F1 or ctrl + ? in a GNOME core app, e.g., Nautilus File Manager, Evince Document Viewer, Photos, etc, to see a one-sheet overview of all the important keyboard shortcuts.

Bonus Tip: Create Custom Shortcuts on Ubuntu

Create a custom shortcut

Any application, script, command, or action that you can run from the command line (or via Alt + F2, see step #5 above) can be assigned to a custom keyboard shortcut of your choosing.

To create a custom keyboard shortcuts on Ubuntu just head to Settings > Devices > Keyboard and click the “+” button at the very bottom of the list of keyboard shortcuts.

In the dialog that appears you need enter the command (with any argument) to be run and ‘record’ the shortcut you want to use.

For example, to make the Rofi app launcher appear when I press Shift + Ctrl + { I enter “rofi -show run” in the command field and then press the ‘record shortcut’ button and press the Shift, Ctrl and { keys to bind it.

Then, I enter a descriptive name (‘rofi’ will do) and click ‘Add’ to save the keyboard shortcut — and i’m all set!

Ubuntu Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheet

I made this handy graphic to help make it easier to remember and to share some of the most essential Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts:

Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts
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