I would like to setup some Gnome keyboard shortcuts to be a prefix-key, so that I can add several shortcuts with the same prefix. Eg. I'd like to be able to have Super+x be a prefix key, with the next letter determining the application to launch:

  • Super+x f starts firefox
  • Super+x e starts emacs
  • Super+x t starts gnome-terminal


Also, something like k as a prefix to workspace manipulation commands:

  • Super+k Left workspace left
  • Super+k 4 go to workspace 4

and so on.

This is a natural analog to what emacs, tmux and other applications do with configurable shortcuts, and I can do this with the stumpwm window manager as well, but I wanted to try Unity on my new laptop and was trying to get the same efficient setup I had with stumpwm.

Is this provided for in Gnome? Do I have to do some trickery to do this? It would be best if I could find a way to do this in gnome's keyboard shortcut editor.

  • I would be particularly interested in seeing this kind of function available for Gnome3 / Gnome-Shell. The lack of keybinding customizability was shocking to me in something that has obviously been thought about quite a bit.
    – Caleb
    Jun 3, 2011 at 10:37

2 Answers 2


I don't think this is possible. However, you could workaround that by writing your own program. You would map Super + x to launch your program, then the program grabs keyboard input and listens to whatever you type next, and launches the desired action.


The program xchainkeys does what you need, plus some useful variants of it.
It is independent of the desktop environment.

A possible configuration is to have something like a mode, where you do not need to repeat the prefix key for a series of hotkeys;

With this, instead of Super+K Left Super+K Down

typing Super+K Left Down is enough.

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