I've been futzing around with this and can't seem to get it to work. Using Ctrl+V in the terminal correctly outputs ^\ for this combination so it should be recognizable.

As I have Ctrl+\ bound to suspend-frame in emacs, I would like to be able to quickly get back into the foreground with another press of Ctrl+\.

I believe this is the only viable combination:

"\C-\\": "fg\n"

If I hit Enter after Ctrl+V for this combination, I get the following output, which might be useful:

bash: $'\034': command not found

1 Answer 1


Ctrl+\ is one of the control characters that cause the terminal to send a signal (SIGQUIT), like Ctrl+C (SIGINT) and Ctrl+Z (SIGTSTP). You can run stty -a to show what characters have a special meaning to the terminal; see Clear / erase a mistyped invisible password on a shell / terminal in Linux for more details. The upshot is that when you press Ctrl+\, bash doesn't see a character on its standard input, it sees a signal, and that doesn't go through the key bindings mechanisms.

You can switch off the meaning for the character in the terminal with the command stty quit undef. If you do that, bash will see the character as input and your key binding will take effect.

To arrange for Ctrl+\ to be a bash binding but have its normal terminal binding when running a command, change the terminal settings before and after running a command.

preexec () {
  stty quit '^\'
precmd () {
  stty quit undef

preexec_invoke_exec () {
    [ -n "$COMP_LINE" ] && return  # do nothing if completing
    [ "$BASH_COMMAND" = "$PROMPT_COMMAND" ] && return # don't cause a preexec for $PROMPT_COMMAND
    local this_command=`HISTTIMEFORMAT= history 1 | sed -e "s/^[ ]*[0-9]*[ ]*//"`;
    preexec "$this_command"
trap 'preexec_invoke_exec' DEBUG

Rather than make the key type fg and a newline, bind the key to a shell command. You can't do that from .inputrc, which applies to all readline applications, not just to bash. Instead, define a bash binding in your .bashrc:

bind -x '"\C-\\": "fg"'
  • 1
    Adding stty quit undef and bind -x '"\C-\\": "fg"' to my .bashrc worked great and does not interfere with emacs. I'm not aware of Ctrl+\ behaving like Ctrl-c in any application; at least in my terminal emulator (mintty). Where might I have a problem with this?
    – Zhro
    Aug 6, 2015 at 0:55
  • @Zhro Ctrl+\\ sends SIGQUIT. That is the case on your terminal, otherwise you wouldn't have needed to ask this question. That does cause many applications to quit, but not all — bash ignores it, for example. Aug 6, 2015 at 0:57
  • I will keep your workaround on-hand just in case. Thanks so much.
    – Zhro
    Aug 6, 2015 at 0:58
  • You can set macros in ~/.inputrc only for bash by wrapping them in an if construct like this : $if Bash $endif
    – Atralb
    Jun 8, 2020 at 23:33

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