In my usual setup, I use use matlab-emacs to run Matlab through the Emacs GUI. I run Matlab and emacs on a Linux server, and use ssh and X forwarding so this all shows up on my local Ubuntu laptop.

I would like to further complicate this setup by running emacs in screen. This mostly works with the notable exception that the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Enter which tells Matlab to run a block of code, doesn't seem to do anything. I presume this shortcut is getting sent perhaps somewhere locally on my own machine? I notice the menu bar at the top of my terminal on my laptop changes when I try to run this command.

Does anyone have a clever suggestion for how I can get Ctrl+Alt+Enter to run Matlab code blocks as expected?

1 Answer 1


Terminals transmit characters¹, not keys. When you press a key or key combination like Ctrl+Alt+Enter, the terminal has to translate it to a character or character sequence. There aren't nearly enough characters to represent all keys, so most such combinations are transmitted as escape sequences: a sequence of characters starting with the escape character.

There's no universal standard for the escape sequences, though there are some common conventions. For example, Alt+key often sends the escape character followed by the character or escape sequence for key; but there's no standard for what Ctrl+Enter sends. Some terminals are configurable, some have hard-coded escape sequences.

See also Problems with keybindings when using terminal for a more detailed explanation as well as possible solutions with Xterm.

If you can't get Ctrl+Alt+Enter to be transmitted through your favorite terminal, you can choose a different key binding. Figure out what command Ctrl+Alt+Enter runs by pressing C-h c C-M-return when you're using Matlab in a GUI Emacs. Then type C-h w matlab-foo RET where matlab-foo is the command name; this will tell you what key(s) matlab-foo is bound to. If there isn't a binding that you can type conveniently, add one to your init file, with something like

(defun my-eval-after-load-matlab ()
  (define-key matlab-mode-map [f9] 'matlab-foo))
(eval-after-load "matlab" '(my-eval-after-load-matlab))

For "matlab", substitude the name of the Lisp file that defines the matlab-foo command. To find out what that is, type C-h k C-M-return; this tells you something like “C-M-return runs the command matlab-foo, which is an interactive compiled Lisp function in `matlab.el`”. The name of the Lisp file is that last bit on the line, minus the .el part. For matlab-mode-map, substitute the name of the keymap; this is generally the name of the major mode (C-h v major-mode RET, “Its value is matlab-mode”) plus -map at the end.

Alternatively, do you really need to use Screen? If you're only using it so that Emacs survives the disconnection, this isn't actually necessary. Start Emacs as a daemon (emacs --daemon), and connect to it remotely over SSH by running emacsclient -c to open a new GUI frame. You can open and close GUI frames on multiple displays, and Emacs will keep running even if the displays come and go.

¹ Actually bytes, but that bit is irrelevant here.

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