March 31st, 2010 @ 20:01

Keyboard shortcuts are always a great matter of debate, and the whole problem is that most often they are chosen based on assumptions of the end user layout.

For instance, take this metacity commit : Change default cycle_group keybinding to Alt-grave. This change looks perfectly harmless, right ? Well not quite. It’s most likely based on the assumption that the end users has a qwerty keyboard layout (and it makes perfectly sense there). But let’s take an azerty layout. Grave is on the é/7 key, which is even farther from alt or tab than F6 is (well, not much I agree, but it might be even worse on other layouts). Is it really worth doing such a change then ?

Let’s also note that this also triggers a bad bug which gets alt+7 and alt+shift+7 to trigger the binding as well, while alt+grave is actually alt+altgr+7. This has been keeping me from nicely switching to my window n°7 in irssi for months (great thing that this window holds a really low traffic channel…).

All in all, I guess that the real problem is not that this change was made, but rather than we might need a system to have layout-dependant keybindings, or maybe hardware-location-based keybindings (i.e. that the key above the Tab key would trigger this keybinding independently of the layout).

Initially published on Mar 24, 2010 @ 8:22

Update : this change has been reverted for the GNOME 2.30 release. Even though I’m happy that the problem is “fixed”, it’s sad that the underlying problem (Alt+Shift+7 triggering Alt+`) is still there.