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How to customize keyboard shortcuts on the XFCE4 desktop

New to the XFCE desktop environment on Linux and looking to modify the default keyboard shortcuts? Want to add new, custom shortcut commands but unsure how to go about it? We can help! Here’s how to customize keyboard shortcuts on XFCE4!

Default keyboard shortcuts

XFCE4 isn’t loaded with dozens of keyboard shortcuts like other Linux desktop environments, but it does have a lot of them. These shortcuts are tucked away in the “Keyboard” section of the desktop settings. To access this area, open up the XFCE application menu, look for the settings app, and open it. Alternatively, press Alt + F2 on the keyboard to open up the app launcher. Then, enter the command below.


In the Settings app, you’ll notice dozens of app shortcut icons, all of which point to different options that you can tweak on XFCE4. Sort through these icons and locate the one that says “Keyboard,” and double-click on the icon to open it.

The default keyboard shortcuts in the Keyboard section of Settings can be easily viewed by clicking on the “Application Shortcuts” tab.

Next, to each shortcut for XFCE, you’ll see the keyboard combination under the “Shortcut” column.

Need to learn more about the default keyboard shortcuts? Locate the “Help” button and click on it with the mouse to automatically open up the XFCE Wiki entry on keyboard settings.

Modifying default keyboard shortcuts

The default shortcuts are sane, and the developers have done a good job setting them up in a way that makes sense. However, not everyone using XFCE will be happy with the defaults, so it’s good to know that it’s possible to swap out the shortcuts when needed.

To swap out a default shortcut, locate a command in the list by looking through the “Command” column. Once you’ve found the command, you’d like to modify, move to the “Shortcut” column, and double-click on the key combo with the mouse.

Upon double-clicking on the keyboard combo, a window will appear. Use the keyboard to press the new combination you’d like to set for the shortcut. Repeat this for as many default shortcuts as you’d like. When done, click “Close” to close the app.

Deleting default keyboard shortcuts

Some shortcuts on XFCE are unnecessary. Thankfully, it’s possible to delete them in the “Application Shortcuts” column. To remove a shortcut, look through the “Command” list and click on it with the mouse to select it. Then, click the “Remove” button to delete the shortcut quickly. Repeat this process to remove as many default shortcuts as needed.

Want to restore shortcuts you’ve removed from the system? Find the “Reset to Defaults” button and click it with the mouse. It should restore any shortcuts removed previously.

Create custom keyboard shortcuts

XFCE, like all Linux desktop environments, allows users to create custom keyboard shortcuts. Specifically, users can create custom shortcuts that do specific window actions, desktop actions, launch applications, or even run scripts.

On the XFCE desktop, there isn’t a “custom” section for keyboard shortcuts. Instead, custom keyboard shortcuts are added to the already existing list of shortcuts.

To create your custom keyboard shortcuts, open up the Settings application, click on “Keyboard.” Inside of the “Keyboard” app, look for the “Add” option at the bottom of the window and click on it with the mouse.

By clicking the “Add” button, a window labeled “Shortcut Command” will appear. Find “Command.” Next, to it, there’s a blank box where you can fill out your keyboard action.

In the box, write out the command for the application you’d like to launch with the keyboard shortcut. Or, if you’d like to run a script, write “sh /path/to/script/.”

Note: can’t figure out the command you’d like to write in the “Command” box? Click “Open” to browse for the app on your Linux PC instead. After filling out the command in the “Command” box, click “OK” to move on to the next page.

On the next page in the XFCE keyboard shortcut setup window, you’ll be asked to create the keyboard combination used to access the shortcut. To set the combination, press the keys on the keyboard you’d like to use.

Be sure to repeat the custom keyboard shortcut process outlined above as desired. There is no limit on XFCE for custom shortcuts. When done, click “Close”.

Remove custom shortcuts

To get rid of any custom keyboard shortcuts on XFCE, look through the “Command” column and highlight it with the mouse. After that, select the “Remove” button to delete it from the system.

Alternatively, it is possible to remove multiple custom shortcuts at once by selecting the “Reset to Defaults” button, as it will remove anything not set up by default.

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