How to assign two different keybindings for window switching (a.k.a Alt+Tab) in Linux2020-03-01
More interface tweaking
I was assigned a Mac OS machine for a work project and started using it right away. I was immediately tripped up by the Mac keyboard layout. In general, I think the Mac keyboard layout is far more sensible than the standard PC layout, but to work comfortably without muscle memory tripping me up I needed to make some tweaks.
Here are the constraints I had to satisfy:
1) The key right next to the spacebar (sometimes marked AltGr) needs to serve as a modifier key for Polish letters:
2) I need window-switching to be operated by the same muscle movement in both my Mac and Linux environments.
Here’s what I arrived at:
1) In Mac OS’s keyboard settings, I swapped the Option and Command keys. This gives me my Polish glyph toggle under my right thumb, but forces me to alt+tab with the second neighbors of the spacebar on both sides, instead of the keys immediately flanking the spacebar.
To match the MacOS situation, I set my XFCE “window switcher shortcut” to This is not very comfortable. On the Mac, I end up often using my
Right Option + Tab for window switching, more often than
Left Option + Tab. How do I match this setup on the Linux machine?
The answer turns out to be alttab. This is a standalone program which runs in the background and takes over your window manager’s “alt-tab” functionality. It can readily replace whatever window switching your window manager provides for you. It’s simple, fast, and does one thing well.
Alt-Tab under two different shortcuts
There is one problem, though:
alttab can’t use two distinct modifier keys to perform window switching. I’d like to use both
Control_L+Tab to switch windows, thereby matching the behavior on my mac.
The workaround is to launch two separate instances of
alttab, each bound to its own key combination:
alttab -mk Control_R -s 0 -bg white -fg black & alttab -mk Super_L -s 0 -bg white -fg black &
Now, my muscle memory for typing in Polish doesn’t trip me up on my Mac, and I have a consistent Alt-Tab setup across both my systems. Not particularly beautiful, but at least consistent between platforms.