Keyboard shortcuts on Linux


I am having troubles using keyboard shortcuts (prev/next cell, move cell up/down) on Linux (Xubuntu, Firefox and Chrome). I have tried literally all combinations of ctrl/alt/shift/win(cmd)/up/down and nothing happens. I have currently no means of reordering cells in my notebooks.


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Perhaps your window manager intercepts ? Since it is impossible to support all distros, dragging cells would be a platform independent solution.

In KDE, you can disable just for Chrome all window manager keyboard shortcuts in:

  • More Actions … Special Application Settings - Appearance and Fixes tab - Ignore global shortcuts = Force: yes

It works for me to get the Observable Alt-Window-arrows keys to work for rearraging cells.
There may be a similar settings for your window manager.

So, some more updates:

  1. my Linux WM (xfwm) does not seem to be intercepting those, as literally nothing happens when I hit them (w.r.t. window manager)

  2. I also tried at Windows 10 (non-customized vanilla install). Observed windows behavior:

  • In Firefox, there is no way to navigate (alt+shift+up/down) and no way to swap (alt+win+up/down);
  • In Chrome, alt+shift+up/down also does nothing. Swapping works!

To sum things up: the one and only keyboard shortcut that I managed to get working is alt+win+up/down AND windows AND chrome. All other combinations are doing nothing interesting.

That’s the only one that works for me too. Only in Chrome, not in Firefox. Same result on Ubuntu 16.04 Unity and Windows 7. Haven’t tried Gnome or KDE.

It only works on KDE Chrome with disabled wm shortcuts for me. Firefox does not work for me as well.

The current keybindings for non-Mac systems are (verbatim from the code that implements them):

  • Alt-Shift-Down: move focus down
  • Alt-Shift-Up: move focus up
  • Cmd-Alt-Up: move cell up
  • Cmd-Alt-Down: move cell down
  • Shift-Enter: run cell
  • Alt-Enter: split cell
  • Shift-Alt-Enter: split cell
  • Alt-Backspace: merge
  • Ctrl-Alt-D: merge
  • Shift-Ctrl-P: toggle pin
  • Ctrl-Alt-Tab: insert tab

Might want to try this keyboard debugger to see if the keystrokes you’re typing are getting through to the browser. I’m planning on implementing UI for shortcut-only commands, because, as we’ve found is that every key combination is going to break on some particular platform.


After turning off global wm shortcuts, on linux FF 52.7.3 the Cmd (keycode 91)-Alt (18) - Up (38)/Down(40) keys get logged by the keyboard debugger but still do not work in the editor. Chrome 66.0.3359.139, however, works.

Hi Tom,

thanks for the debugger link! This is a really useful tool. Some observations on Linux/XFCE:

  • Firefox: alt+shift generates Key: “GroupNext”, KeyCode: 18;

  • Chrome: alt+shift generates Key: “GroupNext”, KeyCode: 0;

  • Firefox: alt+win generates Key: “OS”, KeyCoode: 91;

  • Chrome: alt+win generates Key: “Meta”, KeyCode: 91.

Another difference between keyboard shortcuts for Windows/Linux and Mac where Observable seems to hard-code the Mac version is:

Description Windows Mac OS
Redo text Ctrl + Y Shift + Cmd + Z

Update: cells now have up & down buttons


Someday soon we’ll make them draggable to make re-arranging simpler, and possibly someday there’s some sort of peace between browsers, OSes, and keyboards to make keybindings work everywhere.


Great work guys.

possibly someday there’s some sort of peace between browsers, OSes, and keyboards to make keybindings work everywhere

Don’t hold your breath for this one …

Great, Tom, thanks a lot!

This is great. Much appreciated.

I noticed that “split cell” isn’t mentioned in the hovertext, maybe a nice addition?


I’m on Chrome and MacOS and redo (Ctrl+Y) is opening up my history instead of redoing. Is there a way to get it to redo?


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