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I've joined a team of devs working on an open source software project which is supposed to run accross multiple platfroms (Windows, Mac, Linux, ...). I'm assigned to a task which includes reviewing the keyboard shortcuts and creating new shortcuts for several menu items.

It's a 3D software and as an example, the current keyboard shortcuts for one menu tree are:

[F1]       [F2]       [F3]       [F4]
[ALT]+[F1] [ALT]+[F2] [ALT]+[F3]

Now, while I see no issue with the F-keys at all, I'm getting in trouble with the ALT-key combinations. I'm developing in Linux with a gnome based desktop environment and [ALT]+[F1] opens the system menu and [ALT]+[F2] runs a command prompt etc.

Now, I have multiple issues, firstly, as mentioned above, the conflict with obvious system keyboard shortcuts and secondly, adding for example an 8th keyboard shortcut in these scheme, I would end up with [ALT]+[F4] which is a well known shortcut accross multiple systems to close the active window.

Now my question is, how to chose shortcuts the best way?

Is [CTRL]+[F1] better than [ALT]+[F1]? Are there any official or inofficial guidelines?

Do you have any good/bad experience with assigning keyboard shortcuts which could help me on this decission?

  • The obvious answer would be: make them adapt to the platform the app is running on! Yes, it is more development work, but your users will probably thank you for getting a "normal" response from your app to short-cuts that they are used to, instead of some unpredictable (to them) behaviour based on whatever scheme you came up with to forcefully amalgamate the different platforms. – Marjan Venema Apr 23 '14 at 16:32
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The keyboard shortcuts that your application uses should be the ones that your users expect to use. Keyboard shortcuts are easiest to remember and most useful when they are consistent. As you have identified, you have two different consistency concerns here. Prioritize consistency with the OS and its conventions over consistency in your application across platforms.

For shortcuts where there isn't a clear-cut shortcut for the OS, the keyboard shortcuts should be the same across the platforms. For Windows users, the standard keyboard shortcut is Control-something, whereas it's Command-something for Mac users. You can treat Control-foo and Command-foo as being the same shortcut across the platforms. For example, Control-X on Windows is (usually) the same as Command-X on a Mac, and it's the Cut command. Likewise, most Mac applications don't use F-keys, and so an application that expects the use of F-key shortcuts is not an application that meets the expectations of Mac users.

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I strongly advice to review keyboard shortcuts of cross platform softwares like MS Excel etc.. Please kindly see these links Link1 Link2

  • Link only answers are not always helpful as the pages they point to can go away and nothing of value is left. The most helpful answers also include arguments that support why an answer is correct, not just how the answer should be solved. Can you expand upon your answer to explain why you believe shortcuts for programs like MS Excel should be used in other projects? – Charles Wesley Apr 24 '14 at 14:46
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    the idea here is looking cross platform software short cuts , you can look at Firefox instead of MS excel to understand what I am talking. – user3498019 Apr 24 '14 at 20:52

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