keynav - keyboard navigation tool


keynav [optional-startup-commands]


keynav is a utility for generally operating your mouse with your keyboard. The main usage is to divide the screen into sections, selecting them until you end up at the point where you want to move the mouse, or click, etc.

You can pass any valid keynav commands to keynav from the command-line. Make sure you quote things properly.

For example, to load another config file or two:

 keynav "loadconfig ~/myconfigs/keynavrc,loadconfig ~/myconfig/anotherkeynavrc"

Another example: daemonize on startup:
keynav daemonize


keynav is configured by default from a config file in your home directory "~/.keynavrc"

The default configuration can be found in the " DEFAULT CONFIGURATION" section.

’#’ will delimit comments. The configuration consists mostly of binding keys to keynav commands. The following to commands must appear on lines by themselves, not as key bindings.

This will make keynav background itself after parsing the config file and setting up keybindings. If there are errors during keybinding, then keynav will not background and will exit with failure.


This wil clear all existing keybindings. This is useful if, for example, you do not want any of the default keybindings that come with keynav.

The rest of the configuration has this format

 keybinding keynav-command[,keynav-command,...]

You can have multiple commands for a single keybinding.

The way to start keynav’s navigation is to use the ’start’ command. Additionally, any keys with ’start’ as a command will be grabbed as global hotkeys. For example, this configuration:

 ctrl+semicolon start
 space click 1

This will make keynav grab the ctrl + semicolon keybinding globally, but it will not grab space. The space keybinding will only be active while keynav is active (after you press a key sequence that invokes start.

In case of a keyboard layout where semicolon is just reachable by pressing Shift, the activation key combination actually might not be ctrl+shift+[other character], but just ctrl+[other character], e.g. ctrl+comma instead of ctrl+shift+comma on Swiss-German or German-German layouts.

If you aren’t sure what the name of your key is, you can run xev(1) and press each key you want to learn about while the xev window has focus. The output will include the keysym name (like Shift_L, or Return, etc)

Moving on, here are all the keynav commands you can use:

Movements are bounded by screen edges. See " SCREEN EDGES" for edge and multiple screen handling.

This will cut the keynav window upwards. We will shrink from the bottom upwards. The default cut value, if not specified, is 0.5

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

cut-down [value]

This will cut the keynav window downwards. We will shrink from the top down. The default cut value, if not specified, is 0.5

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

cut-left [value]

This will cut the keynav window leftwards. We will shrink from the right to the left. The default cut value, if not specified, is 0.5

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

cut-right [value]

This will cut the keynav window rightwards. We will shrink from the left to the right. The default cut value, if not specified, is 0.5

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

move-up [value]

This will move the window up. The default value, if not specified, is 1.

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

move-down [value]

This will move the window down. The default value, if not specified, is 1.

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

move-left [value]

This will move the window left. The default value, if not specified, is 1.

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

move-right [value]

This will move the window right. The default value, if not specified, is 1.

See " CUT AND MOVE VALUES" for what this value means.

cursorzoom width height

This command centers the keynav window on the mouse position and sets the window size to the given width and height (in pixels).


This command makes the keynav window fit the current application window. This is useful if you have your windows in a tiled arrangement.


The default ’grid’ is 2x2. If you want more grid cells you can choose any number of columns and rows.

grid-nav [on OR off OR toggle]

Grid navigation is off by default. When turned on, every grid cell will have a two-letter label. To select a single cell, you simply type the two letters. The ’toggle’ value will toggle grid-nav.

cell-select [value]

Cell selection is similar to grid-nav, but less visual. You would bind keys to select specific cells. With cell-select, there are no labels.

The value can be one of two formats. First, the COLUMNxROW syntax. ’cell-select 3x1’ will select column 3, row 1. The second format is simply a number. The number represents the counting of the cell, starting at the top left and working right.

A visual might help. With ’grid 3x3’ the following is used with cell-select:

 |              |               |               |
 |     1x1      |      2x1      |      3x1      |
 |      1       |       2       |       3       |
 |              |               |               |
 |              |               |               |
 |     1x2      |      2x2      |      3x2      |
 |      4       |       5       |       6       |
 |              |               |               |
 |              |               |               |
 |     1x3      |      2x3      |      3x3      |
 |      7       |       8       |       9       |
 |              |               |               |


This command moves the mouse pointer to the center of the keynav window.

click [button]

This command will send a mouse click. It does not move the mouse, so the click will go wherever the mouse is positioned. The button values are this: 1 = left, 2 = middle, 3 = right, 4 = wheel up, 5 = wheel down.

doubleclick [button]

Double clicks, but otherwise is the same as click.

drag button [modifier-keys]

Starts or ends dragging, depending on state (dragging or not). The button values are the same as for click. The modifier-keys value allows you to specify any keys to ’hold’ while dragging, such as alt or shift.

Dragging sometimes doesn’t work. I’m trying to make it more reliable. File a bug if you are interested in this feature working :)


Record actions for replay later. Very similar to vim’s ’q’ command. The first key you press after starting a new recording becomes the active key for that recording. You cannot record to keys that are already bound to other commands, but you can overwrite existing recordings. If you want to persist recordings across keynav processes (like system or keynav restarts, etc) you will want to specify a file, I use "~/.keynav_macros" but any path will do.

For example, this config: ’q record’. Pressing ’q’ then ’l’ will start recording to the ’l’ key assuming it’s not already bound. Then, to stop recording, press ’q’ again (the record key as configured). After that, to replay that recording, simply press playback and then ’l’ while the keynav window is active.


Replay a previously recorded sequence of keys. After invoking the command, keynav will wait for the key of a previously recorded session.

sh command

Run a command with /bin/sh -c <command>. This is slightly outside the scope of keynav, but executing arbitrary commands is very useful when combined with xdotool. For example, I use this to activate Google Chrome and focus the URL bar:

 g sh "xdotool search --name -- '- Google Chrome' windowactivate key --window 0 --clearmodifiers ctrl+l",end

loadconfig path

Load an additional config file. Paths like ’~/foo/bar’ are valid and the ’~’ will be replaced with your home directory (Value of $HOME in environment).


Start keynav. Any keys with this binding will operate as global bindings to activate keynav.


End keynav. This hides the keynav window and otherwise makes keynav inactive until the next ’start’ command.


Go backwards in command history. All activity is tracked in history, so if you want to undo a movement, etc, simply use this command.


Exit keynav. The process will shutdown.


Restart keynav. Useful for reloading the configuration. SIGHUP and SIGUSR1 also invoke this command.


The values for cuts and moves have two kinds values.

Values in the range [0,1] are taken to mean a percentage of the window’s width or height. Values > 1 are taken literally as pixel units.

Some examples:

This will cut and keep 75% of the window’s height. That is, if the window is 1000 pixels tall, then after this cut it will be 750 pixels tall.

move-left 1

The ’1’ here maeans 100% of the width. This will move the window to the left by the full width of the window.

move-down 100

The ’100’ here means 100 pixels. This will move the window down by 100 pixels.


When moving the keynav window around, the window will not go outside of the screen boundaries. One exception is for multiple displays: a movement outside of the current screen can move the keynav window to the next screen if keynav things it’s the right thing to do.

If a move would take you beyond the screen borders, then the window will stop moving at the edge.


 ctrl+semicolon start
 Escape end
 ctrl+bracketleft end
 q record ~/.keynav_macros
 shift+at playback
 a history-back
 h cut-left
 j cut-down
 k cut-up
 l cut-right
 shift+h move-left
 shift+j move-down
 shift+k move-up
 shift+l move-right
 space warp,click 1,end
 Return warp,click 1,end
 semicolon warp,end
 w warp
 t windowzoom
 c cursorzoom 300 300
 e end
 1 click 1
 2 click 2
 3 click 3
 ctrl+h cut-left
 ctrl+j cut-down
 ctrl+k cut-up
 ctrl+l cut-right
 y cut-left,cut-up
 u cut-right,cut-up
 b cut-left,cut-down
 n cut-right,cut-down
 shift+y move-left,move-up
 shift+u move-right,move-up
 shift+b move-left,move-down
 shift+n move-right,move-down
 ctrl+y cut-left,cut-up
 ctrl+u cut-right,cut-up
 ctrl+b cut-left,cut-down
 ctrl+n cut-right,cut-down


 # Make 'v' paste things:
 v sh "xdotool key shift+Insert",end

See the author’s keynavrc as an example, here:


Related: xdotool(1)

Project site: <>;

Google Code: <>;


Please send questions and comments to keynav-users [AT] File bugs and feature requests at the following URL:


Alternately, if you really prefer email, feel free to file bugs by emailing the list. What works for you :)


keynav was written by Jordan Sissel.