Using alt-key clicks on linux

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Mon May 29 16:07:25 EDT 2017

hh wrote:

 > You could try to rethink why that key is named "optionKey" or
 > "altKey".
 > Using the altkey with another key on the keyboard is not the same
 > as using it with the mouse. Easy to understand. It's a simple option.
 > As you said earlier:
 > "... some things make more semantic sense with Alt rather than Shift".
 > ---
 > Alt happens.

...but not in a vacuum.

With the rare exception of some games (where keys are used in such 
unusual ways that their designs don't really apply to discussions of 
productivity apps), the Alt/Option key does nothing by itself.

It's a modifier of some other action, either another keypress or a mouse 

A click gesture is so common that most folks don't even think about it. 
They just click, down and release - in one fluid action, cognitively and 
temporally.  Most folks don't even conceptualize that mouseDown and 
mouseUp are separate states, at least not with regard to push buttons.

If we attempt to redefine the click just to accommodate a particular 
modifier key, for myself I believe that's focusing on the less 
productive side of the equation.

When solving a UI challenge it's often helpful to seek guidance in 
existing solutions.

Mark Weider's reminder is very helpful here:

     I think considering how much of a known behavior this is in the
     linux desktop world it's unlikely to be changed

So while the semantics that I feel can be useful for distinguishing 
between Ctrl, Shift, and Alt ae arguably valuable, I have to recognize 
that any value they have is relative to the audience in which they're used.

And since the Linux world has been operating without Alt-click for 
anything beyond window moving for so long, this leaves us with a 
question:  what do they do instead?

The answer seems most commonly to be what the LiveCode team has already 
done, along with LibreOffice draw and others:  where a drag+modifier is 
used for cloning a a selected control, the modifier is Ctrl.

Some layout programs (Synfig and Inkscape come to mind) don't even have 
a drag+modifier action for cloning at all.

So the Alt-click gesture is rarely used except in a subset of app types, 
and within a given category of application it's not even needed across 
the whole scope of apps within it.

If we look outside of graphics programs, in other Linux apps we see 
Ctrl-drag used for duplicating the selection, including Gedit for 
duplicating dragged text (as opposed to just moving it), and even the 
Nautilus file manager, for duplicating files.

Where a modifier key is needed for clicks, LC's native behavior seems to 
follow the closest thing we can find to a common convention.

In fact, if we think about this a bit more, Ctrl-click is most 
specifically Ctrl-drag, which is subtly but importantly a different gesture.

As I think about this more, if we skip dragging operations and focus 
exclusively on single-point clicks, I can't think of any common uses at all.

And maybe that's not so bad.  Every feature that requires both hands and 
non-visibly-self-evident gestures to achieve is probably one that won't 
get used often anyway.

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World Systems
  Software Design and Development for the Desktop, Mobile, and the Web
  Ambassador at      

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