Super key (keyboard button)

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Super key is an alternative name for the Windows key[1] or Command key[2] when using Linux or BSD operating systems or software.

The Super key was originally a modifier key on a keyboard designed for the Lisp machines at MIT.


A closeup of the modifier keys at the bottom-left of the space-cadet keyboard

The "space cadet" keyboard, designed in 1978 for the Lisp machine, introduced two new modifier keys: "Super" and "Hyper"[3] compared to the earlier Knight keyboard. Both keys became supported in the Emacs text editor, which was adapted to other operating systems and used at institutions other than MIT.

Beginning in 1984, the X Window System (a graphical user interface for Unix-like operating systems) supported modifier keys called Meta, Super, and Hyper, along with the more common Shift, Control, and Alt. Many Emacs commands used the Meta key, so this was soon emulated with other key combinations, such as Escape-X in place of Meta-X. Emacs commands using the Super key still presented a challenge, while the few Hyper key commands gradually fell into disuse.

In the mid-1990s the appearance of keyboards with the Windows key offered a new option for mapping another modifier key from the Unix world. At first, around 1996, it was common practice to map the "Meta" shift key onto the Windows key. However, because of the number of alternate key combinations used in Emacs, adding an actual Meta key did not provide much added functionality. This made Super the first key of interest in emulating, and therefore it became the standard Windows key assignment.

To avoid using a Microsoft trademark, much Linux documentation refers to the key as "Super". This can confuse some users who still consider it a "Windows key". In KDE Plasma documentation it is called the Meta key even though the X11 "Super" shift bit is used.[4][5]

Most Linux desktop environments use the Super key for window management and application launching, not only for commands used by applications. Much of this is similar to the use of the Windows key in the Windows operating system.

In GNOME 3, letting go of the Super key defaults to showing the activities window.[6]

In Openbox the Super key is an available modifier key, but is not used in any default shortcuts.[7]

Under Unity, the key is used to control launcher and manage windows.[8]

In elementary OS, the Super key shows a shortcut overlay and is used for several system, window, and workspace functions.[9]

In i3, the Super key along with Shift key are being used by default as modifiers used to control the behavior and layout of windows.[10]


X11 emulation on macOS puts the Super shift state on the Command or "Apple" key.


  1. ^ "Ubuntu using Windows key (Super key) to Launch Gnome Main Menu". 13 March 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  2. ^ "What is the Super key?". Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  3. ^ "MIT Scheme Reference — Characters"
  4. ^ "KDE Fundamentals: Common Keyboard Shortcuts"
  5. ^ "Plasma Desktop: Shortcuts"
  6. ^ "Re: [Usability] Keyboard". 20 March 2007.
  7. ^ Help:Bindings — Openbox
  8. ^ List of Ubuntu Unity Keyboard Shortcuts. Ubuntu Geek. 1 March 2011.
  9. ^ elementary OS Juno is Here. elementary Medium. 16 October 2018.
  10. ^ "i3: i3 User's Guide". Retrieved 28 November 2021.