Super key (keyboard button)
The Super key refers to several different keys throughout keyboard history. Originally the Super key was a modifier key on the Space-cadet keyboard. Recently "Super key" has become an alternative name for the Windows key when using Linux or BSD operating systems or software that originated on these systems.
Knight Keyboard to the Space-cadet Keyboard
Tom Knight created both the Knight keyboard and the Space-cadet keyboard. The improvement from the Knight keyboard to the Space-cadet keyboard was the presence of two more modifiers for the bucky bits, Hyper and Super; the Super key modified the third bucky bit (representing a 4). From the usage of the Space-cadet keyboard on Lisp machines the Super key was inherited by Emacs as one of several supported modifier keys, most modern systems have to emulate the Super key using another.
Linux and BSD
Due to being designed at the time of the Space Cadet Keyboard, X11 defined the shift states "Meta", "Super", and "Hyper" (along with "Shift" and "Control" and "Alt" which were commonly available on keyboards). Initially on PC hardware it was just impossible to produce these shift states as there was no key to push for them. The only software that commonly used these modifiers was Emacs.
With the appearance of keyboards with the Windows key there was now a key available on standard keyboards that could be used for one of these. Due to the high number of Emacs commands using "Meta", there were already long-established work arounds for its lack (the Alt key acted as Meta, or typing Escape,X acted like Meta-X). This made Super the first key that there was interest in emulating, and therefore it became the standard assignment after a few years.
To avoid using a Microsoft trademark, much Linux documentation refers to the key as "Super", usually confusing users who still consider it a "Windows key".
Most Linux desktop environments use the Super key modifier similar to how Windows uses the Windows key, for window management and application launching, rather than commands used by applications themselves. Often it modifies mouse clicks to move or resize windows without requiring the clicking on the edge of the Window.
X11 emulation on OS X puts the Super shift state on the Command key. Since OS X uses the Windows key as the Command Key if you plug a non-Macintosh keyboard in, this means that the layout on such keyboards is the same for OS X and Linux.
- "Ubuntu using Windows key(Super key) to Launch Gnome Main Menu". ubuntuguide.net. 13 March 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "MIT Scheme Reference - Characters"
- "Re: [Usability] Keyboard". mail.gnome.org. 20 March 2007.
- Help:Bindings - Openbox
- List of Ubuntu Unity Keyboard Shortcuts. Ubuntu Geek. 1 March 2011.
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