Use Keyboard Shortcut to Focus alacritty in Gnome

terkwood profile image Felix Terkhorn Updated on ・2 min read

Use Keyboard Shortcut to Focus alacritty in Gnome

alacritty is a 🔥 hot, fast terminal emulator 🔥 written in rust. We've been using it for the last 38 microseconds and really enjoy it. It pairs nicely with tmux.

We want to hit a single key and focus on alacritty while using GNOME. If alacritty isn't already open, it should start up. This would give us functionality somewhat equivalent to Guake.

As a bonus, we'll use deno to write a quick helper script and 😇 avoid learning bash. 😇

Here's what we did to accomplish this task.

Install wmctrl

Install wmctrl so that we can focus on an existing alacritty window using a program.

For debian & ubuntu-flavored linux:

sudo apt install wmctrl

For the redhats:

sudo yum install wmctrl

Start alacritty up for just a moment and take note of its handle as given by wmctrl -xl:

0x04800002  1 Alacritty.Alacritty   mybox Alacritty

We can then use wmctrl to focus on a running instance of alacritty:

wmctrl -xa Alacritty.Alacritty

Create script to raise or start-up terminal

Create a deno script to either focus on the existing alacritty window, or start a new one:

// saved to /home/nope/bin/raise_alacritty.ts
const p = Deno.run({
    cmd: [ "/usr/bin/pgrep", "alacritty" ]

const { code } = await p.status();

if (code === 0) {
    await Deno.run({ cmd: [ "wmctrl", "-xa", "Alacritty.Alacritty" ] });
} else {
    await Deno.run({ cmd: [ "alacritty" ] });

Bind keyboard shortcut

Finally, in gnome settings,
add a keyboard shortcut which runs our script.


In our case, we assigned the special MENU button on our keyboard to focus on alacritty. We use the default GNOME shortcut (Super H/WindowsKey H) to hide the window when we're done with it.

Updated for deno 1.0.0-rc3

Please note that as of deno 1.0.0-rc3, the command line invocation needed to make this work has changed. You now need to use the run subcommand:

deno run --allow-run /path/to/raise_alacritty.ts

This article was originally published under an older version, which did not require the subcommand.

deno  --allow-run /path/to/raise_alacritty.ts

If you're having trouble getting this to work under the new version of Deno, try adding run!

Posted on Apr 29 by:

terkwood profile

Felix Terkhorn


Independent software producer specialized in data and distributed systems. Past: tech lead for Disney+ DRM (NYC), consulting and contracting (NYC), startup scene, Salesforce, full-time lab staff.


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