Squib of the Day: Ctrl+Alt+Delete

CTRL+ALT+DEL Boat GNOME bug 130632 raises the idea of being able to put up the GNOME system monitor with a keystroke bound by default to Ctrl+Alt+Delete, as on Windows, so that users can kill applications and so on.  The usability people say this is fine as long as the system monitor gains a prominent logout button.  This has been raised against the system monitor as GNOME bug 143235.  Perhaps, gentle reader, we should add the keystroke anyway and not wait indefinitely for the system monitor maintainers to add the button.

Update: GNOME bug 99335 is also asking for a keybinding to log out, and someone has suggested Ctrl+Alt+Delete.  Perhaps the two could be fixed at a stroke.

Update: GNOME bug 131617 is asking for a keybinding to xkill or its equivalent in the panel, which could also be fixed by having a keybinding like the one discussed above.

Photo © Gone-Walkabout, cc-by-nd.

19 Comments

  1. Simon
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    I think this is a bad idea, actually – the justification is that you’re copying Windows behaviour for the benefit of users who expect it, but you’re not actually copying Windows behaviour (on XP, at least). Ctrl-Alt-Delete on Windows doesn’t bring up the task manager – it brings up a window that among other things, has a button to bring up the task manager, as well as buttons for shutting down, locking the screen, logging out, etc.

    Emphasizing that, Windows does *not* have a log out button on it’s task manager, such as you’re talking about adding to the Gnome equivalent.

  2. Posted March 5, 2009 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    @Simon:

    Do you think Ctrl-Alt-Delete should do anything in particular, then, in order to meet people’s expectations who press it?

    And separately, do you think there should be a keystroke to bring up the task manager to kill tasks?

  3. Posted March 5, 2009 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    (I think it’s possible that Windows behaved a certain way when the bug was raised but does so no longer…)

  4. Posted March 5, 2009 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Yes please add the functionality that is in Windows, that is to open a list of things like Log out, shut down, task manager

    Also that selection window, as well as the task manager should always be on top.

    When a full screen window crashes or hangs, you have only one option in the Linux distros I know: switch to the terminal and kill the process

    Alternatively you could restart X but this is not something most people would like to do and in the new version of X.org is disabled by default.

    So that means if a fullscreen window hangs their is nothing that an unexperienced user can do than to restart the computer. This should definitely be fixed.

  5. Posted March 5, 2009 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    @Tim Fuchs:

    So you are saying that ctrl-alt-del should bring up an always-on-top window something like this one:

    rather than going straight to the task manager?

  6. Simon
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    @Thomas – my point is that the people requesting consistency with Windows are in this case actually suggesting it should behave *differently* from Windows.

    It would be equally valid to say C-A-D should lock the screen, reboot the machine, shut down the machine, or change the user’s password. All of these are options presented to the user on Windows XP when they press C-A-D. So if you really want to do something in order to be consistent with Windows, you would have to bring up some kind of dialog box offering similar options. But personally I think that taking compatibility to that extent would be silly. The traditional meaning of C-A-D is to reboot the machine, and that the most sensible option is to bring up something similar to the popup you get when selecting “System -> Shutdown”…

  7. David
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    @Simon: Actually, what you’re describing appears only if the welcome screen is disabled. That may be the default in Windows XP Professional (I’m not sure), but it’s definitely not the default with the Home edition, which is what most Windows users would be used to. And the task manager still has menu items for ‘log off’, ‘restart’, ‘run…’, etc. (they’re just not buttons).

  8. Screwtape
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    For simplicity and re-use of existing code, I’d be happy if Ctrl-Alt-Del popped up the same window that appears when you tap the power button (offering sleep/hibernate/shutdown/logoff).

    As for a keybinding for xkill, I make do with pressing Alt-F4 then waiting a few seconds for the ‘kill’ dialog to appear; I suspect it does much the same thing under the hood.

  9. user
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    In theory, this is a great idea, in practice, the gnome-system-monitor takes way too long to load. It’s much heavier than the windows task manager. The idea of a lighter window with some options (kill program, log off, start system-monitor, etc) sounds good though.

    It’s also worth noting that the task manager runs when all else fails, unlike the gnome-system-monitor. It would be a huge improvement to have something that could run when metacity itself (and, dream on, X itself) fails.

  10. user
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    … in the case of X, if for no other reason than safely shutting down the computer.

  11. Markus
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I just want to note that there is a different keybinding on Windows to directly bring up the Taskmanager : CTRL+SHIFT+ESC.

    Once you are accustomed to this its a very nice shortcut to have.
    Actually I find myself very often trying to press this in Gnome too. :-)

  12. Posted March 5, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    putting up the GNOME system monitor with a keystroke bound by default to Ctrl+Alt+Delete was the 1st thing i did when i came from Windows
    It’s very usefull indeed

    BTW concerning the comment #5 mockup, since GNOME system monitor is not only about killing applications, the 1st entry in the dialog box should be : “Open the system monitor”

    At first sight i didn’t like that mockup and prefered direct access to GNOME system monitor but after some thought i think it’s a very very good idea. Please do it

  13. Olivier Samyn
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Just bringing what Ubuntu does for bug 99335 is fine. If I want to link c-a-d to another program, I may just uses the shortcut properties/gconf editor to change it.

    Is the goal to mimic windows ?

  14. Posted March 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    @Oliver Samyn:

    The question is what should happen by default, though. The goal isn’t to mimic Windows as such, just to avoid reinventing the wheel across desktops.

  15. Posted March 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I ussually bind Escape to gnome-system-monitor instead since that’s the real shortcut for the task manager in windows and over the years I got used to it.

  16. Fabian
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I think the goal should be to get out of a deadlocked situation.

    E.g. it often happened to me that evolution grabbed the keyboard and than hang.
    So Ctrl-Alt-Del should ungrab them and make my mouse and keyboard work again.

  17. Posted March 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Speaking from the experience of having migrated from windows and migrating windows users, the first thing that I have to do is make it easy to bring up the system monitor, because telling people “oh, you know, just open up a terminal and type xkill” really doesn’t do linux justice.

    As to using “CAD”, I can’t see any reason not to use that key-combo, and can think of two to use it: it’s well known, (everybody seems to know it) and it’s not used by any programs or window managers that I know of.

    In terms of what to actually do when you hit it, I personally would love it if it (instantly :) opened a lightweight process manager and system resource viewer (tabbed) with a big honking button at the top that takes you to the current gnome system manager, but which is really simple itself Eg:

    ===================^=X
    | Process Control |
    +——————–+
    | SWITCH TO MAIN CTRL|
    +———++———+
    |Processes||Resources|
    +———++———+
    +-NAME——CPU—MEM+
    | blah 100%…0%|
    | etc…………….|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    +——————–+
    |Kill Selected Proc |
    +——————–+
    |Selected Proc Info |
    +——————–+
    | Close |
    +——————–+

    Also, the comments have brought up a good point: the system monitor should have a (session management) tab that is basically the current “log out/shutdown/etc” dialogue. If it also included the stuff that’s currently in the “Preferences->Sessions” menu, so much the more awesome.

    Thanks for these squibs of the day.

  18. Posted March 5, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Ah, monospace:

    ^X
    Process Control
    +——————–+
    | SWITCH TO MAIN CTRL|
    +———++———+
    |Processes||Resources|
    +———++———+
    +-NAME——CPU—MEM+
    | blah 100%…..|
    | etc…………….|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    |………………..|
    +——————–+
    |Kill Selected Proc |
    +——————–+
    |Selected Proc Info |
    +——————–+
    | Close |
    +——————–+

  19. Simon
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    @David – I didn’t realise that – XP Pro is the only Windows version I have access to. So, C-A-D doesn’t even behave consistently on Windows?

    I’d question that XP home is what most users are familiar with – that depends on whether we’re dealing with home users or companies. I don’t know the answer to that, but obviously it makes some difference.

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  1. [...] ctrl+alt+delete — no action yet; will probably put it in as a binding for the system monitor for the moment, since that’s very simple, and perhaps come back to it later [...]