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Ubuntu 10.10 Settings: Configure Ctrl-Alt-Del As Task Manager

Updated on July 17, 2011

2010 Oct 31, Update: Next release of Ubuntu is Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 1 (Natty Narwhal) scheduled for November 4th, 2010.

2010 Jul 15, Update: Added a Ctrl-Alt-Backspace section.

Note: The solution in this article was written for Ubuntu 10.04 and above, namely Ubuntu 10.04, 10.10, 11.04, etc... It may also work for some earlier versions - the configuration settings and menus kept changing - so you will have to work that out on your own. Or just upgrade! ;)

How To Bind Ctrl-Alt-Del in Ubuntu Linux, Windows style

Always swear by the Ctrl-Alt-Del combo and wants Ubuntu to have the same feature even though it hasn't crashed on you yet? Well, I understand. Familiarity is a good thing. :D

This is for those of you who seeks familiarity in an unfamiliar surrounding. Especially for recent converts from WIndows. Right after installing or reinstalling Ubuntu, one of the first Ubuntu must haves or customization is the ability to simulate the behaviour of the control-alt-delete combination key strokes to open the Task Manager, or the System Monitor, as it is called in Ubuntu.

This article will show you the easiest way to customize this feature to end tasks or kill unresponsive processes. Unlike other methods which involved using terminals, if you did this just once and understood the steps, you will be able to reduplicate this for other new installations of Ubuntu without referring to your notes whatsoever.

Some background:
In Ubuntu, when you press Ctrl-Alt-Del, you will get the Log Out screen, which is not what Windows users expected. :(

Here's how to enable the Ctrl-Alt-Del shortcut the "right" way:

Go to "System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts" (In Ubuntu 10.04, older versions may have it elsewhere under a different name, look around) .

1. Change the key combo for the current Ctrl-Alt-Del binding:
Look for "Log out", where you can see:
"Log out - Ctrl+Alt+Delete"
Click on the "Log out" line and you will be prompted to enter a new key, try "Ctrl-Shift-Del" or whatever key combination not in use.

2. Enter the new Ctrl-Alt-Del:
At the bottom of the "Keyboard Shortcuts" window, click on "Add", to add a new "Custom Shortcut" combination.

Name:* Ctrl-Alt-Del

Command: gnome-system-monitor

*You can name it whatever you want, even "Windows Task Manager", as in Windows. :)

Click "Apply", and then click on "Disabled", next to the new Ctrl-Alt-Del entry, and press Ctrl-Alt-Del to enter the new key combination when you see "New shortcut", and you're done!
Test it out by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del!

Ctrl-Alt-Del, Windows style!

The newly completed Ubuntu Ctrl-Alt-Del (or Task Manager), done the Windows way! :D Now if only System Monitor could be renamed Task Manager, our life would be so complete. ;D
The newly completed Ubuntu Ctrl-Alt-Del (or Task Manager), done the Windows way! :D Now if only System Monitor could be renamed Task Manager, our life would be so complete. ;D
What Ctrl-Alt-Del opens in Ubuntu (before tweaking)
What Ctrl-Alt-Del opens in Ubuntu (before tweaking)
The new Ctrl-Al-Del entry in the "Keyboard Shortcuts" windows
The new Ctrl-Al-Del entry in the "Keyboard Shortcuts" windows
New Ctrl-Alt-Del (System Monitor) shortcut at the top taskbar
New Ctrl-Alt-Del (System Monitor) shortcut at the top taskbar

Configuring Ctrl-Alt-Backspace to restart/reload the X server

This is included here because the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace key combination is a life saver for those whose Xserver (the Linux windowing app which Gnome and KDE sits on top of, without which Linux will be just like DOS) crashed and not responding to user promptings. Which makes this the Linux equivalent of Ctrl-Alt-Del. This is a good key combo to learn not just because of the convenience but also because by learning of its purpose and existence, you can counter those Linux snobs who tells you that they have no need for something like Ctrl-Alt-Del since Linux does not crash. ;)
In most Linux distros, it used to be enabled; but since Ubuntu 9.04, forcing the restart of X server by using the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace key combo has been disabled. According to Ubuntu, this has been done to prevent some sorry souls from accidentally triggering this powerful key combo.

This is how you enable it:
In Ubuntu:
1. From the top bar, select "System > Preferences > Keyboard".
2. Click on the "Layouts" tab and then click again on the "Options" button.
3. Find "Key sequence to kill the X server" and put a check mark on "Control + Alt + Backspace".

In Kubuntu:
1. Click on the Application launcher and choose "System Settings".
2. Next, click on "Regional & Language" and then choose "Keyboard Layout".
3. Click on "Enable keyboard layouts".
4. Select the "Advanced" tab. Then find "Key sequence to kill the X server" and enable "Control + Alt + Backspace".

Tips and Tricks:

-The System Monitor (ie your new "Windows Task Manager") will always open the last opened tab, so if you left it at "Processes" that is what it will open next.

-You can also have the System Monitor as a link in your top taskbar, as I did in the accompanying screenshot.
To do this, simply navigate to "System > Administration > System Monitor", click-and-hold the icon, and then drag it over to the taskbar and release the mouse button. :)

-IF you need to shutdown/restart/hibernate from here, use the Ctrl-Shift-Del combo, which you had just programmed above if you did not change anything. Note that with this "logout", you only have options to shutdown, etc, but without the option to log back in.

-IF you need a Log Off/Log Out shortcut, where you can choose to log back in as another user, the command is: "gnome-session-save --kill". Either add it to the top taskbar (-right click on task bar, and select "Add To Panel" ...) or create a keyboard shortcut for it.

IF you find it hard to believe that Ctrl-Alt-Del is an original Windows invention, see the short video below (featuring David Bradley of IBM, who is the creator of the Ctrl-Alt-Del shortcut key combo and a very special guest).
Never believe anyone that tells you that there is no originality in Windows! ;D

David Bradley, ex-IBM employee, commenting on Ctrl-Alt-Del


Is Windows Style Ctrl-Alt-Del A Must-Have Feature? (For Windows Converts)

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    • profile image

      miky 7 years ago

      thanks man it was very helpfulling this trick

    • profile image

      Kris 7 years ago

      Hey MicroShaft....Burn baby burn....Disco Inferno!

      I aint ever goin back to bill gates' house/prison. I learn more every day.

    • danatheteacher profile image

      Dana Rock 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      This is pretty sweet! Thanks!

    • BMG profile image

      BMG 7 years ago from timor laste

      useful hub-but i am not using Ubuntu

    • profile image

      afrodeity 7 years ago

      Doesn't work for me, I think one has to change it somewhere in gconf, or its a script job for some reason.

    • MagicStarER profile image

      MagicStarER 7 years ago from Western Kentucky

      Thanks so much for solving this - it is way easy! You write good hubs! :)

    • profile image

      dark 7 years ago

      Thank you for this great tutorial!