Emacs: How to Bind Super Hyper Keys

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page shows you how to define Super and Hyper keys in emacs.

Emacs supports extra modifier keys called Super and Hyper. These keys are from lisp keyboards.

lisp-machine-keyboard-2-left
Symbolics's lisp machine keyboard PN 365407 Rev C. (Photo by Joey Devilla. Used with permission.)

[see Lisp Machine Keyboards]

You can set Hyper and Super to PC keyboard's ❖ Window key or the ▤ Menu key, or Apple Keyboard's ⌥ option key.

Why Use Super and Hyper?

The advantage of creating the Super and Hyper in emacs is that you can have more hotkeys, and no major or minor modes will stamp on your keys. For example, Super for all your personal hotkeys, or for entering math symbols or Unicode. [see How to Create a APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout ⌨]

However, if you have extra keys on your keyboard, i recommend not to use them for modifier combinations. Instead, use them as leader keys to create key sequences. That way, it's easier to press, and you get far more possible keybindings.

See:

Create Super and Hyper Keys

Microsoft Windows

;; make PC keyboard's Win key or other to type Super or Hyper, for emacs running on Windows.
(setq w32-pass-lwindow-to-system nil)
(setq w32-lwindow-modifier 'super) ; Left Windows key

(setq w32-pass-rwindow-to-system nil)
(setq w32-rwindow-modifier 'super) ; Right Windows key

(setq w32-pass-apps-to-system nil)
(setq w32-apps-modifier 'hyper) ; Menu/App key

(info "(emacs) Windows Keyboard")

Note: in Microsoft Windows, several keybindings with the Windows key is bound at a low level, and applications do not see them. For example, ❖ Window+r is for launching apps by command name. There's no way around that unless you use other tools such as AutoHotkey. [see AutoHotkey Tutorial] Even so, it may be impossible to disable ❖ Window+l (lock window). (registry edit may not work)

For more advanced keyboard tools for Microsoft Windows, see: Windows Keyboard Software Guide

Mac OS X

;; set keys for Apple keyboard, for emacs in OS X
(setq mac-command-modifier 'meta) ; make cmd key do Meta
(setq mac-option-modifier 'super) ; make opt key do Super
(setq mac-control-modifier 'control) ; make Control key do Control
(setq ns-function-modifier 'hyper)  ; make Fn key do Hyper

Note: if you set ⌘ command or Fn key, some of their Mac function remains. For example, ⌘ command+Tab still do switch app, and Fn key can still be used as the modifier for multimedia keys. Thanks to jcs, see [A Hyper Key for the Mac By Jon Snader. At http://irreal.org/blog/?p=1450 , accessed on 2013-04-21 ]

See also:

Linux

By default, the ❖ Window key is Super.

On Linux, you define Super and Hyper key in the OS. For example, in Ubuntu 11.04, it's under menu [System ▸ Preferences ▸ keyboard] then “Layout” tap, “Options…” button.

Note that some Linux or the Desktop/WindowManager predefines some Super key. You need to take them off before emacs can see it. Best way to check is simply try define the key in emacs first and see if it works.

For more advanced settings, see: Linux Keybinding Tutorial

Set Super Hyper Keybinding

Use H for Hyper, s for Super.

;; examples of keybinding with hyper or super key

(global-set-key (kbd "H-b") 'backward-word) ; H is for hyper
(global-set-key (kbd "s-b") 'backward-word) ; lower case “s” is for super

(global-set-key (kbd "M-H-b") 'backward-word) ; Meta+Hyper+b
(global-set-key (kbd "M-s-b") 'backward-word) ; Meta+Super+b

(progn
  ;; some Hyper keys to insert Unicode chars
  (define-key key-translation-map (kbd "H-3") (kbd "•")) ; bullet
  (define-key key-translation-map (kbd "H-4") (kbd "◇")) ; white diamond
  (define-key key-translation-map (kbd "H-5") (kbd "†")) ; dagger
  )

For more detail, see Emacs: How to Define Keys.

Key Ghosting Warning

Be aware that most keyboards won't be able to detect certain combination of keys. This is called “n-key rollover”.

For example, on Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard, the key ▤ Menu+RShift+x does not register (but with left Shift it does). So, if you have set ▤ Menu to do Hyper, then Hyper+X with right Shift won't work.

Vast majority of keyboards have ghosting problem, including Apple keyboards. For detail, see: What is NKRO, N-key Rollover? .

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