Keyboard Conventions

Ishmail windows follow Motif conventions for selecting, highlighting, and performing actions on selected items using the keyboard.

You can use certain combinations of keyboard keys to perform many of the functions you would perform with a mouse. These keyboard operations are referred to as mnemonics, keyboard accelerators, and shortcut key sequences.

For example, you can use the cursor motion keys - right arrow, left arrow, up arrow, and down arrow - to position the cursor on an item in a list (such as a mail message in the Main window). Once the cursor is on an item, you can select it by pressing the space bar. This is the keyboard equivalent of moving the mouse pointer to an item in a list and clicking that item to select it.

You can also use specially mapped key combinations (called mnemonics) to perform actions, such as read, reply, forward, delete, and so forth, on highlighted items. You can also perform these actions using certain keyboard combinations, called accelerators, such as the "Control" key and/or the "Meta" key followed by one or more other keystrokes to perform actions similar to clicking and double-clicking menu items with the mouse.

For example, to read a message using the keyboard keys only:


  1. The Meta-key sequence is used only for activating a menu in a window's menu bar.

  2. Keyboard mapping may differ on some keyboards. On certain keyboards, for instance, the Alt-key sequence Alt-M may perform the same function that the Meta-key sequence Meta-M would perform on a different keyboard.

Mnemonics are available for most functions in the pull-down menus. A mnemonic is indicated by the underscored letter in the menu item, such as the a in the Read menu item and the P in the Print menu item. Mnemonics are not case sensitive. You can type either a capital P or a lower-case p to perform the Print function.

Control-key sequences (accelerators) are available for many functions in the pull-down menus. Control key sequences are displayed to the right of each menu item for which the sequence is available. If a Control-key sequence is available for a menu option, you do not have to display the menu first. You can invoke the menu option directly without first displaying the menu.


You can add "shortcut" buttons to many of your Ishmail windows to facilitate performing actions on mail messages. Shortcut buttons enable you to bypass the normal menu selection process. See Buttons Option for more information about adding custom buttons to your Ishmail windows.

You can also create your own key sequences by adding the appropriate resource lines to your app-defaults/Ishmail file. For each character sequence you want to create, add two resource lines similar to these to your app-defaults/Ishmail file:

*mainShell*mainWindow*<widgetname>.accelerator: Ctrl<Key>X
*mainShell*mainWindow*<widgetname>.acceleratorText: Ctrl + X

"X" can be any character that isn't already used for another function. Look in the menus to see which characters are already used. Look in the Edit Custom Buttons windows for the function widgetnames.

See Ishmail Resources for more information about customizing your Ishmail application with X and Motif resources.

See the X User's Guide for more information about mouse and keyboard conventions in the X Window System environment.

Preceding Section: Mouse Conventions
Following Section: About Ishmail
Parent Section: About Ishmail User's Guide
Contents of Ishmail User's Guide