Move about key bindings

This page contains a few additional notes about key bindings.

Key bindings can be defined as follows by creating a KeyBindings instance:

from prompt_toolkit.key_binding import KeyBindings

bindings = KeyBindings()

def _(event):
    " Do something if 'a' has been pressed. "

def _(event):
    " Do something if Control-T has been pressed. "


c-q (control-q) and c-s (control-s) are often captured by the terminal, because they were used traditionally for software flow control. When this is enabled, the application will automatically freeze when c-s is pressed, until c-q is pressed. It won’t be possible to bind these keys.

In order to disable this, execute type the following in your shell, or even add it to your .bashrc.

stty -ixon

Key bindings can even consist of a sequence of multiple keys. The binding is only triggered when all the keys in this sequence are pressed.

@bindings.add('a', 'b')
def _(event):
    " Do something if 'a' is pressed and then 'b' is pressed. "

If the user presses only a, then nothing will happen until either a second key (like b) has been pressed or until the timeout expires (see later).

List of special keys

Besides literal characters, any of the following keys can be used in a key binding:

Name Possible keys
Escape escape
Arrows left, right, up, down
Navigation home, end, delete, pageup, pagedown, insert

c-a, c-b, c-c, c-d, c-e, c-f, c-g, c-h, c-i, c-j, c-k, c-l,

c-m, c-n, c-o, c-p, c-q, c-r, c-s, c-t, c-u, c-v, c-w, c-x,

c-y, c-z


c-A, c-B, c-C, c-D, c-E, c-F, c-G, c-H, c-I, c-J, c-K, c-L,

c-M, c-N, c-O, c-P, c-Q, c-R, c-S, c-T, c-U, c-V, c-W, c-X,

c-Y, c-Z

Control + arrow c-left, c-right, c-up, c-down
Other control keys c-@, c-\, c-], c-^, c-_, c-delete
Shift + arrow s-left, s-right, s-up, s-down
Other shift keys s-delete, s-tab

f1, f2, f3, f4, f5, f6, f7, f8, f9, f10, f11, f12,

f13, f14, f15, f16, f17, f18, f19, f20, f21, f22, f23, f24

There are a couple of useful aliases as well:

c-h backspace
c-@ c-space
c-m enter
c-i tab


Note that the supported keys are limited to what typical VT100 terminals offer. Binding c-7 (control + number 7) for instance is not supported.

Binding alt+something, option+something or meta+something

Vt100 terminals translate the alt key into a leading escape key. For instance, in order to handle alt-f, we have to handle escape + f. Notice that we receive this as two individual keys. This means that it’s exactly the same as first typing escape and then typing f. Something this alt-key is also known as option or meta.

In code that looks as follows:

@bindings.add('escape', 'f')
def _(event):
    " Do something if alt-f or meta-f have been pressed. "


Sometimes you want to catch any key that follows after a certain key stroke. This is possible by binding the ‘<any>’ key:

@bindings.add('a', '<any>')
def _(event):

This will handle aa, ab, ac, etcetera. The key binding can check the event object for which keys exactly have been pressed.

Attaching a filter (condition)

In order to enable a key binding according to a certain condition, we have to pass it a Filter, usually a Condition instance. (Read more about filters.)

from prompt_toolkit.filters import Condition

def is_active():
    " Only activate key binding on the second half of each minute. "
    return > 30

@bindings.add('c-t', filter=is_active)
def _(event):
    # ...

The key binding will be ignored when this condition is not satisfied.

ConditionalKeyBindings: Disabling a set of key bindings

Sometimes you want to enable or disable a whole set of key bindings according to a certain condition. This is possible by wrapping it in a ConditionalKeyBindings object.

from prompt_toolkit.key_binding import ConditionalKeyBindings

def is_active():
    " Only activate key binding on the second half of each minute. "
    return > 30

 bindings = ConditionalKeyBindings(

If the condition is not satisfied, all the key bindings in my_bindings above will be ignored.

Merging key bindings

Sometimes you have different parts of your application generate a collection of key bindings. It is possible to merge them together through the merge_key_bindings() function. This is preferred above passing a KeyBindings object around and having everyone populate it.

from prompt_toolkit.key_binding import merge_key_bindings

bindings = merge_key_bindings([


Usually not required, but if ever you have to override an existing key binding, the eager flag can be useful.

Suppose that there is already an active binding for ab and you’d like to add a second binding that only handles a. When the user presses only a, prompt_toolkit has to wait for the next key press in order to know which handler to call.

By passing the eager flag to this second binding, we are actually saying that prompt_toolkit shouldn’t wait for longer matches when all the keys in this key binding are matched. So, if a has been pressed, this second binding will be called, even if there’s an active ab binding.

@bindings.add('a', 'b')
def binding_1(event):

@bindings.add('a', eager=True)
def binding_2(event):

This is mainly useful in order to conditionally override another binding.


There are two timeout settings that effect the handling of keys.

  • Application.ttimeoutlen: Like Vim’s ttimeoutlen option. When to flush the input (For flushing escape keys.) This is important on terminals that use vt100 input. We can’t distinguish the escape key from for instance the left-arrow key, if we don’t know what follows after “x1b”. This little timer will consider “x1b” to be escape if nothing did follow in this time span. This seems to work like the ttimeoutlen option in Vim.
  • KeyProcessor.timeoutlen: like Vim’s timeoutlen option. This can be None or a float. For instance, suppose that we have a key binding AB and a second key binding A. If the uses presses A and then waits, we don’t handle this binding yet (unless it was marked ‘eager’), because we don’t know what will follow. This timeout is the maximum amount of time that we wait until we call the handlers anyway. Pass None to disable this timeout.

Recording macros

Both Emacs and Vi mode allow macro recording. By default, all key presses are recorded during a macro, but it is possible to exclude certain keys by setting the record_in_macro parameter to False:

@bindings.add('c-t', record_in_macro=False)
def _(event):
    # ...

Creating new Vi text objects and operators

We tried very hard to ship prompt_toolkit with as many as possible Vi text objects and operators, so that text editing feels as natural as possible to Vi users.

If you wish to create a new text object or key binding, that is actually possible. Check the example for more information.

Processing .inputrc

GNU readline can be configured using an .inputrc configuration file. This can could key bindings as well as certain settings. Right now, prompt_toolkit doesn’t support .inputrc yet, but it should be possible in the future.