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Atom, Alt-GR, and Windows walk into a bar

03 Feb 20152 min read


Typing ‘]’ does not work with azerty keyboards

When using an azerty keyboard on Windows, we can run into one issue that is very annoying when we code: not being able to type ] using Alt-GR + ). It won’t do a thing.

Don’t throw your Atom away yet. Everything has an explication.

We can notice what is happening when we hit ] according to where the cursor is (look at the status bar).

By default, there are predefined shortcuts on this key. To see them, go to Settings > Keybindings:

atom shortcut The shortcut mentioned is: Ctrl + Alt + [, to fold-current-row, but we are not typing that, we are typing Alt-GR + ] right ?

Two things that needs explanations :

  • on Windows, Alt-GR = Ctrl+Alt
  • when we type ], the keyboard mapping truly says that we typed [. Disturbing. We can see that in action by enabling Settings > Key Binding Resolver > Toggle, then type Alt-GR + ], it will be resolved to Ctrl-Alt-[.

Wanna read more about Alt-GR ? There is a big topic talking about that problem since more than 6 months :

This issue has been resolved in Sep-2016, so maybe this whole article is deprecated

Multiple fixes possible

There are several ways to fix this behavior, for let us have our ].


We can remove any keyBindings using this combinaison by editing our init script and add :

atom.keymap.keyBindings = atom.keymap.keyBindings.filter((binding, i) ->
                            ['ctrl-alt-['].indexOf(binding.keystrokes) == - 1)

It will ensure that Alt-GR + ] is always free.

If you know CoffeeScript, it’s a nice place to have some fun. We have access to the whole Atom engine.


Why not override the shortcut editor:fold-current-row to be triggered by something else ?

For instance, by adding this mapping into keymap.cson (don’t forget to restart Atom):

'atom-workspace atom-text-editor:not([mini])': { 'ctrl-alt-=': 'editor:fold-current-row' }

We will see it in Settings > Keybindings. Unfortunately, the original binding is still there and will take precedence when typing ].

It’s another long debate :

The best solution is not that far.


Our previous tentative was just adding a new shortcut to the keys combinaison, think that as a $.extend. What we need, more brutal, is to clear the previous behavior of Ctrl-Alt-[.

There is a keyword to do so unset!:

'atom-workspace atom-text-editor:not([mini])': { 'ctrl-alt-[': 'unset!' }

Et voilà, the editor is not bound anymore on the combinaison.

More details on how the keymaps are working :

Going further: custom commands

With Atom, we can also create any command we want.

Look for, and add something like:

atom.commands.add 'atom-text-editor',
                  'user:insert-date': (event) -> editor =
                       @getModel() editor.insertText(new Date().toLocaleString())

That defines a new command user:insert-date in the scope of the atom-text-editor that will insert the current date in the editor, where our cursor is. We just need to bind it to some keys, by editing keymap.cson:

'atom-workspace atom-text-editor:not([mini])': { 'ctrl-alt-=': 'user:insert-date' }

And we’re all set. There are tons of functions available in the editor object, feel free to discover and use them ! Using the devtools, it’s possible to grab a reference to the Atom editor: