Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I want to allow programs running in the terminal the ability to interpret the keyboard short cut Cmd + S

I have already Remapped the Terminals' default binding of Cmd + S to Ctrl + S via the Keyboard System Preferences in OS X Lion, so this has stopped the Terminal App itself from interpreting that key press, e.g. the save dialog no longer comes up when pressing Cmd + S . However something is still grabbing the key input before any terminal program can.

For example when running bash typing Cmd + S in the terminal results in:


being printed to the screen.

When I perform the same Cmd + S in the nothing is printed and the OS plays an Error Sound. I am not really sure why the keystroke is not making it to the terminal as expected, how do I allow Cmd + S to pass thru.

For more information on what / why I am trying to do this see question Bind <Cmd-S> in Vim

share|improve this question

I have similar desires to yours. I solved it using a system-level modifier-key re-bind.

(Of course, this is a mess; but I find it worth it to maintain my MacVim-trained hybrid of OS-wide controls (save, new, copy, paste) within command-line vims.)

Here's how I did it:

  1. Install Karabiner, which is a very, very powerful program (and an essential part of any poweruser's / programmer's OS X installation, IMHO)
  2. Enable “Command_L to Control_L (only in Terminal)”:

  3. Map -prefixed controls matching whichever MacVim commands you're most used-to in command-line vim. For instance, to support ⌘S,

    noremap  <silent> <C-S>    :update<CR>
    vnoremap <silent> <C-S>    <C-C>:update<CR>
    inoremap <silent> <C-S>    <C-O>:update<CR>
  4. Restore expected -sequences for itself, by special-casing them in System Preferences. For instance, if you want ⌘N to still control Terminal tabs, instead of mapping it to vim files, try:

    Now, anything you don't add in this list, will be passed through verbatim to command-line vim (and, of course, any other command-line program you use.)


This approach has several further subtle downsides, that I want to hilight for anyone considering taking it (as I do):

  • ⌘␣ will no longer map to the system-wide Spotlight. (I've an open issue on Karabiner, and will come back here once I have a stopgap solution.)
  • For reasons I can't ascertain, even with the ⌃W exclusions set up in System Preferences, the tab-closing behaviour of changes with this setup: ⌘W will close individual tabs in a window; but if the current tab is the last tab, it will not close the window. Instead, it has no effect. I've had to re-train myself to use ⇧⌘W to close the window if there's only one tab left.
  • If you've trained yourself to use ⌃V in MacVim to do block-wise selection, then you'll have to re-train yourself to use the alternative, ⌃Q (or, now, ⌘Q). Additionally, you'll have to add stty -ixon in your shell's startup-script, as ⌃Q is consumed by default to preform an archaic shell-control function (one with no modern usage.)

Alternative ⌘W behaviour

In addition to the above, I decided to further override ⌘W as a universal ‘close this’ key, applicable to multiple applications.

Instead of mapping ⌘W to ‘Close Tab,’ as above; I personally map that to ⇧⌘W (to retain “immediately close this tab” semantics.) Then, in any given program, I map ⌃W to some sort of close-save-quit functionality.

For instance, in my .vimrc:

noremap  <C-W>    :confirm quit<CR>
vnoremap <C-W>    <C-C>:confirm quit<CR>
inoremap <C-W>    <C-O>:confirm quit<CR>

… or my .zshrc:

function close_tab { exit }
zle -N close_tab_widget close_tab
bindkey           '' close_tab_widget
bindkey -M vicmd  '' close_tab_widget

With those two snippets in place, and your Terminal configured to ‘Close if shell exits cleanly,’ a series of ⌘Ws will first quit vim, and then close the shell entirely.

In addition, now additional on-exit functionality of programs can be preserved: for instance, vim will ask before quitting if files are unsaved (just like MacVim); and zsh will ask before quitting if there are background jobs.

Postscript: Not directly related to your question; but you should also check out ‘Ubiquitous Vim Mode’ in Karabiner. It's “a bit much” for me to use everyday, but it's a very cool idea, and surprisingly-well implemented.

share|improve this answer
Here's a Karabiner private.xml to exclude ⌘␣:… – ELLIOTTCABLE Feb 19 '15 at 21:19

not sure if this applies, but stty uses ctrl-s to stop the terminal until restarted with ctrl-q. I'd be a bit leery about sending ctrl-s to a terminal.

share|improve this answer
I tried this and it did not seem to have any effect when I added it to mt .bashrc, a slightly modified version of what was indicated here – MrDaniel Apr 20 '12 at 19:00

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.