Making your keyboard dance

kitty has extremely powerful facilities for mapping keyboard actions. Things like combining actions, multi-key mappings, modal mappings, mappings that send arbitrary text, and mappings dependent on the program currently running in kitty.

Let’s start with the basics. You can map a key press to an action in kitty using the following syntax:

map ctrl+a new_window_with_cwd

This will map the key press Ctrl+a to open a new window with the working directory set to the working directory of the current window. This is the basic operation of the map directive, the tip of the iceberg, for more read the sections below.

Combining multiple actions on a single keypress

Multiple actions can be combined on a single keypress, like a macro. To do this map the key press to the combine action:

map key combine <separator> action1 <separator> action2 <separator> action3 ...

For example:

map kitty_mod+e combine : new_window : next_layout

This will create a new window and switch to the next available layout. You can also run arbitrarily powerful scripts on a key press. There are two major techniques for doing this, using remote control scripts or using kittens.

Remote control scripts

These can be written in any language and use the “kitten” binary to control kitty via its extensive Remote control API. First, if you just want to run a single remote control command on a key press, you can just do:

map f1 remote_control set-spacing margin=30

This will run the set-spacing command, changing window margins to 30 pixels. For more complex scripts, write a script file in any language you like and save it somewhere, preferably in the kitty configuration directory. Do not forget to make it executable. In the script file you run remote control commands by running the “kitten” binary, for example:


kitten @ set-spacing margin=30
kitten @ new_window

The script can perform arbitrarily complex logic and actions, limited only by the remote control API, that you can browse by running kitten @ --help. To run the script you created on a key press, use:

map f1 remote_control_script /path/to/myscript


Here, kittens refer to Python scripts. The scripts have two parts, one that runs as a regular command line program inside a kitty window to, for example, ask the user for some input and a second part that runs inside the kitty process itself and can perform any operation on the kitty UI, which is itself implemented in Python. However, the kitty internal API is not documented and can (very rarely) change, so kittens are harder to get started with than remote control scripts. To run a kitten on a key press:

map f1 kitten

Many of kitty’s features are themselves implemented as kittens, for example, Unicode input, Hints and Changing kitty colors. To learn about writing your own kittens, see Custom kittens.

Syntax for specifying keys

A mapping maps a key press to some action. In their most basic form, keypresses are modifier+key. Keys are identified simply by their lowercase Unicode characters. For example: a for the A key, [ for the left square bracket key, etc. For functional keys, such as Enter or Escape, the names are present at Functional key definitions. For modifier keys, the names are ctrl (control, ), shift (), alt (opt, option, ), super (cmd, command, ).

Additionally, you can use the name kitty_mod as a modifier, the default value of which is ctrl+shift. The default kitty shortcuts are defined using this value, so by changing it in kitty.conf you can change all the modifiers used by all the default shortcuts.

On Linux, you can also use XKB names for functional keys that don’t have kitty names. See XKB keys for a list of key names. The name to use is the part after the XKB_KEY_ prefix. Note that you can only use an XKB key name for keys that are not known as kitty keys.

Finally, you can use raw system key codes to map keys, again only for keys that are not known as kitty keys. To see the system key code for a key, start kitty with the kitty --debug-input option, kitty will output some debug text for every key event. In that text look for native_code, the value of that becomes the key name in the shortcut. For example:

on_key_input: glfw key: 0x61 native_code: 0x61 action: PRESS mods: none text: 'a'

Here, the key name for the A key is 0x61 and you can use it with:

map ctrl+0x61 something

This maps Ctrl+A to something.

Multi-key mappings

A mapping in kitty can involve pressing multiple keys in sequence, with the syntax shown below:

map key1>key2>key3 action

For example:

map ctrl+f>2 set_font_size 20

The default mappings to run the hints kitten to select text on the screen are examples of multi-key mappings.

Unmapping default shortcuts

kitty comes with dozens of default keyboard mappings for common operations. See Mappable actions for the full list of actions and the default shortcuts that map to them. You can unmap an individual shortcut, so that it is passed on to the program running inside kitty, by mapping it to nothing, for example:

map kitty_mod+enter

This unmaps the default shortcut ctrl+shift+enter to open a new window. Almost all default shortcuts are of the form modifier + key where the modifier defaults to Ctrl+Shift and can be changed using the kitty_mod setting in kitty.conf.

If you want to clear all default shortcuts, you can use clear_all_shortcuts in kitty.conf.

If you would like kitty to completely ignore a key event, not even sending it to the program running in the terminal, map it to discard_event:

map kitty_mod+f1 discard_event

Conditional mappings depending on the state of the focused window

Sometimes, you may want different mappings to be active when running a particular program in kitty, perhaps because it has some native functionality that duplicates kitty functions or there is a conflict, etc. kitty has the ability to create mappings that work only when the currently focused window matches some criteria, such as when it has a particular title or user variable.

Let’s see some examples:

map --when-focus-on title:keyboard.protocol kitty_mod+t

This will cause kitty_mod+t (the default shortcut for opening a new tab) to be unmapped only when the focused window has keyboard protocol in its title. Run the show-key kitten as:

kitten show-key -m kitty

Press ctrl+shift+t and instead of a new tab opening, you will see the key press being reported by the kitten. --when-focus-on can test the focused window using very powerful criteria, see Matching windows and tabs for details. A more practical example unmaps the key when the focused window is running an editor:

map --when-focus-on var:in_editor kitty_mod+c

In order to make this work, you need to configure your editor as show below:

In ~/.vimrc add:
let &t_ti = &t_ti . "\\033]1337;SetUserVar=in_editor=MQo\\007"
let &t_te = &t_te . "\\033]1337;SetUserVar=in_editor\\007"

In ~/.config/nvim/init.lua add:

vim.api.nvim_create_autocmd({ "VimEnter", "VimResume" }, {
    group = vim.api.nvim_create_augroup("KittySetVarVimEnter", { clear = true }),
    callback = function()

vim.api.nvim_create_autocmd({ "VimLeave", "VimSuspend" }, {
    group = vim.api.nvim_create_augroup("KittyUnsetVarVimLeave", { clear = true }),
    callback = function()

These cause the editor to set the in_editor variable in kitty and unset it when exiting. As a result, the ctrl+shift+c key will be passed to the editor instead of copying to clipboard. In the editor, you can map it to copy to the clipboard, thereby allowing use of a common shortcut both inside and outside the editor for copying to clipboard.

Sending arbitrary text or keys to the program running in kitty

This is accomplished by using map with send_text in kitty.conf. For example:

map f1 send_text normal,application Hello, world!

Now, pressing f1 will cause Hello, world! to show up at your shell prompt. To have the shell execute a command sent via send_text you need to also simulate pressing the enter key which is \r. For example:

map f1 send_text normal,application echo Hello, world!\r

Now, if you press f1 when at shell prompt it will run the echo Hello, world! command.

To have one key press send another key press, use send_key:

map alt+s send_key ctrl+s

This causes the program running in kitty to receive the ctrl+s key when you press the alt+s key. To see this in action, run:

kitten show-key -m kitty

Which will print out what key events it receives.

All mappable actions

There is a list of all mappable actions.

Debugging mapping issues

To debug mapping issues, kitty has several facilities. First, when you run kitty with the --debug-input command line flag it outputs details about all key events it receives form the system and how they are handled.

To see what key events are sent to applications, run kitty like this:

kitty kitten show-key

Press the keys you want to debug and the kitten will print out the bytes it receives. Note that this uses the legacy terminal keyboard protocol that does not support all keys and key events. To debug the full kitty keyboard protocol that that is nowadays being adopted by more and more programs, use:

kitty kitten show-key -m kitty