Change Key Bindings in Pidgin

Today I was chatting with a colleague while booted into Linux. I specify my operating system because I only use Pidgin on Linux and have been using it as a chat client for exactly as long as I’ve been using Linux as my full-time OS at work. In other words, not very long at all. I don’t know most of the application’s nuances yet. So you can imagine my surprise when, while chatting with my colleague, typing a lowercase “h” started launching the “New Instant Message” dialog window. As far as I knew, I hadn’t done anything that could have remotely caused that to happen.

Also, it turns out that I use the lowercase “h” a lot when typing (who knew?) so not being able to use it caused some real heartburn. My colleague was understandably confused when he started seeing messages like this:

tHat’s wHat I was tHinking. tHis isn’t going to be mucH fun.

Try explaining why you’re not using the lowercase “h” without having the ability to use the lowercase “h”. Fun.

Having no idea what I did, I obviously had no idea what to do. I bounced X. Nothing. I bounced the machine. Nothing. I asked my resident Linux guru. Nothing. I had no idea what I could have done; it was certainly nothing intentional. Nor had I done anything consciously that I could point to and say, “it could have happened then.” Eventually, having tried everything I could think of, I jumped into the #pidgin chat room on The good folks there solved my problem within seconds.

What I learned is that Pidgin provides a very easy way to modify the keyboard shortcuts available in its menus. Maybe too easy. To do so, open the menu, highlight the option and either hit the Backspace key to remove the shortcut key or press a new key or combination of keys to change the binding. Knowing that, it’s a lot easier to understand how the binding could be changed accidentally and without actually realizing that it was changed. In my case, all I had to do was:

  1. Open a conversation window
  2. Hover over Conversation > New Instant Message
  3. Hit Backspace

Problem solved.

Subscribe6 Comments on Change Key Bindings in Pidgin

  1. Confirmity said...


    thanks for this post.

    Had exact the same problem writing the “h”.

    This problem definitely had the potential to steal more of my time.

  2. Rob Wilkerson said...

    Glad this saved you some time. Thanks for dropping a comment to let me know.

  3. Michael Shigorin said...

    Thanks! Who could have thought. I should probably file a feature request with pidgin folks to make this optional.

  4. K1 said...

    Hey, I have exactly the same problem with “A” and it stands for Enable “Logging”!
    I did the same thing, but it doesn’t work. I realized that I should have GTK read my shortcut keys:
    But I don’t know how to do that!
    Do you have any idea, what can I do?
    (For the time being I turn on the CapsLock and start the chat while I’ve pressed the SHIFT button!)

  5. K1 said...

    OK. I fixed it. the point was “System->Preferences->Appearance:Interface:Editable Menu Shortcut Keys”
    I was wandering around and to see what this option is, I just checked it. Then probably I have assigned the shortcut key for “enable logging” to be the letter a, by mousing over this menu option and simultaneously pressing “a”.
    Now it works.

  6. Jon Chamberlain said...

    o. m. g. this has caused me so much hair-pulling and frustration over the past couple of weeks. Thanks so much for documenting this – this is definitely more of a bug than a feature. My few remaining hairs thank you also! ;-)