A protocol for comprehensive keyboard handling in terminals

There are various problems with the current state of keyboard handling in terminals. They include:

  • No way to use modifiers other than ctrl and alt
  • No way to reliably use multiple modifier keys, other than, shift+alt and ctrl+alt.
  • Many of the existing escape codes used to encode these events are ambiguous with different key presses mapping to the same escape code.
  • No way to handle different types of keyboard events, such as press, release or repeat
  • No reliable way to distinguish single Esc key presses from the start of a escape sequence. Currently, client programs use fragile timing related hacks for this, leading to bugs, for example: neovim #2035.

To solve these issues and others, kitty has created a new keyboard protocol, that is backward compatible but allows applications to opt-in to support more advanced usages. The protocol is based on initial work in fixterms, however, it corrects various issues in that proposal.

Read more about the proposal and implementation here.


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