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How to Set Custom Keyboard Keystrokes and Shortcuts

written by: •edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 2/26/2011

Forget about scrolling through lists of programs and commands - save time by creating custom keyboard commands and keystrokes using third party software.

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    Customizing Keyboard Keystrokes

    While the QWERTY keyboard is a popular and widely used tool for entering text, you might have phrases or symbols that you use regularly and therefore need a keystroke applying that will allow this to be used regularly.

    This is easily done in some applications, but less so in others. Designating a keystroke to a symbol in Microsoft Word is a relatively fast task, for instance; designating a keystroke to a symbol or even a command throughout the operating system is another matter entirely.

    Focusing on keyboard use in Microsoft Windows, let’s take a look at what changes can be made, and any third party utilities that might be required.

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    Inserting Symbols in Microsoft Office

    How to Change Computer Keyboard Key Properties While not quite editing computer keyboard properties, you can set a keyboard shortcut in Microsoft Word to insert a regularly used symbol.

    In Microsoft Office 2010 this is done by going to Insert > Symbol > More Symbols. Begin by finding the symbol that you want and selecting it – for instance you might want to insert the © symbol regularly, and you can setup a shortcut key for this via the Shortcut Key… button.

    (You will notice that the © already has a shortcut combination of CTRL+ALT+C but you might change this to whatever you want.)

    Note that there are many other keyboard shortcuts already setup in Microsoft Word.

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    Windows Keyboard Settings

    You will also be able to alter how your keyboard works in the Region and Language settings, accessed by typing keyboard in the Start menu Search box and selecting Change how your keyboard works – the Keyboards and Languages tab lets you Change keyboards… which is a way of swapping between QWERTY and DVORAK keyboard types, for instance.

    However, access to the computer keyboard key properties on a more specific basis is restricted by Windows utilities and settings. While some video games allow custom mapping of functions to specific keys, this isn’t something that Windows does natively – in order to do this you will require some third party software.

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    Editing Computer Keyboard Key Properties

    How to Change Computer Keyboard Key Properties Thanks to a free utility called HotKeyz you can specify custom keyboard shortcuts. Available via hotkeyz.skynergy.qarchive.org, you will need to provide an e-mail address to download (in order that the developers can request that you review the software if you like it) but the file is just 1.5 MB so shouldn’t take too long.

    Once downloaded, all you need to do is install the software and you can start mapping keyboard shortcuts that can be used to launch your favourite programs, run macros and more.

    This utility is very easy to use – once installed and running, click New to create a new hotkey and then assign a Description and a Command, the latter by specifying a file to run. Alternatively use Click to browse for a system command or to specify a program to launch. Next assign a Category and then set a Hotkey – a keyboard shortcut combination.

    Finally click OK – you can then start using the custom hotkey to launch the selected program. While it might not let you change position of delete key on a Dell keyboard, this tool is great for launching applications and performing other tasks directly from the keyboard.

    With Hotkeyz you can create new system wide keystroke commands that can be used in conjunction with the standard Windows keyboard shortcuts.

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    References

    Sources:

    • Author experience
    • HotKeyz

    Images:

    • Microsoft Word 2010 and Hotkeyz screenshots by author