Re-Program Your Windows Keyboard Keys With This Simple Utility

The ability to re-program one or more keys has been built into Windows since version 2000.  However, not many people use it because it involves editing the registry, and that can be dangerous at the best of times.

If you like the idea of being able to change your key assignments, though, but you don't want to edit the registry, you need a great little freeware utility called KeyTweak.  It does all the hard work for you.  You can get it from http://webpages.charter.net/krumsick/, which contains links to both the installer and the manual.

The installer is only a 0.3 MB download, and runs on Windows 2000 and above.  When you run it, you'll see a map of the keyboard.  With a few clicks you can change one or more key assignments.  For example, if your Alt key is broken on your laptop, and you never use Caps Lock, just re-program Caps Lock to be another Alt key. 

As an experiment, I tried changing the vertical bar key to the left of the number 1 to a "WWW Home" entry.  Now, all I have to do to start by web browser is to press a single key.  It's actually surprisingly useful, and I think I'm going to keep things like that.

 Update:  If you use this program and then subsequently uninstall it, be aware that your keyboard tweaks will remain active because the registry amendments will still be in place.  So make sure you use the program to un-do any tweaks that you don't want, before uninstalling the program.

 

My thanks to reader "Baskar" for this hot find.  If there's something you think I should know about, you can let me know at http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/submit-product-review.htm.

 

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Comments

by veekay on 26. April 2011 - 19:43  (70968)

@mchldpy:
Saw this post only now while searching for my old posts here.

I do not think I have offended someone in any manner here on TSA, so I am not sure why my real name is being asked for (unless it is in jest; even were it not, I can provide my personal details to the site admins if they desire to verify my credentials). I am indeed a fan of AutoHotkey, but only because I consider myself a power user, and use a ton of tools on several servers/workstations at work and on my home PCs, and AutoHotkey serves a variety of my needs with very low overhead. It is an active community, not just a tool (the same reason that Firefox is more popular than other browsers).

I think the first paragraph of my first comment above, clearly indicates that I liked KeyTweak for its simplicity and ease of use, and I am in no way trying to deride its usefulness. In fact, I am a bit disappointed that there were no other useful comments about this certainly interesting tool and topic.

@all:
Unfortunately for many people (including me), the real need for such a utility usually comes into play when..
1. temporarily trying to fix a broken keyboard (a few keys stopped working, and we don't have the time or cash to get it repaired or replace it with a new keyboard)
2. we get a new laptop that has an awkward keyboard layout and we wish to adjust the keys to a newer/desired functionality
3. some crucial keys such as a Pause/Break or Numpad keys are missing in a keyboard (usually a issue with laptop/notebook keyboards, due to their cramped dimensions)

Over the past 6 months, I've had multiple occasions where all the above 3 scenarios arose, and I direly felt the need for a powerful key remapper. Trust me, I tried a lot of workarounds and tools, but most of them fail on the special 3-byte-scancode keys or to detect special keys. For instance, the AutoHotkey Window Spy doesn't even detect the "Instant Launch Manager" or Function Key on my new branded laptop, and the laptop doesn't have even pseudo-numpad keys or the Pause/Break key.

In such cases, it is best to use any decent tool to remap existing keymapper-detectable buttons into the desired functionality, or use a virtual on-screen keyboard (which can be quite inconvenient for fast typing, especially for developers). And I feel (IMHO) that for such purposes, AutoHotkey is the best choice, since it can serve a lot of other purposes too (try the Autocorrect script, linked above).

As for doing reviews for TSA, I certainly would love to do them officially, but I am the kind of person who takes his commitments seriously, and since I cannot commit myself to full-fledged volunteer work at this stage in my life, it is something I haven't put forward to the site admins. If and when that decision changes, I am sure it will be fun ride.

by veekay on 18. January 2011 - 17:19  (64729)

This is a simplistic utility (and a very good one, especially with those handy multimedia key buttons), with some caveats:

• Keytweak cannot combine keystrokes like CTRL+ALT+DEL into single keystroke.
• Keytweak cannot affect the Fn key of most laptops.
• The Pause/Break key cannot be remapped. This special key generates a 3-byte scancode, but the Scancode Map registry entry only allows for the remapping of 2-byte scancodes.

I would actually recommend SharpKeys instead as it is open-source and seems more powerful:
http://www.codeplex.com/sharpkeys

Mac aficionados can try KeyRemap4Macbook utility:
http://www.pqrs.org/tekezo/macosx/keyremap4macbook/index.html

However, all these Keyboard utilities work by permanently remapping the Windows registry setting where the keyboard scancodes are registered. That can be a major bummer for developers, who buy a new laptop and find it doesn't even have a Pause/Break key. And all these key remap tools can't deal easily with special keys like that (due to the 3-byte scancode issue).

That's where this powerful tool comes to their rescue - AutoHotkey (AHK):
http://www.autohotkey.com/

It is a powerful scripting engine with a very low overhead. It is a great freeware tool, that has been covered on Gizmo's site before (Best Free Hotkey / Macro Recorder Utility). There are AutoHotkey scripts available online, that can do just about anything.

Once it is installed, anyone can create a quick AHK scripts to add their favorite autosignatures/macros or key remaps. Lots of keys are supported.
http://www.autohotkey.com/docs/KeyList.htm

For instance, to use the Windows+B keypress to trigger a Ctrl+Break combo keypress, you just need this one-liner Autohotkey script.
#b::^CtrlBreak

Following is my favorite Autohotkey script. It can correct all common typos on the fly in any app (whether you are chatting online, coding hard, typing an email or editing a document). You can even add your own autocorrect phrases (such as the F12-to-Pause/Break remapping) using the Win+H key. No messy registry edits needed, no reboots needed, works everywhere, highly customizable, 64-bit version available and can be toggled on/off easily. Awesome - 10 on 10!
http://www.autohotkey.com/download/AutoCorrect.ahk

by mchldpy on 29. January 2011 - 18:31  (65458)

TO veekay,
as of this writing the most informative, seemingly unbiased comment listed.

attn. IAN R.

attn. gizmodIAN R.

WHY does not veekay do some reviews for all of us? (or is his real name
"mr. autoHotkey"?)

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