Create Your Own Custom Windows Hotkeys with this Free Utility


Keyboard shortcuts or “hotkeys” are always a popular subject and there are probably thousands of them. Many applications come with a set of hotkeys but how about creating some of your own? If you have programs, folders or files where you would like quick and convenient access, you might give a try to the free little utility called “WinHotKey”.

WinHotKey provides an easy way to create your own unique hotkeys.The developer’s description and download link are at this page. There is also a review and download link at Softpedia. VirusTotal gives it a clean bill of health. The download is 826 KB and the installed program takes up about 1.5 MB. While not a 64-bit program itself, it works fine on 64-bit editions. I have run it on Windows 7 and 8.1, 64-bit. It is also said to run in Windows XP and Vista.

After it is installed, the program icon sits in the notification area (system tray). A right-click of the icon gives an option to configure (open) or exit the program. You can also double-click the icon to open the program. The first graphic below shows the interface for creating hotkey shortcuts. It lists all the already existing hotkeys that use the Windows key, a useful function in itself.  Any new shortcuts that you create with this program begin with the Windows key so the list lets you avoid conflicts with existing hotkeys. 


To create a hotkey, click the tab "New Hotkey..." The graphic below shows the dialog box that opens. As you can see in this second graphic, there are five different kinds of hotkey actions that can be created. The first three are probably the ones of most interest. Here are the possible hotkey actions.

  • Launch a program.
  • Open a specified document.
  • Open a particular folder.
  • Automatically type something. (Unfortunately, this feature apparently only works in Windows XP.)
  • Control the current window. (Personally, I didn’t find this particularly useful.)

Creating new hotkey

Click the thumbnail on the right to see the various combinations of keys that are available. You can select any combination of the Windows key with Ctrl, Alt, and Shift plus a variety of many other keys. For example, you could use Win+Insert or Win+Alt+n to open a program like Notepad. Windows 8 uses a lot of the possible Winkey+letter combinations so, in that system, you will generally need to include Alt, Ctrl, or Shift.

And there you have it – a quick and easy way to open frequently used programs, folders, or files.

Related article - How to Create a Custom Hotkey for Your Favorite Application or Folder   

Get your own favorite tip published! Know a neat tech tip or trick? Then why not have it published here and receive full credit? Click here to tell us your tip.

This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

Click here for more items like this. Better still, get Tech Tips delivered via your RSS feeder or alternatively, have the RSS feed sent as email direct to your in-box.

Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
Average: 3.9 (8 votes)


I'm a little confused here!
I tried this, loved it, sent a donation.
But one thing gets me; it seems this is a TSR program.
When I "lost" it from the taskbar, I started the program from the original install exe and found that all my settings had disappeared.
Is there any way to store my settings within the install program? Or can I export them to a file? Is there any way of overcoming this?
Thanks for an otherwise great program.

Since I don't know how you "lost" the program, I can't comment on what happened to your settings. As far as I can see, the program does not provide a way to export settings. Wish I could be more helpful but offhand I don't know where the program stores settings. A quick search of the Registry didn't reveal anything obvious.

A hotkey feature that I would appreciate would move all open windows to the primary display. At one time, Matrox included that feature with its graphics drivers, but then Matrox stopped doing that and I lost that function due to a Matrox driver update. Presently I am using NVIDIA graphics cards, and while NVIDIA graphics drivers have many great features, that feature is not one of them. Does anyone know of a hotkey program with a "move all open windows to the primary display" feature? Or know of a hotkey program that allows such a feature to be programed by the user?

@zornestech - would your friend's problem be more appropriately solved by a keyboard remapper? E.g. something like OkayKeybees by JoeJoeSoft (maker of ArsClip and Rename Master, all free)?

Good though AutoHotKey is, it does as Nichols points out require at least minimal programming. Even if you're comfortable doing that, you may not have the time, and prefer GUI configuration for ease and speed. In which case, alternatives to WinHotKey might be HotKeyz (Skynergy site down, but should be around the Net) or HotKeyP by Petr Laštovička or maybe Clavier by Guillaume Ryder.

Is there anything out there that will hotkey a single key. I have a friend with CP and needs to remap a key on windows 7

As P-c mentions AutoHotKey has advantages even this author suggests (tho maybe bit more 'overhead' on PC but less an issue these days).
From WHK site comments:

I have been using a different Hokey program, but it has significant cpu overhead. WinHotKey looks and feels much lighter. I'm trying to use the type text feature with embedded control keys, for example "test [ctrl-v] test" which would allow me to use the windows paste feature as part of the generated text. Anyway to do this?

Login to post comments
There is a way to do this by
Submitted by brian on Mon, 2011-04-25 11:27.

There is a way to do this by updating the registry directly, but I cannot support that. I recommend looking at AutoHotKey which can do a lot of the more complex things like that.

[Modertator's note: Mention of commercial program edited out.]

WinHotKey cannot insert pre-defined text for versions of Windows after XP, and to do that relatively simple task both AutoHotkey and Hot Keyboard are more complex than some would prefer.

For simply pasting pre-defined text into any Windows application via keyboard shortcuts, QuickTextPaste is (for me) a fine solution --

The QuickTextPaste interface and helpfiles etc. are not written in perfect English, but the program itself works well and for the user the learning curve is not steep. QuickTextPaste is freeware.

Thanks, got it. That's a good site esp for Q-Dir & DesktopOK (tho this one isn't 100% foolproof at saving icon layout). Always do backups. For that Windows own Recovery or free Macrium Reflect.

Isn't AutoHotKey more flexible, as hotkeys don't need to include the Windows key?