How to Change Key Functions on Windows 10/8/7.
Have you ever wondered what you are going to do with two Shift keys, two Alt keys and a Caps Lock key. Quite a useless right! Every Windows keyboard has repetitive keys, and the only purpose it serves is you can use them with both hands. But wouldn’t it be more efficient if you could remap those duplicate keys to open apps? For example, I mapped my Caps Lock to open the calculator and a menu key to open Google Chrome. This trick really helps me as I don’t even have to lift my hand off the keyboard to grab the mouse. This is quite easy to do, you just need to remap the Windows keys. This can be done manually or using third party applications like SharpKeys, KeyExtender, etc.
Before we start
To find the least used keys on Windows, use an application such as KeyCounter. Just download the app, it’s free, and install it on your computer just like you install any other Windows software. When you’re done, launch the app and select specific keys to track, or you can control all keys on your keyboard. Let it run for a day or two and click Stop Monitoring to prevent the application from reading your keys. This will give you a list of keys with an indication of how many times they have been pressed.
Change key functions in Windows
1. Edit the registry entry
Editing registry keys is a tedious method of reassigning keys and can lead to minor problems if you’re not careful. I would suggest making a backup before proceeding. If you have no idea about Windows Backup, check out this article.
In this case, we will try to disable the Caps Lock key (simply because I find it useless!). To do this, we will need to change the Scancode Map entry. It is located in the Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Keyboard Layout folder. You can start modifying the file right away, but I’d rather create a registry entry and merge it with the original file.
First we will create a notepad file and add the following to it. Windows Registry Editor 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Keyboard Layout] “Scancode Map” = Hexadecimal: 00.00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,00, 00,3a, 00,00,00,00,00
Before we proceed, it is important to understand the meaning of these numbers. Each key on the keyboard is assigned a hexadecimal code. Better known as Scan Code, it is extremely important to know the scan code of the key you want to reassign. You can check the scan codes of all keyboard buttons here . In our case, the scan code for the Caps Lock key is 3A.
So the first 4 entries 00,00,00,00 denote the header version , and the next 4 entries 00,00,00,00 denote flags. For the next entry, we must specify the number of buttons that we want to remap. Since we only disable the Caps Lock key, we need 1 entry to specify the Caps Lock key, and a blank default entry at the end, which does 2. So the next 4-digit hexadecimal number would be 02,00,00,00. Now I need to specify the scan code of the Caps Lock key and the action that will be performed when it is pressed. I want no action to be taken when a key is pressed, so action is zero which means 00.00. Therefore, our entry will be 3A, 00.00.00. The last entry is empty by default and should be 00,00,00,00. Scan Code Map = Hexadecimal: 00.00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,00,00,3a, 00,00,00,00,00
Save the file as disable_capslock.reg and that should convert it to a registry file. We now need to merge these records with the current scancode map record. To do this, right-click the file and choose Merge.
The changes have now been made to the registry and you need to restart the system for them to take effect. If you are not good at manual work, you can try to do the same with third party apps.
SharpKeys are a popular choice when it comes to key remapping. It is an open source utility and I have also recommended it as the main utility for Windows. It has a simple and minimal user interface. When you launch the application, you get a traditional dialog box. To add key remapping, click the Add button. Another dialog box will open.
Here, you just need to specify For Key and To Key. For example, let’s reassign the Caps Lock key to open our own Calculator app. We will specify Caps Lock for For_Key and App: Calculator for To_Key. You can scroll through the list of buttons, or just press the enter key and press the key you want to reassign.
When done, click OK. You will be returned to the main dialog where you can see the entry you just configured. Click Write to Registry and restart your computer when prompted.
Thus, SharpKeys allows you to indirectly modify the Scancode Map registry, skipping all the manual work and problems. But the only problem with SharpKeys is that you cannot set the trigger action as a custom application or multi-key combination.
KeyExtender is a paid app that takes key remapping to the next level. Not only does it handle all the basic functions like SharpKeys, but it also provides advanced trigger actions. You can customize the launch of a special application with one click of a button, or reassign a keyboard shortcut to one key. The only problem is that the free version allows you to run the application 18 times, and later you have to pay for it. Prices start at $ 30 per user.
As soon as you launch the application, a tiny dialog box opens. Below you will see the option to reassign keys. Let’s say I want to launch Google Chrome when I press a menu key. For this I will select Set Key as Menu and To Key will launch the file. This will be the chrome.exe file. The reassignment should look like this:
You need to click Activate to register this reassignment. Surprisingly, you don’t need to restart the app to register the changes. You can start using remapping as soon as you click Activate. You can also reassign the keyboard shortcut to one button. To do this, click the two dots next to the “To” field. Go to KeyCombination and press Enter. A pop-up window will appear where you can enter your keyboard shortcut.
You cannot reassign keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl + Shift + Esc, which are system hotkeys. This is understandable because KeyExtender is not designed for this. If you have a set of customizable shortcuts, you can remap them to one key using this app. For example, I reassigned my own shortcut Ctrl + Alt + D to Numpad Enter, which now opens Google Chrome in incognito mode with DuckDuckGo.
What is the best way?
At any point, I would prefer to use SharpKeys because it is an abstract way of remapping keys without any complications. If you are good with codes and scripts, try the manual method. And if you don’t mind spending $ 30 on KeyExtender, then this is the best key remapping you can get for Windows.
Please comment and let me know if you run into problems.
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