Whether you’re missing a key on your keyboard or just want to improve your productivity, remapping can be extremely useful.
Remapping keys on your computer’s keyboard allows you to change any key to any other key, allowing you to personalize your keyboard exactly how you like it. Don’t like the location of a particular key? Just change it.
Though we’ve looked at how to remap keys in the past, let’s look now at some ways in which that can be useful.
Improve Your Productivity
Here are a few instances in which you might want to remap your keys, and we’ll go through each of them to see how to do it best.
- Computer gaming
- Browser productivity
- Launch and switch apps quickly
- Use a foreign keyboard with ease
- Use a better keyboard layout
- Make use of your underused keys
- Fix a missing key
Interested in any of these? Read on to find out to how to make the most use out of them — but first, let’s look at the software that makes this possible.
Key Remapping Software
Several options are available for Windows users to remap their keysRemap Keyboard Keys with These 3 Free Apps [Windows]Remap Keyboard Keys with These 3 Free Apps [Windows]Read More, and even some for Mac usersReconfigure Your Mac Keyboard for More Geek Power [Mac]Reconfigure Your Mac Keyboard for More Geek Power [Mac]If you're the type of Mac user who likes to customize every feature or program on your computer, you might want to check out the system preferences application, KeyRemap4MacBook. It essentially enables you to re-map...Read More too. My favorite is SharpKeys, but KeyTweak and Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator are both viable options as well.
SharpKeys is great because it allows you to map a key by typing it. So if you want to change your Caps Lock to a Shift, you don’t have to search through a long list for those terms. Just hit your Caps Lock button and then hit your Shift button and you’re done.
With a different layout that may be easier for some people to understand, KeyTweak is another good option. Click on the key you want to change, then find the key you want it to become in the drop-down menu below. It even has “Teach Mode” at the bottom to help you get started.
Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator
This option is nice because it comes officially from Microsoft. It’s clean and easy to use, though it doesn’t offer the most options since certain keys like Shift and Caps Lock are unable to be remapped.
Gaming controls don’t have to be so static. In fact, with some voice control and key remapping, even disabled gamers can play anything. Key remapping can be useful for everybody, though, disabled or not — like this League of Legends mouse hackA Mouse "Hack" That All League Of Legends Players Should Know AboutA Mouse "Hack" That All League Of Legends Players Should Know AboutHere's how you can change your mouse settings so that your left-click button performs an "Attack Move" command.Read More.
If the in-game controller options don’t allow you to customize your keys, or they don’t offer certain keys as options, change them with your chosen remapping software.
For leftie gamers, switching everything from the right side to the left side can be extremely useful as well. If your keyboard has a number pad on the right side, simply assign all of the numbers to the left for a better gaming experience.
This is one of my favorite tweaks, and has enhanced my productivity by a lot. Switching between tabs is an extremely common task, but the keyboard shortcuts for it aren’t super intuitive.
On Chrome for Windows, switching to the next tab requires Ctrl+Tab or Ctrl+PgDown while switching to the previous tab requires Ctrl+Shift+Tab or Ctrl+PgUp. Neither of these are very intuitive options, since the Page Up and Page Down keys are usually far away from Ctrl, and the Ctrl+Shift+Tab function just requires too many fingers in an awkward distribution to be comfortable.
The solution? Get rid of some unused keys and get a better tab switching shortcut. A lot of keyboards have a “right-click” button in the lower right next to the Ctrl and Alt keys. Mapping PgUp to the Alt key allows you to hold the Ctrl button in the bottom right and then, using the same hand, hit the Alt key to switch to your previous tab. With the right-click button to the right of it, you can map that to PgDown and have a next tab button. Now, a simple two button press moves you around tabs quickly in both directions.
The lists of Chrome keyboard shortcuts and Firefox keyboard shortcuts are extensive. Have a browse through them, and if you see any shortcuts that might be extremely useful but are placed awkwardly, remap some of your unused keys for them. Function keys along the top are usually good for this, or ScrLk, Insert, Home, and End keys.
Launch And Switch Apps Quickly
Launching your favorite apps is actually quite easy and doesn’t even require the remapping software. Simply create a shortcut for the application you want on your desktop, then right-click on that shortcut and select Properties. Go to the Shortcut tab, click on the field titled Shortcut Key, and press the key that you want to launch the app.
As this key will launch the app from anywhere on your computer (whether Modern or Desktop), it should be something you don’t use often, like one of your function keys.
If you want to get a bit fancier, you can even launch multiple apps using a batch fileLaunch Multiple Programs From a Single Shortcut Using a Batch FileLaunch Multiple Programs From a Single Shortcut Using a Batch FileDo you always launch a specific set of applications? What if you could launch them with a single click? It only takes a minute to set up and will save you so much time!Read More.
For switching between apps, Windows already has a variety of shortcuts — the trick is making a shortcut that is easier to use (though you won’t be able to use the browser trick mentioned in the previous section).
By switching your lower right “right-click” key to a Tab key, the necessary shortcut for switching between apps (both Modern and Desktop), Alt + Tab, is much easier to reach. Just use your right hand to hold Alt and tap the “right-click” key to switch rapidly between all your open apps.
Use A Foreign Keyboard With Ease
If you’re used to a QWERTY keyboard and try to use a keyboard from another country — you’ll probably run into some trouble. We have some tips for what to do if you’re travelling and plan to use a foreign keyboardHow To Get To Grips With a Foreign Keyboard While TravellingHow To Get To Grips With a Foreign Keyboard While TravellingHave you ever travelled abroad and sat down in an Internet café only to find that you can't work out how to type anything on the foreign keyboards? Well, you're not alone. This happens to...Read More, but remapping is a great longer term solution. If you can find a deal on an AZERTY or QWERTZ laptop, don’t let that keyboard hold you back — you can just remap the keys!
With the software solutions detailed above, just change the few keys that aren’t in the correct places, and it’s as if you’re using your keyboard from home. Just don’t change it on your non-tech savvy friend’s computer and then forget about it!
For a quicker, easier to switch way on Windows 8, simply download a new keyboard. They can be switched using the Win Key + Spacebar shortcut, making them extremely versatile, and they temporarily remap your physical keyboard.
To do this, go to your Control Panel and paste this in the bar along the top: Control Panel\Clock, Language, and Region\Language. Here, you can select Add Language and find the language you want to type in from the drop-down menu. You can have multiple language keyboards at once, and within languages you can even have different layouts.
First, select all the languages you want. You can then order them by preference. The language at the top will be your primary language.
To change specific layouts for your language, click Options to the right of it and then Add Input Method. Since many languages are spoken in many different places, keyboard layouts are often different within one language. You can even find some alternate keyboard layouts like Dvorak here, which we’ll cover in the next section.
Use A Better Keyboard Layout
Honestly, QWERTY isn’t the best keyboard layoutA History of Keyboard Layouts, Is QWERTY Lagging Behind?A History of Keyboard Layouts, Is QWERTY Lagging Behind?QWERTY is over 100 years old. It's outdated and outclassed by several alternatives, yet it's still the most popular keyboard layout in the world. How did we get here?Read More out there — it’s just what most of us are used to. But there is a solution that can make your typing faster and reduce stress on your fingers: learn a new keyboard layoutLearn A Better Keyboard Layout & Take It Everywhere With You Using Portable Keyboard LayoutLearn A Better Keyboard Layout & Take It Everywhere With You Using Portable Keyboard LayoutAs some of you guys may know, I have been using an alternative keyboard layout for years. It is called Colemak, and it is brilliant. But using such a layout puts me in an awkward...Read More like Colemak or Dvorak.
With keyboard remapping, you can change a few keys at a time to get yourself acquainted with the new keyboard style, and once you’re all in, just change all your keys. It’s best to learn the new keys for memorization, but you can purchase small stickers to place over your keys to help guide you on your keyboard transition.
Make Use Of Your Underused Keys
The Caps Lock key seems to be pretty universally hated. I’m generally not a fan of the useless Function keys and the Ctrl and Alt on the right side of the keyboard. You probably hate or don’t use some keys yourself. Don’t let them go to waste! Change them into something you’ll actually use.
For instance, your Caps Lock key can become any number of thingsIsn't It Time You Made Use of Your Caps Lock?Isn't It Time You Made Use of Your Caps Lock?The CAPS LOCK key is probably the most useless key on your keyboard. Netiquette forbids you to use it because it's considered screaming, which is simply rude. And what else would you use it for...Read More: a shift key, a search button like in Chrome OS, or a backspace. Your function keys can be used to sleep or power off your computer, or even as media controls.
Fix A Missing Key
Do you have a missing or broken key? Just map around it! It might take some adjustment because you’ll keep reaching for where the key used to be, but it’s a good temporary fix until you can get a new keyboard with functioning keys.
For example, if your backspace key is broken, that’s a pretty vital key. Just map it to a key right next to it (on my keyboard that’d be the “\” key) and move that lesser used key to a key you would never otherwise use, like a Function key.
Any Other Advice For Key Remapping?
These are just a few cases in which key remapping could be useful, but there are certainly more. Have you used key remapping to solve any problems or increase your productivity?
Let us know in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Missing key Via Shutterstock, Gamer girl playing a first person shooter, Geek playing video games with a keyboard, Notebook keyboard via Shutterstock.
How to Back Up and Restore the BCD File in Windows 10Automate Office With Mail Merge to Create Professional Address Labels, Name Badges, and More
Broken keyboard keys seem to be quite a common occurrence these days on laptops and netbooks. Although it’s not a terrible problem if the key press still registers even without the plastic key, it is quite difficult if a common key doesn’t work at all. It’s not easy to type anything if your A or E key or even space bar doesn’t work! Maybe there’s a few keys on your keyboard you keep hitting by mistake such as Caps Lock, or would just like a certain key to be in a more convenient location. If there’s a key on your keyboard you never seem to need, why not change it to make it more useful?
Of course, the more technical minded people could turn to a Macro tool which can help you remap keys on a keyboard or even to perform more complicated tasks for you, or run a shortcut / hotkey utility. These though have the disadvantage of needing to be present in memory at all times for the effect to work. But simply mapping a broken or unused key to another key on the keyboard doesn’t have to have a process in the background for it to work. When you type a key on your keyboard it sends a special code number known as a scan code to tell Windows what key has been pressed. Since Windows 2000 there has been a key present in the system registry that allows the changing of these scan codes and you can map one key to another. Unfortunately editing this yourself isn’t very easy, but thankfully there are some tools around to do it for you.
Here’s a selection of tools that can remap keyboard keys so you don’t have to run 3rd party utilities or edit the registry yourself. Do note that these tools WILL NOT allow you to create hotkeys or multiple function macro keys such as launching programs or inputting text etc, they simply map 1 key on a keyboard to another or create different layouts of the standard keys. Also laptop Fn or Function keys cannot be mapped because they are in most cases hard coded into the keyboard and don’t actually represent a physical key press.
KeyTweak is a simple tool to remap keys on your keyboard and there are a few ways the program offers to help you do it. It has a Full Teach Mode where you click the button to begin and just press the from key and then the key you want to map to, then click the Remap #1 to #2 button. There is also a Half Teach Mode which differs from full teach by offering a drop down list of available keys for you to remap to.
The 3rd way is by using the virtual keyboard in the main window to click on the key to change and then select the new mapping from the drop down below. This also gives you the options of quickly disabling a key and making use of any special keys your keyboard has such as media or internet keys. The keyboard itself might be slightly confusing for some as it lists the scancode numbers for the keys and not the actual characters. Click Apply when you’re done and reboot or log off.
It works on Windows 2000 and above, and you can extract the setup installer with an archiver such as 7-Zip to get the portable single executable and pdf help file.
SharpKeys is quite an easy tool to use but lacks the customary keyboard interface layout which would make it easier and quicker to identify the keys you want to change. The main interface is pretty empty to start with and only the edits you have made will show up here, pressing Add will get things started for remapping a new key. Then simply select the From key in the list on the left which is the the key you want to move, and the To key on the right is where you want to map it. Do note not all entries in the list might be available on your keyboard and if you’re not sure use the Type key button and physically press the key you want to select.
Pressing Write to Registry when you’re done will commit the remapped keys to the registry and you’ll be required to log off or reboot for the changes to take effect. SharpKeys is available as a portable version or an MSI setup installer, the .NET framework 4 is required. Works on Windows 2000 and above.
MapKeyboard is a portable and tiny keyboard remapper that is under 30KB in file size and does the plain and simple job of assigning one key to another. Just start the program, and click on the key you want to remap, at the bottom left of the window it will show in the “Remap selected key to:” box. Now all you have to do is click on the drop down and select the new assignment to give the key, or select disabled to turn the key off.
Keys you have edited will turn green in the window and when you have finished click the Save layout button which will prompt you to logoff for the changes to take effect. MapKeyboard requires .NET v3 and works from Windows XP up to Windows 8.
4. Key Mapper
Key Mapper is a very easy to use and intuitive tool that can remap one key to another or disable it completely. To simply disable a key all you have to do is click on it and drag it off the program’s window, which will then turn the key a brownish color. To map one key to another click on the key and drag, then drop it onto the key you want it assigned to which will turn the newly assigned key an aqua color.
Double clicking on a key will popup a new window where any previous editing for that key can be reversed, and all the available keys that can be assigned are displayed in a number of categories which groups sets of keys together according to their function. This makes it easier to find what you want and once you select the desired key from the list, simply press the Map button to assign it to the key. There is a useful option to export all the changes made to a registry file which you can then import later or use on another machine, and the on-screen layout can be changed to exclude the keypad, have typewriter keys only or show a Mac style keyboard.
Key Mapper requires .NET version 2 and works on Windows 2000 to Windows 7.
Download Key Mapper
5. Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator
The Microsoft Layout Creator allows you to create custom keyboard layouts completely from scratch or take an existing layout and edit it to your liking. It also doesn’t work by way of the registry hacking method but rather builds and creates an installer which you can then install on any machine as an additional keyboard. There are also 3 different configuration options for the key layout around the Enter key which is a useful feature for laptop keyboards etc.
Something MSKLC cannot touch is any special keys such as Enter, Shift, Control, Alt, Caps Lock, backspace and the Function keys, but the keys that can be edited can have multiple entries for the normal key press, Shift + key press, Ctrl+Alt+ key press and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+ key press. These can be shown on the main keyboard image by using the “Shift states” boxes on the left. Existing layouts can be loaded in and edited via File -> Load Existing Keyboard, and the new layout can be tested and validated before the package is built.
Microsoft Layout Creator works on windows 2000 to Windows 7 and requires the .NET framework version 2.
Download Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator