Each key on the keyboard has a corresponding mapping to do relevant function. Some keys are assigned to direct use like pressing “A” will type letter “a”. However, modifier keys like alt, control and shift will work in combination with other keys. In addition, Windows operating system comes with some system shortcuts that works across application. These key mapping or assignments are rigid that user cannot change them. In this article, we will explain how to change default mapping of keys and shortcuts in Windows using Microsoft PowerToys app.
Why to Change Key Mapping?
There are three good reasons to change the default key mapping in your Windows computer.
- When using keyboard, it is common that the letter printed on some keys will go off easily. It could happen due to your finger’s nail scratching the letter printed on the key. Let us say, print on key “A” is no more visible and you want to remap the function of key “A” to another key like “left alt”. in this case, left alt key will lose its original function and work like A key. since there are two alt keys available on keyboard, you can still use right alt key for its original functions.
- A key stopped working in specific application due to malfunctioning of your keyboard. For example, your caps locks key is not working in Microsoft Outlook, and you want to use alternate key for this purpose.
- Finally, you do not like to use system shortcuts like “Control + C” for copying and want to use your convenient custom shortcut for this purpose.
Using Microsoft PowerToys
Good thing is that you can remap default keys and shortcuts in Windows using a power tool called Microsoft PowerToys. This is a cool and official app from Microsoft that helps to tweak Windows settings and boost your productivity. It offers many features including remapping of keys and shortcuts which you can activate or deactivate within the app.
Go to Microsoft Store in your PC or laptop and search for “powertoys” app. You can either install the app from Store or download the source executable file from GitHub and install on your computer.
Enabling Keyboard Manager in PowerToys
After installing PowerToys app, go to Start menu and open the app. You can also search and open the app using Windows Search. PowerToys needs administrator access to run the app and you will see a warning to restart the app in admin mode if you are using standard user access. Make sure you are logged in as admin and press “Restart PowerToys as administrator” button. If you always want to open the app in admin mode, after starting the app in admin mode turn on the “Always run as administrator” option.
Go to “Keyboard Manager” menu from the sidebar and turn on “Enable Keyboard Manager” option to start using key remapping in your computer.
The “Keyboard Manager” section offers two options to remap keys and shortcuts.
Click on “Remap a key” option to open the new window. Here, you can replace the mapping of any existing key with a new key.
- Physical Key – keys that you want to use as a replacement.
- Mapped To – original key that you want to replace the mapping.
Click the + icon which will open options to select or type the keys. The dropdown shows the default keys that you can replace. However, this can easily confuse you with unknown names like “NumberPad 0” and “VK210” which may or may not exist on your keyboard.
The easy option is to use the “Type” button and press the key(s) from your keyboard. Let us change the mapping of key A with Alt key in keyboard.
- First, click on the “Type” button under “Physical Key” section and press “Alt” key. You will see the preview of the keys while entering like when you select alt key left to the spacebar, it will show “Alt (Left)” as keys pressed. You can select a single or multiple keys for physical and mapped to options.
- Second, click on the “Type” button under “Mapped To” section and press “A” key.
- The final setup will look like below in the app and click “OK” button to close “Remap keys” window.
- You will see a warning message that key “Alt (Left)” is reassigned and will no more be useful for its original assignment. Click “Continue Anyway” button to proceed further.
- The “Keyboard Manager” section will show you the key mappings you have created like blow.
Go to any app like Word and press the left alt key. You will see that it types letter “a” exactly like “A” key on your keyboard. You can turn on caps lock and press alt key to type capital letter A. Anytime you can go back to “Keyboard Manager” in PowerToys app and delete the keys remapping.
Remapping Shortcuts Globally and in Specific App
Similar to keys, you can remap default keyboard shortcuts in Windows using “Shortcuts” option in PowerToys. Click on “Remap a shortcut” section to open it in a new window. It will look exactly like remap keys section with an additional option called “Target App”. Let us say you want to replace the original shortcut “Control + A” with “Alt + A” for selecting all text in a document. Click the + icon to add the required details for mapping the shortcut keys.
- Physical Shortcut – enter the target shortcut that you want to use. In our example, it is “Alt + A” and hence press both left alt and A keys together and press “OK” button to add it in the list.
- Mapped To – enter the original shortcut that you want to replace in this section. Click on “Type” button and press left control and A keys together. And then press “OK” to add the key combination in “Mapped To” list.
- Target Apps – by default Windows will apply the shortcut remapping on all applications. However, you can enter any specific application’s process name so that the remapping will work only on that app. Unfortunately, PowerToys app does not allow selecting the installed apps from the list. You need to type the process name of the app in the text box. Remember, it is the process name you should enter and not the name of the application. For our example, let us leave this file blank so that the shortcut remapping will work across all applications.
The final mapping will look like below and click on “OK” button.
The “Keyboard Manager” section will show the added shortcuts mapping under “Shortcuts” section as below.
Now, open any app and press “Alt A” keys to find it works like “Control A” keys and select all the text. Remember, you can still use “Control A” keys as well for the same selection purpose. Only “Alt A” key combination will lose its original function and work like “Control A”.
Finding Process Name for Target Apps
Applying shortcut remapping for all apps is easy since you do not to enter anything in “Target Apps” box. However, if you want to restrict the mapping to a specific app, then you need to find the process name of it and enter. Here is the list of some popular target app’s process names that you can enter in the box.
You can find the process names of apps currently opened in your computer using one of the below methods:
- Go to Command Prompt and type tasklist to get the list of process names.
- Alternatively, enter get-process command in PowerShell to get the process name list.
Let us say, you want to find the process name for Word, open the app and run the command in Command Prompt or PowerShell to find its process name WINWORD.EXE.
Note that you can enter only one process name in the target app field. For applying the same shortcut mapping to multiple target apps, create separate entries and enter different target app for each entry.
Points to Note When Using Keyboard Manager with PowerToys
Here are some of the points that you should keep in mind while using Keyboard Manager in PowerToys for mapping.
- You cannot remap “Control + Alt + Delete”, “Win + L” shortcuts and “Fn” key. However, it is possible to remap F1 to F12 (and any additional keys like F13 on your keyboard) keys.
- In shortcut remapping, the “Physical Shortcut” should start with a modifier key like alt, control, shift or win. It should also end with an alphanumeric key and cannot be more than the combination of three keys.
- The combination of shortcut keys work in the order even if it is part of another shortcut in the app. Let us say, you maintained an entry like “Shift + 1” to map as “Control” key. Now, pressing “Shift + 1 + Q” will result in “Control + Q”.
- If you have multiple keyboards connected to your computer, the mapping will work across all connected keyboards.
We hope this article helped you to remap your keys and shortcuts in Windows. Now, you can reassign the function of a key which is not working on your keyboard to other key and continue your work. Similarly, you can disable any existing shortcuts and use your custom shortcuts on specific app or across Windows.