How to Remap Keys on Windows 10

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Trying to figure out how to remap keys or hotkeys on Windows 10?

Remapping specific keys or even simplifying hotkeys is a great way to boost productivity. Majority of Google’s front-page results will ask you to download Microsoft PowerToys, but in this article we’ll dive into that and another alternative you can use called AutoHotkey.

Let’s get started.

What This Article will Cover

By the end of this article, you’ll know:

  • How to use PowerToys
  • How to use AutoHotkey
  • Remap keys 
  • Creating macros 
  • Popular key remapping tips for productivity

Too Long: Didn’t Read

Microsoft PowerToys is the easiest way to remap keys, but it’s not as flexible as AutoHotkey. AutoHotkey is also more technical with somewhat of a learning curve, but there are plenty of sources and guides online that make it simple to learn with enough effort.

I personally recommend AutoHotkey because the customizations allow you to create hotkeys without the expense of changing keys altogether. I’ll explain this in-depth below.

Microsoft PowerToys to Remap Keys on Windows 10

PowerToys is the simplest way to remap keys. It’s a Microsoft-made application that was used to test early Windows 11 features, which means there’s more than just key remapping. 

Microsoft PowerToys also has features like FancyZones, Color Picker, and PowerToys Run, among many other neat tools.

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Image Caption: PowerToys FancyZones allowing me to arrange the apps I’m using

If you want to do more than just remapping individual keys, like creating macros, shortcuts, and more, then skip this step. The next tutorial for AutoHotkey down below will be better for your use case.

Downloading Microsoft PowerToys

Follow the steps below to download PowerToys and start remapping your keys:

  1. Go to Microsoft’s GitHub page and scroll all the way down.
  2. Look for and left-click PowerToysSetup-version.exe. The version number will change depending on when you’re reading this, but just make sure you’re downloading the .exe file. 
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  3. You should be asked to save the file somewhere on your computer. Typically this will be on your Downloads folder, but feel free to save it wherever you want.

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Installing Microsoft PowerToys

Now that you’ve downloaded PowerToys, it’s time to set it up and install it on your computer.

  1. Left-click the PowerToysSetup.exe file that you just downloaded to run the installer. 
  2. Go through the standard installation process and click OK

With the installation finished, proceed to the next part below.

Remapping Keys with PowerToys

With PowerToys installed, it’s time to start remapping your keys. 

Note: You can only remap one key at a time with PowerToys.

  1. Open up PowerToys by pressing the Windows key and searching for “PowerToys”. 
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  2. With PowerToys open, look for Keyboard Manager at the left-hand side of the window.  
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  3. Turn on the Keyboard Manager and click on Remap a key 
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  4. Click the plus icon (+) to add a key to remap. 
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  5. Now, you can input your desired key in two ways, either press the key or select it from the dropdown menu.

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I recommend trying out the dropdown menu first so you can see all the types of keys you can map. There are a ton of options here, all the way from browser controls to apps and media actions.

If you click the Type button, a prompt will appear asking you to press the key you want to change or remap.
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This is the best way to identify buttons you’re unfamiliar with like the app, clipboard, or pause keys. 

  1. Once you’ve identified the keys to remap it should look something like the image below.
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Note: Mapped keys that start with Modifier Keys such as Ctrl, Windows, Shift, and Alt have the option of including another key after to make a shortcut. You can stack these Modifier keys together and make a longer hotkey. For example, the image below shows the Tilde key remapped into the Windows screenshot snipping tool. 

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  1. After you’re done remapping your keys, simply press OK and select Continue Anyway
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You’ll be able to see which keys have been remapped as you go. You can also remap shortcuts and make them application specific.
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This is useful for app-specific hotkeys, but the implementation can be a bit rough. Especially since there isn’t a menu for the applications on your computer. You’ll have to input the names of the program, which can be a hit and miss.

AutoHotkey to Remap Keys on Windows 10

AutoHotkey is one of the oldest key remapping programs out there, but it’s still one of the best programs to use because of how versatile it is.

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The program is essentially a scripting tool that allows you to create scripts that can manipulate anything you input to your computer. AutoHotkey is not just limited to hotkeys, they can also create macros that perform a sequence of actions such as:

  • Opening programs, files, or directories
  • Simulating mouse clicks
  • Type in text for you (so you can press a hotkey and type out a pre-set message)
  • Run loops, store variables, manipulate windows and other programs
  • Have application-specific hotkeys 
  • Adjust volume and media controls

All of this and more. AutoHotkey has the potential to manipulate and automate any part of your computer, so the skill ceiling for this is incredibly high. Fortunately for us, you don’t need to be an expert programmer to remap some simple keys.

Downloading AutoHotkey

Let’s start by downloading AutoHotkey first. 

  1. Go to the AutoHotkey website and click on Download.

  2. You’ll be asked for the version you want to download. I personally used the latest one, so click on Download Current Version and then Save the program to any folder on your computer.

Installing AutoHotkey

The installation process for AutoHotkey is as simple as Microsoft Powertoys. Simply:

  1. Left-click the AutoHotkey_setup to open and run the installer.
  2. Go through the installation process and just click on OK as you go.

When the installation is complete, proceed with the steps below.

Remapping Keys with AutoHotkey

Since there are several levels of customization you can do with AutoHotkey, we’ll only talk about the simple ones that will help you understand how the program works. I’ll be dividing the sections below between creating the AutoHotkey file and then coding the custom scripts.

Note: Once you understand the main concept behind scripting with AutoHotkey, we recommend searching for tutorials or guides on Google for specific hotkeys that you want. AutoHotkey is incredibly versatile, yet thankfully there are hundreds of other users out there who have probably asked most of the questions on your mind.

Creating the AutoHotkey Script file

  1. Open up the Notepad on your computer. You can do this by pressing the Windows key and searching for ‘Notepad’. 
  2. With Notepad open, start by saving the blank file first. You can do this by clicking on File at the top-left corner of the window and selecting Save As…. Alternatively, the hotkeys Ctrl + Shift + S work just as well.

  3. Save the file with any name, but make sure to include .ahk at the end of the filename to save the text as a AutoHotkey script. 

You can check if you did it successfully by opening the folder where the AHK script is saved. The text file should look something like the image below.

With an H symbol and the file saved as an AutoHotkey Script.

Remapping the Simple Custom Keys 

Now that you’ve created the AHK script file, it’s time to start coding in your hotkeys. Here’s a simple set of macros you can try out.

\ & a::Left

\ & s::Down

\ & w::Up

\ & d::Right

This script replaces the WASD keys with the arrow keys whenever you hold \. This is perfect for moving around a document, chat, or any form of text without having to move your hand down onto the arrow keys. 

To activate the hotkeys.ahk file, simply follow these steps:

  1. Save your hotkeys.ahk file.
  2. Open the AHK file directory.
  3. Double-click the hotkeys.ahk file to run the program as a AutoHotkey script. 

If the program is running correctly, you’ll find the H icon at the bottom-right corner of your taskbar. 

Copy the example above, save your script, and then run it with the steps below. If everything went correctly and the AHK script is enabled, try holding \ and pressing the WASD keys around some text. Your text cursor (formally known as a caret) should move just like with the arrow keys.

Why AutoHotKey is so Powerful

Additionally, this script also shows how powerful AutoHotkey is. Unlike PowerToys where you’re limited to changing only one key permanently, AutoHotkey allows you to press multiple keys instead. This means you can move between WASD and the Arrow keys (\ + WASD) without permanently changing the WASD keys to your arrow keys. 

In essence, you can assign multiple actions to one key just by pressing an activation key like \ before it. 

Remapping Complex Shortcuts

A step further with scripting, you can also send multiple key presses at a time. 

The script above inputs the Windows + Tab key whenever I press F1. The hotkey opens up your applications on your screen just like when you swipe up on a Mac and it’s convenient to do so with just one F1 key. 

You can do this with the send tool

 

Popular Key Remaps For Productivity 

Finally, it’s time to show you some of my favorite key remaps that are also popular with other users.

\ & O::Home

\ & P::End

Perfect for writing, especially when I need to quickly move between sentences or back to the end of a sentence that I was previously writing on.

CapsLock::Ctrl

CapsLock as Ctrl makes so much sense to me. All my regularly used hotkeys, like opening a tab (CapsLock + T) and moving between tabs (CapsLock + 1,2,3,4,..) are so much easier to press, rather than having to lower my hands and reach the Ctrl key with my pinky. 

The icing on cake here is when I do use the \ + WASD keys as arrow keys, I can also press CapsLock as Ctrl and move around the document much quicker since Ctrl + Arrow keys jump through words instead of letters.

RAlt::C trl

This hotkey is perfect for deleting entire words at once whenever I make typos. Contrary to popular practice, it’s much easier to just delete and retype an entire word than it is to keep pressing backspace until you’ve erased the mistake. Our hands are much more used to typing entire words as a whole and writing them out from halfway. 

By pressing Right Alt + Backspace, I can easily delete entire words without having to move my head down to the Ctrl key at the left or right side of my keyboard.

Hope this guide helped make your life all that more efficient!

 

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