Would you like to use a different keyboard key to map useful commands to your keyboard or your mouse? Thanks to PowerToys, you can easily map and remap any key you want, even mapping keys to perform shortcut combinations. Here's what you need to do.
Map useful commands with PowerToys
Before PowerToys, you would have to use a third-party application if you wanted to map commands to your keyboard or mouse. Other than rely on keyboard shortcuts in Windows, now you can use one of the tools called Keyboard Manager in PowerToys. Keyboard Manager helps you map useful commands by allowing you to redefine the keys on your keyboard.
Download and install PowerToys
If you don't already have PowerToys installed, there are several ways you can get it. Here's three methods to download and install PowerToys on your PC.
1. Install via the GitHub releases page.
2. Install via the Microsoft Store.
3. Install via Windows Package Manager. Copy and paste the following command into PowerShell:
winget install Microsoft.PowerToys --source winget
Once you download and install PowerToys on your PC, launch PowerToys Settings to enable the "Keyboard Manager" feature. You can use this guide to learn how to map useful commands on Windows 11, but Windows 10 users can use it too.
Enable Keyboard Manager
When you launch PowerToys for the first time, it should take you to PowerToys Settings, otherwise known as the "General" section in the sidebar.
1. Click the three-line menu in the upper left and pick "Keyboard Manager" from the sidebar.
2. By default, ensure the Enable Keyboard Manager toggle is enabled, turn it on if it's not.
3a. Click Remap a key to reconfigure a key to another key or shortcut.
3b. Click Remap a shortcut to remap shortcuts to other shortcuts or keys for all or specific applications.
Remap a key
Here's what you need to do to remap a key.
1. In Keyboard Manager, click Remap a key.
2. When the "Remap keys" window pops up, click the big plus button to add a new key map.
3. Select the key that you will be remapping in the Physical Key column by either clicking the Type button and typing the key on your keyboard or by selecting the key from the dropdown menu.
4. Change the key or shortcut in the Mapped To: column to your preferred replacement by clicking the Type button and typing the key on your keyboard or by using the dropdown menu.
For example, I want to change the Print Screen to Ctrl + P. So, when I use the Type option, I type "Ctrl + P" and click OK when you are finished.
5. When you are ready to enable the new key mapping you just remapped, click OK.
You can use the dropdown menu to choose a specific key, or in this example, Ctrl (Right) + P. But you can change the shortcut to anything you like.
When you click OK, you may see a warning message, similar to this. Click Continue Anyway.
This warning message means that you "orphaned" a key. This means you mapped it to another key and don't have anything currently mapped to it.
As long as PowerToys is running, Keyboard Manager will allow me to use Ctrl + P to invoke the Print Screen (PrtScn) function.
Remap a shortcut
The process to remap a shortcut is almost identical to that when you remap a key. You can remap a shortcut to use in place of another shortcut or to replace a current shortcut. In this example, I remapped the physical shortcut Ctrl + P to PrtScn.
Unlike when you remap a key, when you remap a shortcut, you can do it for specific apps or leave it on the default option, "All Apps" on your PC.
You will need to keep PowerToys running in the background for this to work. If you close or exit out from PowerToys, Keyboard Manager won't be able to invoke the key maps or shortcuts you previously created.
Add or delete key map or shortcut
If at any point you need to delete key mappings or want to add another one, the instructions are pretty straightforward.
To delete a key map or shortcut, click the trash can icon located to the right of the key map. To add a new key map or shortcut, click the big plus sign at the bottom. Remember to click OK at the top to close the window when you are finished.
Remember: As long as PowerToys is running in the background, then Keyboard Manager will make sure your new key or shortcut remap is applied.
There are some shortcut keys that can't be replaced into useful commands because they are reserved by the Windows operating system. Here are the keys and shortcuts that cannot be remapped:
- Windows key + L and Ctrl + Alt + Del cannot be remapped as they are reserved by the Windows OS.
- The Fn (function) key cannot be remapped (in most cases). The F1 - F12 (and F13 - F24) keys can be mapped.
- Using the Pause key will only send a single keyed event. For example, mapping Pause to the Backspace key, and pressing and holding it will only delete a single character.
- Windows key + G often opens the Xbox Game Bar, even when reassigned. Luckily, the Xbox Game Bar can be disabled.
As a reminder, Keyboard Manager must be enabled, with PowerToys running in the background at all times for you to be able to use remapped keys and shortcuts. If PowerToys is not running, key remapping will not work.
Do you use PowerToys to map useful commands or some other app? Do you use a different app to add keyboard shortcuts keys to your mouse? Let us know in the comments.