How To Make Your USB Joystick Mimic A Keyboard

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how to use your joystick as the keyboardDo you still have a joystick connected to your PC? You might be one of a dying breed. Cheap consoles, and a preference on the part of many gamers for the mouse and keyboard, means the heyday of game controllers plugged into computers is long gone.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few uses for joysticks today however. Many modern games still support them, and they’re a staple for retro-gamers. Once in a while however, you’ll stumble upon a game you wish you could use your joystick as the keyboard for but cannot.

Super Mario Crossover, for example, is flash-based and as such cannot support a joystick. So what do you do in those circumstances?

Set up your joystick as the keyboard, of course. JoyToKey is the program you’re looking for to accomplish this. This Windows program allows you to “map” the buttons on your joystick to act as a keyboard, allowing you to program your joystick to do pretty much anything.

Getting Started

how to use your joystick as the keyboard

As you can see, the program’s not very complicated. Just download it here and install it to get started.

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When you do you’ll see a simple window outlining the joypads you have plugged in and the buttons that can be modified. To map a button to act as a particular key simply double-click the button in question, then set the keys as you will.

joystick to keyboard

You’re not limited to the keyboard, either. You can also program the joystick to mimic mouse movements, and even to launch specific commands if you like. Want to launch a program with a given button? Check out the “Command” tab to get started.

Not sure which buttons on your joystick are which? You’re not alone; I had the same problem. Happily Windows has a decent Joystick Configuration Tool built in. Fire it up and you can press buttons on your keyboard to see their true number. Like this:

how to use your joystick as the keyboard

You’ll find this tool in the control panel, or by simply clicking “Start” and typing “joystick” on Vista and Windows 7 before clicking the “set up USB joystick” button.

Now that you know which buttons are which you’re ready to map your joystick. Have fun! Just note that some fullscreen programs may not work perfectly with this application, but many do. It’s also worth noting that minimizing this program sends it to the system tray, which is perfect if you want the program to work but stay out of your way.

Potential Uses

  • Play Flash games with your joystick, like Super Mario Crossover.
  • Control media center software, such as Boxee, with your joystick. This is particularly slick if you turn Boxee into the ultimate ROM and game launcher.
  • Some older DOS games don’t support USB joysticks, even in DOSbox. JoyToKey is what you want when that happens.
  • Do pretty much anything you can do with a keyboard on your joystick. Use your imagination!


I’ve been having a lot of fun with this setup, and I hope you might find it useful/awesome as well.  Do you know of any better software for the task?  If so, please share it below. Also please share any cool uses you may have for JoyToKey so everyone reading can benefit.

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