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Are there keys on your keyboard that you haven’t pressed for weeks? Even with the most common keyboard shortcuts, you might never have reason to hit keys like Scroll Lock, some of the F1-F12 keys, or Pause. What you’d appreciate more are keys that let you access certain functions that you actually use immediately. Even better, you can add many of these to your existing keyboard.
That’s what we’re going to accomplish today. Here’s how to stop wasting keyboard space with functions you don’t use and add some useful new keys under your fingers!
1. Browser/App Shortcut Key
Chrome OS gets a lot right in the simplicity department. It’s the only operating system (OS) that ditches the Caps Lock key in favor of a more useful Search key.
Since you probably only ever hit Caps Lock by accident and end up typing out a paragraph that looks like you’re shouting, you won’t miss the key.
Thankfully, it’s not hard to rework the key into something better. We’ve written all you need to know to turn Caps Lock into a shortcut key to open your browser or a specific app. This relies on SharpKeys, a simple utility that lets you remap keys. Windows allows you to do this via editing the Registry — SharpKeys does the heavy lifting for you.
Install the software, then open it by searching for SharpKeys in your Start Menu. You’ll see the main program window — click Add to create a new key mapping. For a quick shortcut, hit the Type Key button in the left window and hit a key to select the one you want to replace. Then, do the same on the right or scroll through the list to select the key’s new behavior.
You can simply map one key to another — for instance, make Caps Lock into another Shift key. But SharpKeys also supports functions, like App:Calculator and Media:Play/Pause. Take a look through the right list to find what’s most useful for you. When you’re done, click OK then Write to Registry. Then log out of Windows and back in to solidify the changes.
Caution: SharpKeys will not check what you’re changing for safety. Thus, if your computer requires the Ctrl + Alt + Del combination to log in and you disable the Del key through this software, you’ll have to reset Windows.
2. Clipboard Manager Shortcut
Everyone should use a clipboard manager. You likely copy and paste text, images, and URLs constantly throughout the day. Being limited to one item on the clipboard at a time hinders productivity.
Someday Windows will include its own clipboard manager, but for now you’ll have to settle for one of the best free tools.
Depending on which software you use, you can set your own keyboard shortcut for pulling up your clipboard history. This should be at the ready for you at all times since you surely paste more than you press Pause. For instance, by default, Ditto clipboard manager’s shortcut is set to Ctrl + ` (above Tab). You could abbreviate this even further to just ` on its own if you don’t type tildes or accents often, such as when learning a new language.
Now, whenever you press that key or key combo, you’re instantly ready to paste anything you’ve copied for the past several hours. That’s worth adding for sure!
3. Special Symbols With Alt Codes
Your keyboard contains a few common symbols like @, &, and =, but Windows holds hundreds more. Obviously, there isn’t room to fit them all on a standard keyboard, so they’re tucked behind the number pad on the right side of your keyboard. Hold Alt, type a series of numbers, then let go of Alt to insert a particular symbol.
If your laptop doesn’t have a number pad, look for numbers usually placed on the 7-9, U-O, J-L, and M keys. These act as a makeshift number pad. Press Fn + Num Lock to lock these keys into their listed numbers. Hold Alt and you can use these just like a desktop keyboard.
Can’t remember these codes? You can create a custom shortcut to open the Character Map, a Windows utility that lets you copy and paste these symbols anywhere you need.
4. Use a Gaming Keyboard for Shortcuts
If you didn’t find the special keyboard keys you were looking for with the above methods, there’s another way. Many gaming keyboards have lots of extra buttons that you can program to perform whatever you want.
Even if you don’t play games on your computer, you can put these buttons to work for productivity. Plus, you enjoy the benefit of having a mechanical keyboard!
The exact instructions will depend on your specific keyboard. If you have a Razer product, we’ve walked through the steps to record macros with Synapse. You could assign an awkward keyboard shortcut to a single key, or even set a shortcut key to open a website or app. Since many gaming keyboards have extra keys, you don’t have to sacrifice an existing key (like one of the F keys) that you might need at some point.
What Extra Keys Have You Added?
We’ve covered five major ways to add extra functionality to your keyboard by re-purposing existing keys and even adding new ones. With a bit of work, you can make those keys more useful and ignore the functions you don’t use anyway. You’ll be more productive than ever! And if your keyboard is having issues, you can also use these tricks to fix your keyboard layout.
Continue your quest for keyboard mastery by reviewing the coolest tricks that few people know.
Which new keyboard keys have you added? Do you have another method not listed here? Tell us your thoughts down in the comments!