Windows is very well known for having a large number of keyboard shortcuts enabling you to do a wide variety of tasks using nothing but the keyboard alone. In fact, a number of people prefer to use the keyboard almost exclusively if they can. Whether it’s working with office software or browsing the web, a combination of hotkeys and keyboard shortcuts can just about get most tasks done. Most of us though tend to rely on the mouse for most things and know of a few selected key combinations. Obviously, the most popular will be Ctrl+Alt+Del for the lock screen, F1 which usually gets some sort of help, the Print Screen key and the Cut, Copy and Paste keys.
Although Windows contains a large amount of them, keyboard shortcuts could be used for a whole lot more and be able to perform much more complex and powerful tasks. As a simple example, I have a Logitech keyboard with a number extra keys for custom keyboard shortcuts. Having used it for several years, I now can’t do without it as things like launching Device Manager or Regedit, putting the screensaver on or turning the screen off, entering email addresses and selected blocks of text are only a key press away.
It would be useful to be able to perform similar tasks in Windows itself, and with the help of a third party application called KeyboardExt it is entirely possible. This useful little program has the ability to give you a large amount of control over your keyboard shortcuts and also allows the sending of a series of keystrokes to an opened application. Launching a desired application with a keystroke can be achieved as well. Although it is also supposed to have a function to manage screenshots, this seems to have gone missing and I couldn’t find it in the latest release, but the shortcuts connected to it still work.
The program itself is both portable and installable. Making it portable is done in a rather curious way; Start the installer, select ‘Manual installation’ and then drag the two file icons to a folder of your choice. Not exactly a standard procedure but it works.
When the application main window appears, you are provided you with a large list of shortcuts to a number of Windows functions and applications along with a selection of folders and drives. Anything in the list can be accessed simply with a double click. A path or file can be added to the list by entering it in the bottom of the window and clicking ‘Add to catalog’.
The ‘Hotkeys’ button brings up a management window where the user defined combinations are stored and edited. There are two types; ‘Launch Applications’ (above left) allows for the setting up of a program to run and it’s associated keyboard shortcut. The ‘Send keys’ window (above right) can be set up to send a number of keystrokes to an application. It’s a bit cumbersome as the keys have to be entered one at a time, but does work as expected.
The ‘Alert’ function is a bit like an alarm clock come task scheduler where you can set up a schedule to show a message, launch a program or play an mp3 at a set time and date.
There are a number of windows in the ‘Options’ menu to look through and there are two sections which control a number of the keyboard shortcuts. The ‘System hotkeys’ settings allow for the selection and editing of a number of system wide shortcuts including screenshot captures and the Run box.
While working in Windows Explorer, there are some shortcuts which can be turned on or off through the ‘Windows Explorer’ options window such as opening a Command Prompt at the current location and saving icon positions.
The application also provides you with an enhanced replacement for Start/Run dialog box. One thing to keep an eye on is making sure any keyboard shortcuts enabled by this program do not conflict with those already present in your applications. For example, when I was trying to take screenshots of this program using Ctrl+Shift+W, it actually kept popping up the ‘Search Wikipedia‘ window before I disabled it! KeyboardExt is one of those utilities where you really need to have a good look and play with to see if it does what you want as I’ve merely listed the major points.
Compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7 32 and 64bit