How do I ... remap my keyboard with KeyTweak?

For the power user nothing equals efficiency like having your keyboard keys mapped in just the right way for your particular needs. Jack Wallen explains how to use KeyTweak to map the keys on your keyboard just they way you want them.

For the power user, nothing equals efficiency like having your keyboard keys mapped in just the right way for your particular needs. Say, for example, you would rather the Caps Lock key function as the Delete key (it would mean, in many instances, the Delete key would be within reach of the pinky without moving your hands), with KeyTweak this is possible. Or say you have taken your keyboard apart (for whatever reason) and cannot remember what each key does (it could happen). With KeyTweak you can quickly find out what key does what with the click of a button.

Before we get started with this, I will say that KeyTweak cannot combine keys. So your hopes of getting Ctrl-Alt-Delete mapped to a single key press are lost. KeyTweak also cannot affect either the Function keys on laptops or the Pause/Break key. It is also worth noting that KeyTweak changes are global, so they will affect all users on a system. And finally, any changes made by KeyTweak require a reboot to take effect. With all of that in mind, let's see how KeyTweak works.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Getting and installing

As per usual, installing KeyTweak is just a matter of downloading the installation binary from the creators' (Travis Krumsick) KeyTweak Web site. Once you have the file downloaded, double-click the file to install it. Once the installation is complete, you will find the application binary in the KeyTweak submenu of the Start Menu. To start the application, click on the KeyTweak entry in the KeyTweak menu.

The main window

The main window consists of a menu bar, a Remapping section, Keyboard Control section, Specialty Buttons section, Pending Changes section, and buttons to toggle full and half teaching modes (Figure A).

Figure A

The mapped keyboard is not specific to your keyboard but is universal.

Here is a brief description of each section.

  • Remapping: The remapping section includes a listing of currently remapped keys, a virtual keyboard, and buttons to restore defaults and Raw Map display.
  • Keyboard Control: The keyboard control is where you will select the new remapping for a chosen key. This is done via a drop-down list and a Remap button.
  • Specialty Buttons: This section allows you to remap any specialty buttons that are available on your keyboard.
  • Pending Changes: This shows any changes that will take affect upon next reboot.
  • Half/Full Teaching Mode Buttons: By toggling either of these buttons you will be switched to its respective mode of teaching.

Remapping a key

Let's stick with our introductory example. What we are going to do is remap the Caps Lock key to function as the Delete key. Once you know how to do this, you can apply it to any change you want to make.

The first thing you need to do is to select the Caps Lock key on the virtual keyboard. That key should be numbered "30." Once you click the "30" key, you will see it listed in the Keyboard Controls section, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

If you aren't sure which key you clicked, you will know as soon as you check out the Keyboard Controls section.
Now, from the Choose New Remapping drop-down list, select Delete and then click Remap Key. Once you have clicked the Remap Key button, you will see this remapping appear in the Pending Changes section (Figure C).

Figure C

You can stop the remapping at this point by clicking the Clear All button.

Now click on the Apply button to apply the change. As stated earlier, the change will not take place until the machine is rebooted.

Full teach mode

The full teach mode is really just another method of achieving the same goal. When you click the Full Teach mode, a new window (Figure D) will open. This new window allows you to select a key for one slot (#1) and a second key for another slot (#2) and then remap #1 to #2.

Figure D

This is the full teach mode.

So sticking with our example you would first click the Begin Teach Mode button, which will automatically highlight the Key #1 section. Click the key you want to remap (for our example it would be the Caps Lock key) and then the #2 section will automatically highlight. Click the Delete key and then, to finalize the remapping selection, click the Remap Key button. Once you click the Remap Key button, the Full Teach mode window will go away.

Half teach mode

To be honest I am not quite sure why the half teach mode is necessary, because this pretty much re-creates what is already on the screen. You select a key, choose where the key is to be remapped to from a drop-down list, and then click the Remap button. To me that is too similar to the default method of remapping in the main window to be necessary.

Special buttons

Of course this section will apply only to those keyboards that include such buttons. For example, not all keyboards have a WWW Home key. But if your keyboard does include that button you're in luck, because you can remap it!

Final thoughts

There have been many occasions when I have wanted to remap keys on my Windows keyboard. But not being a registry pro I didn't have the skill to do this. Now, with KeyTweak, I don't need to have epic skills with the registry to remap a Windows keyboard. This piece of "donation ware" is very much worth the price of admission.

Stay on top of the latest XP tips and tricks with TechRepublic's Windows XP newsletter, delivered every Thursday. Automatically sign up today!