Keyboard Ninja Beginner: Using Hotkeys the Easy Way in Windows

By Lowell Heddings on April 18th, 2008

If you’ve been a reader of this site for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with the Keyboard Ninja concept… we like to feature all sorts of ways to quickly access applications or functions with complicated shortcut keys. But what about regular people? Isn’t there a simpler solution?

There’s a great little open-source application called HotKeyBind that will let anybody setup a few hotkeys with an easy to use interface and a pre-set list of “Actions” that let you perform various functions like shutting down windows or launching an application.

Note: I’ll detail a few useful hotkey ideas, but there are too many features to cover them all, so it’ll be up to you to explore the rest on your own.

Setting Up the Preferences

There’s really almost nothing to the application in terms of settings, but there’s two settings you’ll probably want to change after launching the application for the first time.

Click on the icon in the system tray, and then go to the Other tab. From here you can choose to start the application with Windows, but you can also turn off the On Screen Display, which is the only thing about this application I found really annoying.

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Disable Built-In Windows Shortcut Keys

Ever wanted to disable the Win+F1 help hotkey, or the Win+D show desktop hotkey? You can do that from the Windows Hotkeys tab… very useful!

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Note that this utility isn’t really made for Vista, but it seemed to work for me.

Setting Up a Hotkey for Searching Google

If you’ve ever wanted to be able to use a single shortcut key, type in a keyword, and then go right to the search result page, this utility can do that for you. Open up the Preferences dialog and click the Add button:

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You’ll be prompted with the “Add an action” dialog box, which has a big list of predefined actions that you can use. For this example we’ll choose Internet \ Web search.

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Now you can select the search engine (although google seems like reasonable choice)

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Now you can assign a shortcut key of your choice by checking the boxes for the modifier keys, and then just type the letter on your keyboard that you want to use. (You’ll be prompted if you are overriding another application’s hotkey)

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Now when you use the Win+G hotkey combination, you’ll be presented with this dialog, no matter what application you are currently in.

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Type in your search and your web browser will be launched with the Google search for whatever you typed in.

Create a Hotkey to the Shut Down Windows Dialog

Getting to the old-school Shut Down Windows dialog in Vista is actually somewhat difficult (you have to click on the desktop before using Alt+F4), but you can assign it to any shortcut key combination that you’d like with this tool. Just look for Shut Down \ Show shutdown window in the new hotkey list:

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And then after hitting the combination you assigned you can get to this dialog again easily:

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Create a Hotkey to Quickly Insert a Signature

Sure, your email application probably can already insert signatures, but what if you use more than one client, or need to paste something into a forum thread on a regular basis? You can setup a hotkey to insert text by going to Text \ Insert text in the new hotkey dialog:

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Type in the text you want to insert, and then assign a hotkey on the next screen.

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Now whenever you hit your shortcut key, your text will be inserted. It’s really quite basic functionality, but could be useful.

Create a Shortcut Key to Launch Any Application

Naturally you can use this utility to create a hotkey to launch an application as well. Just choose Launch file \ Execute a program…

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Then use the Browse button to find the application you want to launch. You can also pass in arguments as well if you need to.

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This application can do quite a bit more, but you’ll have to explore it on your own to see all the features.

Download HotKeyBind from sourceforge.net

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/18/08
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