One of the most powerful features in Windows 10 is the ability to set up your own custom hotkeys. Using hotkeys lets you start programs, load websites, and do many other tasks with a keystroke. There are a number of built-in keyboard shortcut options in Windows 10, and there are also powerful third-party tools that will give you access to more options. In this article, I will give you a tutorial on using both these approaches to creating Windows 10 custom hotkeys.
Adding Hotkeys to Program and Website Desktop Shortcuts
First, let’s try one of the most basic approaches to adding hotkeys. You can add a hotkey to any software or website shortcut on the Desktop by right-clicking it and selecting Properties. Then select the Shortcut tab as in the screenshot below:
The tab includes a Shortcut key text box where you can enter a new keyboard shortcut for the program or web page. Just enter a letter there to set up the new hotkey. Note that the shortcut will be the letter combined with Ctrl + Alt. So if you type “I”, then the keyboard shortcut would be Ctrl + Alt + I. You can also enter one of the function keys (F1 through F12 on most keyboards) by pushing it while the focus is in the shortcut key text box.
Press the Apply button and then click OK to close the window. Now press your new hotkey. It will open the program or web page you set it up for.
Set up Shutdown, Restart, and Logoff Keyboard Shortcuts
You can also set up shutdown, logoff, and reboot hotkeys in Windows 10 without using third-party packages. The first step is to create a Desktop shortcut for the desired function. To do this, right-click the Desktop and then select New > Shortcut. The will open the window shown below:
There are three useful things you can enter in the text box. Input “shutdown.exe -s -t 00” to set up a shortcut that shuts down Windows 10. Input “shutdown -r -t 00” for a shortcut that restarts Windows 10. If you input “shutdown.exe –L”, the shortcut signs out of Windows 10.
Press Next and type a suitable title for the shortcut. For example, you can name the shortcut “shutdown” if the shortcut shuts down Windows. Then press Finish to exit. That adds the shortcut to the desktop as below.
Now give the shortcut a hotkey as outlined above. So right-click it, select Properties and the Shortcut tab, then enter a letter in the Shortcut key text box, press Apply, and then OK to exit the window. Now pressing that key plus Ctrl + Alt will shut down, restart, of sign out of Windows 10, depending on what you entered in the first text box of the Create Shortcut wizard.
Adding Custom Hotkeys With Third-Party Software
You can do a lot more with extra third-party software. There are a few programs available for Windows 10, and some of those are freeware programs. WinHotKey is one of the packages you can use to set up customized Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts. Add it to Windows 10 from this Softpedia page--click the DOWNLOAD NOW button there to save the setup wizard, and then open that to add WinHotKey to windows.
The WinHotKey window in the shot above includes a list of default Windows 10 hotkeys. Note that you can’t edit those with this package. What you can do is set up new keyboard shortcuts that open software or documents, or that adjust the active window.
Here’s how to use WinHotKey to set up a hotkey that will launch an application, folder, or document. First, press the New Hotkey button to open the window in the snapshot below. Click the I want WinHotKey to drop-down list and select Launch an Application, Open a Document, or Open a Folder from there. Then click the Browse button to select what the hotkey will open when you press it.
You can choose a variety of keyboard combinations for the hotkeys by selecting the Alt, Shift, Ctrl and Windows checkboxs. Then click the Along with the key drop-down list to add a unique key to the hotkey. Press the OK button when you’ve selected all the required options.
The new keyboard shortcut should then be listed on the WinHotKey window along with the others. Press the hotkey to try it out. It will open the software, document, or folder you selected for it.
You can also set up some window hotkeys with this package. Select the Control the Current Window option from the I want the WinHotKey to drop-down list, then click the Make the Current Window drop-down list below that to expand it as shown below.
So from there you could select the hotkey to minimize the current window to the taskbar when pressed, maximize the window, resize it, or move it around.
Another good software package to set up customized hotkeys with is NirCmd, which is available for most Windows platforms. You can add the utility to Windows 10 from this NirSoft page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Download NirCmd or Download NirCmd 64-bit to save the file (depending on whether or not you are running the 64-bit version of Windows). As NirCmd saves as a compressed zip, you’ll also need to select its compressed file in File Explorer and press the Extract all button. Choose a path to extract the folder to.
Once NirCmd is extracted, you can set up Desktop shortcuts with the Command-Line Utility and turn them into hotkeys. First, create a Desktop shortcut as before by selecting New > Shortcut from the desktop context menu. Press the Browse button and select the NirCmd.exe path from there.
You can add a variety of NirCmd command-lines to that path, which are listed on this page. For example, try adding “mutesysvolume 2” to the end of the path in the Create Shortcut Wizard window. So then it could be something like “C:\Users\Matthew\Downloads\nircmd\nircmdc.exe nircmd.exe mutesysvolume 2” as shown below.
Now click on the new NirCmd desktop shortcut. If the volume isn’t already muted, this will mute it. So you can turn the NirCmd shortcut into a mute hotkey the same as before by right-clicking it, selecting Properties, and entering a key in the Shortcut key text box.
You can set up a variety of NirCmd hotkeys in much the same way. For example, if you add “setsysvolume 65535” to the end of the NirCmd path in the Create Shortcut Wizard instead of “mutesysvolume 2”, the hotkey will maximize the volume when pressed. Alternatively, adding “emptybin” to the end of the path there would set up a shortcut that empties the Recycle Bin.
So you can set up customized Windows 10 hotkeys with and without third-party software. However, the NirCmd and WinHotKey programs offer lots more keyboard shortcut options than Windows 10 does by default. With those hotkeys you can then open software, documents, website pages, shut down or restart Windows 10, adjust volume settings, and much more besides.
Do you have tips or techniques for using Windows 10 hotkeys? Share them with us below!