Hotkey Commander - Ultimate Hotkey Managing and Overriding Utility

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Conventional Hotkey

Hotkey is a keyboard combination used as a shortcut to perform some predefined operations, like entering a command or running an application. By reducing such operation sequences to a few keystrokes, this can save user's time significantly. The most famous hotkey must be the <Ctrl>+<Alt>+<Delete> combination, which is widely used in DOS, Windows and Unix GUI. It forces a soft reboot or calls up the system task manager.

Some hotkeys are reserved by operating system or registered by applications, like <Ctrl>+<Esc> (Show/Hide Windows Start menu, reserved by system) and <WIN>+E (Open Windows Explorer, registered by Windows shell process "explorer.exe"). These hotkeys work system-widely. Others are defined by some applications and will only function in those applications themselves, such as <Ctrl>+O (Open File/Document), <Ctrl>+F (Make Search). These are NOT real hotkeys actually, and are usually called accelerator keys instead.

Hotkey Commander's Innovative Keystroke Style

Hotkey Settings

Hotkey Commander (Abbreviation HC) adds great extensions to conventional hotkey and invents revolutionary keystroke style for hotkey definition and utilization. Besides key combinations, you can define key sequences. Modifier keys including <Shift>, <Ctrl>, <Alt> and <Win> key are well supported, with a distinction between left and right ones. i.e. You can define hotkey sequences like "Double hitting <Left Ctrl> key" (like double clicking mouse buttons) to switch tasks, or <A-S-D-F> to run a macro in Excel. Or, if you like to, you can even define hotkeys like <↑-↑-↓-↓-←-→-←-→-A-B> (The well known secret Capcom game key on Nintendo FC game console) to open your secret files, or <↓-→-←-↓-→-←-↓-←-B-C> (Haohmaru's secret attack move in Samurai Shodown II) to launch your favorite games.

To define hotkeys, click drop down icon of the hotkey list item to show hotkey configuration items. First you select the mode of your hotkey: Combination or Sequence[a]. Next choose if you want to distinguish between left and right modifier keys[b] in your hotkey. Then click in the edit box[c] and press whatever key combinations or sequences you like.

In Combination hotkey mode, you can even specify how long the hotkey needs to be held down before firing the hotkey event. For example, you can define functions like "Shuting down my computer after holding down <Pause> key for 3 seconds", which acts as the same way as the power button on your PC case. To configure the time delay for hotkeys, you can either hold down the hotkey when you define it, or you can adjust the timing manually using the spin button[d]. If the hotkey event needs keys being held down to be fired, you can choose whether or not to repeat firing the event by checking/unchecking the Repeat on Holding box[e]. This is useful when you define hotkey functions like increasing or decreasing audio volume. In the condition combobox[f], you can define conditions for hotkey actions. For example, disable hotkeys to stop disturbing when you are running some games.

Example: Overriding <Win> Key with "Double-Hitting <Tab> Key" in Counter-Strike

Let's take an example. You don't expect <Win> key to bother you when you are in Counter-Strike game shooting bullets. You want to override it with double-hitting <Tab> key. First, uncheck the checkbox of the <Win> key item in the System hotkey list. Next, configure the hotkey to override: Select Sequence mode, click in hotkey edit box and press <Tab> key twice. Then click the "+" button beside the condition combobox and select the game's launching executable file. Last, save the settings by clicking the Apply button.


Detecting & Exploring Hotkeys

Hotkey Commander can detect hotkey combinations that have been registered by operating system or other applications. That is, hotkeys in system scope, NOT accelerator keys. When Hotkey Commander starts to run, hotkeys that have been registered are displayed in the System and Application Registered Hotkey list. The hotkey detecting process is only performed ONCE when Hotkey Commander starts, so the hotkey entries may NOT be always up-to-date. To update the hotkey entries, click the Refresh button.

System/Extended Hotkey List

Hotkeys listed here are reserved by operating system or defined by users manually. All these hotkeys can be enabled/disabled by checking/unchecking the box in the first column of the list item. Also they can be overrided by defining your own hotkeys.

The system hotkey items listed are hotkeys reserved by operating system, like <Win> key. Multimedia hotkeys are keys on multimedia keyboards to perform special functions like opening internet browser, email program, media player, adjusting volumn, etc. By defining these hotkeys, you can emulate multimedia keyboard functions even if you don't have one. Extended hotkeys are not reserved by system, but are commonly used in most applications. Such as <Ctrl>+C (copy) and <Ctrl>+V (paste).

In case there are other hotkeys/accelerator keys that you want to disable or override but are missing here, you can add them into the extended hotkey list manually. Click Create Extended Hotkey button and you may add whatever hotkeys for controlling. Clicking Delete Extended Hotkey button will delete the extended hotkey you select. If you want to reset all extended hotkeys to their default settings, click Load Default button.

Extended Hotkey

Application Registered Hotkey List

Hotkeys registered by applications are listed here with their executable filenames. To application developers, it means that these hotkeys are registered by using RegisterHotKey() API or sending WM_SETHOTKEY message. Like system hotkeys, all these hotkeys can be enabled/disabled by checking/unchecking the box in the first column of the list item. Also they can be overrided by defining your own hotkeys.

You may find a lot of familiar Windows hotkeys here, such as:

  • <Win>+E - Open Windows Explorer
  • <Win>+D - Display Desktop
  • <Win>+F - Start Windows Search
  • <Win>+R - Run Program

These hotkeys are all registered by Windows shell process (explorer.exe). Note that hotkeys defined for Windows desktop icons and start menu shortcuts are also registered by it.

Customized Hotkey List

Hotkeys listed here are for customized functions. Such as running programs, opening files, recording/playing macros, shuting down computer, etc. Make good use of the shell open functions. You may find a lot of jobs can be accomplished by them easily. For example, you may specify the 1~7 number keys to play Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti in midi files. Thus turns your PC keyboard into a simple electronic keyboard.

To configure targets to open/run, just click the edit icon. Type in the file/path name or click the "..." button to browse for it. Windows Environment Variables like %WINDIR% are supported here. Click OK icon or press <Enter> when you finish editing.

Shell Function

Macro is a logged series of mouse and keyboard inputs. You can get automation jobs done more efficiently by recording and playing macros back. To record macros, you must first assign hotkeys for them. Then you can start recording by pressing the hotkey defined. And press it again when you want to finish recording. After a macro is recorded successfully, it is ready for playing back. You can also assign a name or note for that macro by editing in the description field. To have users informed when operating with macros, Hotkey Commander changes its icon in the system tray and blinks in macro recording () or playing () state.

More and more custom functions will be added in future versions of Hotkey Commander. If you have good ideas, don't hesitate to tell us.


Unless Save Settings on Exit box is checked, hotkeys and macro functions you defined will NOT be saved when Hotkey Commander exits. If Auto Start with Windows box is checked, Hotkey Commander automatically starts minimized to the system tray icon when Windows starts.

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