Most laptop keyboards don’t ship with in-built software to customise what the buttons do. You also don’t necessarily need every button on your keyboard and a good part of them usually just sit there not serving much of a purpose.
You can, however, customise these buttons and reassign them to any key on any laptop, whether you’re on Windows, macOS or Linux. In this article, we’re taking a look at how you can reassign your keyboard buttons on all three operating systems.
Reassigning keys on Windows
Unless you have a specific software controlling your laptop’s keyboard, you’re going to need a third-party alternative. For Windows users, Microsoft’s PowerToys is the perfect tool for the occasion.
PowerToys is an open-source tool developed by Microsoft that has a number of additional functionality outside of just customising your keyboard. You can create new shortcuts, add features to the File Explorer, get a colour picker, and image resizer, divide your computer into zones and a lot more.
For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll stick to keyboard customisation. Here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Download the PowerToys executable according to your Windows installation from the PowerToys Github page.
Step 2: Double-click the downloaded installer to run the setup.
Step 3: Once PowerToys is open, head over to the Keyboard Manager and click the Open Settings button.
Step 4: Click Remap a key.
Step 5: Under Physical Key select the button you want to remap on your keyboard and under Mapped To select the action you want on the button. For example, here I’ve mapped my Escape key to play/pause music.
Click OK when you’re done and that’s all you need to do to have custom mappings on your keyboard. You can map individual keys, keyboard shortcuts and even function keys as well. Lastly, if you’d like to try out other third-party options you can pick either AutoHotKey or WinHotKey.
Reassigning keys on macOS
We don’t quite have in-house programs for macOS users to remap their keys as freely as Windows, but macOS does ship with some remapping abilities built-in from the get-go.
Step 1: Open the Apple menu and click System Preferences.
Step 2: Select Keyboard and head over to the Shortcuts tab.
Step 3: You’ll see an entire list of keyboard shortcuts available on your Mac divided by categories. You can either enable or disable these shortcuts or modify them by clicking the key combination and typing a new one.
If you’re looking for third-party options, you can try Remap Keyboard which is priced at around $7. Another option is Alfred, a macOS productivity tool with a lot of features in addition to keyboard mapping. Keep in mind that you’ll have to buy the Powerpack extension on Alfred for more advanced key mappings which will set you back around £34 for a single license or £54 for the Mega Supporter license with free lifetime upgrades.
Remapping keys on ChromOS
ChromeOS is basically limited by whatever programs Google allows you to run on the laptop so all we’ve got here are the in-built settings that give you some control of the keyboard.
Step 1: Head over to ChromeOS settings and click Device, followed by Keyboard.
Step 2: Here you can remap the Launcher, Ctrl, Alt, Escape, Backspace and Assistant keys to a number of different functionalities given next to the keys in a dropdown menu. You can also enable whether or not you want to use the top row keys as function keys.
Also read: Keyboard typing backwards: 5 Fixes