Revived Windows 95 PowerToys lets you create Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts

Microsoft PowerToys developers say the new keyboard manager will help Linux- and Mac-to-Windows switchers.

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Contributors to Microsoft's revived take on its 1990s-era PowerToys tool are working on a new keyboard manager that will let users remap a computer's keys. 

The keyboard effort builds on Microsoft's recently open-sourced PowerToys, which gave back to Windows power users a favorite tool that was developed by the Windows 95 shell team. 

The open-source release gives power users a set of tools to customize Windows functionality to eke out more efficiency from the Windows 10 shell and customize workflows.   

Microsoft released a basic version of open-source PowerToys in September with two utilities, including FancyZones for creating customizable zones that allows users to drag windows into neatly organized alignments. 

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The new keyboard manager utility's key-remapping feature lets users switch the Tab key to Delete, for example, or change what happens to any key when it's pressed.

"PowerToys has just released a new utility called Keyboard Shortcut Manager. This keyboard manager enables customers to customize their computer on a keyboard level. With it, all the keys on your keyboard are dynamic and can be remapped to provide different outputs," the PowerToys project announced on GitHub

The developers justify the new software on the grounds that Windows has historically given users a way to configure the keyboard.

The project argues that it could be a good tool for Windows 10 users who've recently switched from a Mac or Linux system and aren't familiar with Windows shortcuts. Switchers are forced to expend more muscle memory on everyday tasks like copy and paste or switching browsers.

They point out that a Mac user would use thumb for Command + C to copy an object, but on a Windows 10 machine they'd need to use a little finger for the shortcut Ctrl + C. 

"A successful [Keyboard Shortcut Manager] would increase comfortability and users wouldn't feel like they lost functionality or convenience with switching to Windows 10," the developers argue. 

"In effect, it would help decrease churn and avoid a negative experience for a new user, which is crucial for public sentiment on Windows." 

The PowerToys keyboard manager also fills some functionality gaps in existing third-party apps, including AutoHotkey and SharpKeys on Windows, as well as Karabiner Elements for macOS. 

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The developers point out, for example, that AutoHotkey lacks a UI, while SharpKeys doesn't offer OS-level shortcuts and is unable to remap keys that cannot be remapped from Windows registry access, such as Fn, Windows, and Calculator.

For Mac and Linux switchers, the project is looking to create profiles that are repopulated with commonly used remapping and adjustments. 

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The new keyboard manager utility's key-remapping feature lets users switch the Tab key to Delete, for example.,  

Image: Microsoft