If you are using a laptop, you likely do not have a number pad on the right side of your keyboard. However, most standard keyboards have it, despite many people not using the section at all. Sure, accountants and programmers use it all day every day, but for the rest of us, it would be great to be able to use those keys for something else. Luckily, Avram has a couple of great tools to be able to put those 14 keys to your right to work for you.
First up is a tool called SharpKeys. This tool is designed specifically to remap one to another. So, for instance, maybe you want to turn your number pad plus and minus keys into Windows volume up and volume down keys instead. Using SharpKeys you can do exactly that.
The benefit of using this particular tool is that it does not have to run in the background, using system resources. Instead, it makes changes to your Windows registry to actually tell Windows to treat the keys differently. This will reduce system lag while giving direct access to the computer's functionality. The downside of this is that it means you cannot do anything terribly advanced with the keys. It is a direct one-to-one map, and nothing more. If simple is your preference, then SharpKey is for you.
However, if you want to do more advanced functions with your keyboard, then you might want to give AutoHotkey a shot. With AutoHotkey, you can do a lot more than just map keys to one another. You can create macros, write common phrases, open programs, and run commands that do not have their own keyboard shortcuts.
Let's pretend that Notepad didn't have the ctrl + s keyboard shortcut for save. You could also type alt, f, s to access the menu manually. But, with AutoHotkey, you could turn one of the keys on your keyboard, or even a keyboard combination, into that same command. So, you could reprogram ctrl + s to manually type out alt, f, s and save the file.
Even more interesting, you can limit the scope of your keyboard macros. Perhaps you only want a particular shortcut to work in Microsoft Edge. You can set the context of ctrl + s to do something completely different, like clicking on a save button on the screen. Then, you could use the same key combination to do something else in Notepad.
If you've ever thought that using your keyboard to move your mouse pointer might be a great use of your time and patience, then Windows Mouse Keys is available. You can search for "mouse keys" in the Windows 10 menu, or in the Settings app. This Windows feature allows you to use your number pad's arrow keys to move the mouse up, down, left, right, and all of the diagonals. Clearly this feature is not for everyone, but it could possibly put those keys to work.
Avram has a lot more information, including step-by-step instructions on how to install and use these tools over at Tom's Hardware.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.