You might remember that I was looking for a program to set global shortcuts to reserved keys like F1-F12. Winlauch is a program that can set global shortcuts and comes very close to fulfilling my wish.
Note: The Winlaunch website is no longer available and the program itself is no longer compatible with recent versions of Windows. There appears to be no comparable program available at this point in time for Windows that replicates the functionality. If you want to check out all existing global hotkeys, try HotKeysList for that.
But let me start at the beginning. It's relatively easy to set specific shortcuts in Windows that are recognized globally. It does however reach its limits when other applications, like Windows or a specific program, are already using those shortcuts.
Shortcuts can be added by using an easy to understand wizard or by importing a list of previously created shortcuts into Winlauch.
You have to define the shortcut type in the first screen, a program, internet shortcut or custom command for example. The next window defines the selected type further. A program could be selected from a list of programs that are currently running on the system or by selecting an executable file on the hard drive, and the shortcut would then run the selected program when activated.
The final screen configures the shortcut key and the state of the window or application that will be started by pressing it. A state could be hidden, minimized or normal. The real novelty is that single keys can be assigned. This means that a user could configure the F12 key to open Thunderbird and F11 to open Firefox.
The existing shortcuts are displayed in a well arranged manner. Winlauch uses some sort of learn mode to find out if shortcuts from other applications are interfering with the user created shortcuts.
Exceptions can also be added manually. For instance, so that pressing F11 will enable full screen mode in all browsers. Adding applications to the list of exceptions will disable all shortcuts when those applications are focused.
Back to my initial need to use the F-keys and other single keys as shortcuts. Winlaunch provides the option to set any key as a shortcut, no matter if it is a single key or key combination. This unfortunately means that some keys will have double functions. F1 would open the Help and a program selected. I really hope Microsoft will add more flexibility to Windows 7 once it comes out, I really cannot see a reason to keep F1 as the help key since I never use the help.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.