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As on most laptops, my laptop has "special" keys, or media keys, as they are sometimes called.

On Linux, I can easily read keycodes with things like xev, put other functions back to it. Either with xmodmap or by simply giving the keys functions in my window manager.

How is that possible on Windows? Is there even a way to scan those keys and remap them? Possibly even give them different functions as on Linux?

If so, where do I do that? I heard of several programs atempting on changing that, but I don't see why I should install another program. I see it as integral part of the OS.

For instance, I have a key with an 'i' in a circle. It normally opens a new browser window. When Chrome is already open, it makes the current tab go to my selected homepage (which is about:blank). I'd like to change the functionality of it.

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Your laptop should have come with software for defining those buttons anyways. This is because Windows has very limited built in functionality for dealing with non-standard keyboard buttons. Barring that, the only safe and easy way is to use a third party application like Event Ghost.

Yes, you can try to accomplish what you want by mucking around in the registry, but it's not safe, and it's not easy. Since you're actually asking how to change the functionality for Chrome, your best bet is going to be something like Event Ghost.

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OK, but are there means on checking scancodes and possibly see if a button sends an ACPI message? –  polemon Mar 20 '12 at 21:27
    
@polemon: Yes, there is, but I don't know how to do it off hand. You may not even be able to achieve what you want by doing that anyway. That's why I suggested Event Ghost, as I know it'll do what you want. –  MBraedley Mar 21 '12 at 0:58
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