When I'm using Chrome, Powerpoint, Notepad++, etc. I take a lot of advantage of the keyboard shortcuts in those programs. However, this gets a bit tedious and straining, having my pinky stretch down to the CTRL key every time I need to save, for example.

At this point my pinky is strong enough to beat anyone in the "Pinky Wrestling" that Burger King describes on their hash brown baggies, but it's also quite sore after a couple hours in front of the computer.

How should I go about hitting the CTRL key without straining my pinky?

  • By “stretching”, do you mean folding/bending? Which hand are you talking about? I have no trouble pressing the left Ctrl key with my pinky, but doing so with the right one certainly crunches my finger. However, I can comfortably hold the right Ctrl key with my right thumb. – Synetech Aug 1 '11 at 4:49
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    That's why Apple placed their equivalent primary keyboard shortcut key where the alt key is on Windows keyboard. Much easier on the fingers. – Daniel Beck Aug 1 '11 at 10:10
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    Funny, I never use the pinky to hit the Ctrl Key. I just hit it with my outside knuckle. – surfasb Aug 1 '11 at 10:22
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    My first thought when reading was "EMACS Syndrome". And @Daniel, Haiku OS does much the same thing, but instead uses ALT for what most other operating systems use CTRL for. – new123456 Aug 1 '11 at 13:30
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    @new Interesting, unfortunately I'm not particularly keen on using an alpha release OS ;) – Daniel Beck Aug 1 '11 at 14:31

12 Answers 12

up vote 35 down vote accepted

I'd suggest that you don't use your pinky at all - press the outer command keys using the base of your small finger on the relevant hand (the edge of your palm, essentially), this works well for Ctrl and Ctrl+Shift combos.

This method doesn't require moving your hand much and doesn't require any finger gymnastics. I guess it might need a little bit of practice if its new to you, and is completely useless if you have a "flat" laptop keyboard as you need to be able to press in from the edge of the keys.

Since I'm not 100% sure I've explained what I mean very well, here's a quick photo I've just taken of what I mean - my left hand pressing the Ctrl key with the base of my small finger having not moved my hand. For pressing Ctrl+Shift my hand would just be a little further up, to cover both:

Photo showing left hand with base of small finger pressing Ctrl left of keyboard

Another option is to press Ctrl and the key being modified with different hands if you don't do so already - allowing you to lower the hand pressing Ctrl and avoid the finger gymnastics, but this again will need training and might be slower in general but especially if you happen to have the other hand on the mouse at the time.

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    Ctrl-X and Ctrl-Z are difficult to press like that with just one hand. – Daniel Beck Aug 1 '11 at 10:12
  • Ctrl+X isn't really a problem - the index finger is much easier to bend to X than the small finger is to Ctrl. But you are correct that Ctrl+Z is pretty difficult, I tend to use a curled 3rd finger here, but it's not the most comfortable manoeuvre. But Ctrl+Z is (usually) "undo" anyway, so will normally cause a break in flow, such that I'd say a delay in pressing it isn't really a problem. Hopefully, it's also used more rarely than the "easier" combinations. – DMA57361 Aug 1 '11 at 10:19
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    It's fairly easy to use your thumb to press Ctrl+Z in this position. – Alex Barrett Aug 1 '11 at 10:54
  • Somehow that feels even less comfortable that using my third finger @Alex. Just what I'm used to, I suppose. Still, one way or another it is viable. :) – DMA57361 Aug 1 '11 at 14:37
  • I can’t press the left Ctrl key with the side of my hand in your photo, instead I (apparently naturally, though I didn’t notice until just now), hold it with the first segment of my pinky (the section between the palm and first knuckle). In other words, I never bend my pinky, I keep it nice and straight. – Synetech Aug 2 '11 at 1:04

Using autohotkey, remap your capslock key as your third control key; the script will go something like this--

; capslock into control key
SetCapsLockState, AlwaysOff
Send {Control Down}
Sleep 500
Send {Control Up}
  • Then how do you use the caps lock key?? Plus, he was asking how to hit it, not how to avoid hitting it. – soandos Aug 1 '11 at 4:29
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    @soandos Seriously, how often do you need to type in all caps for an extended period of time? I don't have a mapped CAPSLOCK. Much better to hold the shift key for a few seconds to type a word or two and use that valuable keys pace for something useful. – bahamat Aug 1 '11 at 5:05
  • @sandos--after remapping caps lock as your third control key, you then use that as you would when you need to use the control key (but now it's easier on your pinky). Like bahamat, I seldom use caps lock. I sit on the shift key while I type in the letters. Try it yourself and see the difference. – Jim Syyap Aug 1 '11 at 22:04
  • I had to disable my lower left ctrl key to force-train myself a new habit – bradvido Oct 3 '14 at 12:54
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    This is a very useful program. I personally use it to invert all the number row keys to be able to access symbol directly and number with the help of shift key. This prevent having to use my pinky to press the shift key and, in my case, because I'm a programmer, I more often use the symbols than numbers. – Samuel Nov 8 '15 at 12:46

Since you are supposed to hit the control key on the opposite side of the keyboard of the key that you want to hit, just slide your other hand back to hit it. It may be easier to rotate your hand instead though.

Here is a page (xahlee.org) that talks about various ways to avoid the pinky problem.

I tried the method he outlines for pressing the control key using your palm, and had varying levels of success. Unfortunately, years of habit is very hard to break, and I keep falling back to using my pinky (on Caps Lock key, at least).

OS X has a built-in way to remap ⇪ to ⌃:

enter image description here

A bit extreme, but you could make a custom keyboard layout where the actions usually provided by modifier key states are accessed with dead keys under the thumbs:

enter image description here

On OS X the actions under control or command can't be remapped using this technique, but the actions that output single characters (under shift and option) can.

Before doing shortcuts like this, I lift my left hand off the home row (A S D F) to a new position.

I tend to turn my hand to the left slightly (~5-10°) and move my fingers down a row.

The final position is then Ctrl Z X C, with V to the right of my index finger.

Using Ctrl as a pivot point, if I open my hand the T key can be reached without much strain.

I think the strain you mention may be caused by trying to reach for Ctrl without moving your hand.

You could try a different keyboard. A smaller one may fit your hand better. In fact, you may want to look into an ergonomic keyboard that feels good to you for general use, not just Chrome.

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  • I used 3 different ergonomic keyboards from now and I can assure you that ergonomic keyboards are the best solution IMHO. I currently use the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard since 3 weeks and it's a joy for my fingers. Just not to be totally inapt to use a normal keyboard, I tried yesterday to switch back to a normal keyboard for one week and I change my mind after a couple of hours because the pain having the hands squeezed at the center of the keyboard. Ctrl+C and other shortcut are done with the left part of the space bar button that I change to Ctrl key. – Samuel Nov 8 '15 at 12:42

You can also download Microsoft's Keyboard mapper and design your very own layout.


It's relatively trivial to swap the buttons and load it up as a new keybaord mapping. While it take a bit more effort than the above solutions, it has the added advantage of being more compatible at a lower level. This is the same tool people used to make the DVORAK - QWERTY + CTRL layout.


The pinky strain depends on your compatibility with the keyboard. I recently bought an expensive Microsoft ergonomic wireless keyboard (because my old dell one was too noisy) and while it's great for typing, it's a pinky-killer.

The problem with this one is that the Ctrl button is too close to the Z button. I have to bend my pointer and my pinky until they almost touch.

I had no problem with the dell doing this, but with the new microsoft keyboard I'd better learn how to use another finger for the Z.

After just a couple of days I'm feeling pain in the articulations. I do 3D and I probably hit Ctrl, Shift, alt, Z, X, C, V combinations about 20 times a minute. Funny I never had a problem with my dell keyboard (over 3 years of use). I guess "one-size-fits-all" doesn't go with keyboards.

Bottom line - try to find a quality keyboard based on reviews. Once bought, try to adapt to it if it doesn't feel natural. Try switching fingers (hard, I know) and ultimately, if you can't get used to it, buy another one. No point in sacrificing your health over a few $$$. A bottle of painkillers may cost as much as a proper keyboard :)

If you're using Windows, turn on StickyKeys (Tap Shift 5x). It lets you use Shift, Ctrl and Alt without holding the keys down.

This way for example when copying, you just press and release Ctrl followed by c.

I found it much more comfortable for my pinky when I did not have to hold these keys down.

You may want foot switch with a macro function. I am using this. You can macro any key up & down strokes into switch on & off. One of Cons is the switch depth is far deep, some fast shortcuts like Ctrl+c, v are not done as you want.

I'm using combination of palm pressing and key remapping mentioned in posted answers. I've swapped LCtrl with Tab using xmodmap and I press the remapped Tab with pinky and remapped LCtrl with palm.

I think it works well in that sense you don't usually press and hold Tab so you don't end up with your hand in different postion during Ctrl+ chords. However you loose pinky during e.g. Ctrl+a compared to pressing LCtrl with palm, but this issue is no different from standard usage w/o palm.

I strongly agree that standard placement of Ctrl is no-go for pinky (especially RCtrl which is often farther than LCtrl) given that how many keyboard shortcuts involve Ctrl.

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