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I need use the key combinations Ctrl-Alt-Left Arrow and Ctrl-Alt-Right Arrow in an application on my computer. When I use Remote Desktop to connect to that computer, either the Remote Desktop Client (mstsc.exe) or the RDP server implementation swallow these key combinations. The combos appear to be reserved to the Remote Desktop, although they don't seem to be doing anything.

Is there a way (supported or not) to disable this behavior so that the key combinations are sent to my application?

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+50

The hotkeys Ctrl+Alt+Left Arrow and Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow are eaten up by the Remote Desktop Client. Their only effect is to switch you to back to the host computer.

It looks like this was some intended feature that was never fully programmed and completed, but there is no way to turn it off. These hotkeys are not even listed by Microsoft in its official documentation at Remote Desktop Services Shortcut Keys.

Solution 1 : Use the Microsoft Store version

Another version of RDP can be found in the Microsoft Store at Microsoft Remote Desktop.

This version does not have this semi-implemented feature, so it lets through these hotkeys without a problem. This was verified on Windows 10 version 1903.

Solution 2 : Translate the hotkeys on both client and server

This solution will use AutoHotkey installed on both client and server, to:

  • On the client, translate the above hotkeys to others that are not intercepted by RDP
  • On the server, translate these keys back to the above hotkeys.

You may for example use on the client the following AutoHotkey script to convert
Ctrl+Alt+arrow to Ctrl+Win+arrow:

;Send Ctrl+Win+Left when user types Ctrl+Alt+Left
^!Left::
send !#{Left}
return

;Send Ctrl+Win+Right when user types Ctrl+Alt+Right
^!Right::
send !#{Right}
return

You may use on the server the following AutoHotkey script to convert
Ctrl+Win+arrow to Ctrl+Alt+arrow:

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Left when user types Ctrl+Win+Left
^#Left::
send !^{Left}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Right when user types Ctrl+Win+Right
^#Right::
send !^{Right}
return

If required, you may restrict these hotkeys to particular windows or process by using the AutoHotkey commands of #IfWin[Not]Active / #IfWin[Not]Exist.

3
  • Yes, just awarded you the bounty. This didn't lead me to a solution I wanted to but it answered the question so that I believe it will stop people from riposting the same question elsewhere. Great job! – jpierson Jan 10 '20 at 21:54
  • This seems like a good solution, but the problem is that the ctrl-alt-keys are now not usable on the local system because they are translated. Is it possible to only do the translation when the focus is in the RDP app? – fool4jesus Jun 11 '20 at 13:55
  • I know this is old, but yes, start the ahk script with this line: #IfWinActive, ahk_exe mstsc.exe – MassuguGo Oct 4 '20 at 23:27
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Thanks to the poster and the answers so far; these helped me solve my similar issue: I have keyboard shortcuts on my desktop PC's text editor that use Ctrl+Alt+..., and I wanted to be able to use them when accessing the machine remotely.

With this AHK script, I type Win instead of Alt and I'm able to accomplish the commented commands below. Now regardless of which PC I use to access the remote desktop PC (i.e., when home or traveling), I can use my shortcuts (and Win is pretty near Alt). Here's my AHK script:

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Left keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Left
^#Left::
send !^{Left}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Right keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Right
^#Right::
send !^{Right}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Up keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Up
^#Up::
send !^{Up}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Down keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Down
^#Down::
send !^{Down}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Left keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Shift+Left
^#+Left::
send !^+{Left}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Right keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Shift+Right
^#+Right::
send !^+{Right}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Up keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Shift+Up
^#+Up::
send !^+{Up}
return

;Send Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Down keys when user types Ctrl+Win+Shift+Down
^#+Down::
send !^+{Down}
return

Note, I use "Apply windows key combinations...On the remote computer" in Remote Desktop Connection, so I run this script on the remote computer.

While there are probably more efficient AHK ways to do this, the above works for me. Hope this helps someone else, too.

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Make sure you have the Keyboard settings set to something appropriate for how you use RDP. Have a look in the options for your RDP connection, on the Local Resources Tab.

If you always have the connection full screen then set it to "Only when using the full screen" but if you don't use RDP in full screen then set it to "On the remote computer."

RDP Key Combo

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  • 18
    This does not solve the issue. I always have the connection full screen, and the "Local Resources/Keyboard" settings are set to "Only when using the full screen". This means I can use Alt-Tab and the like, but I still canot use Ctrl-Alt-Left Arrow or Ctrl-Alt-Right Arrow. – Fabian Schmied Aug 25 '11 at 13:34
  • I find that Ctrl-Alt-Up and Ctrl-Atl-Down do work; but Ctrl-Alt-Left and Ctrl-Alt-Right no longer do. Although they all used to work until recently. – Steve Pitchers Jul 17 '17 at 14:22
  • I find this really annoying, mstsc.exe doesn't seem to matter what I try Ctrl-Alt-Left and Ctrl-Alt-Right doesn't work. The other Remote Desktop app (maybe only available in Windows 10) does pass on those keystrokes but it has other limitations such as no dual monitor support and seems to disconnect a bunch for me. – Glen Sep 26 '18 at 21:56
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For using CtrlAlt+ in Far Manager I used the following AutoHotKey script:

!^Right::
send ^+{F9}
return

!^Left::
send ^+{F8}
return

… where under CtrlShiftF8/F9 I have Far macros which do the same as when pressing CtrlAlt+.

This workaround only works if in Properties, the connection option Keyboard is set to "On this computer".

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  • I'm marking this as the accepted answer because I ended up doing something similar: I, too, have an AutoHotKey script on my host computer that captures and translates the key combo to a different one; then I have a second AutoHotKey script on the remote computer that translates it back to the original key combo. – Fabian Schmied Oct 17 '12 at 9:00
  • But, this option force the remote user to change the shortcut used remotely, right? – chomp Feb 22 '19 at 12:43
  • There's another answer now that shows how to use AutoHotKey to translate the key sequence to something other on the client, then translate it back on the server: superuser.com/a/1514904/79488. I'm marking that one as the accepted answer now because it's more complete and contains more details. Still, kudos for the idea of using AutoHotKey! – Fabian Schmied Jan 7 '20 at 10:19
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For what it's worth, if you need Ctrl + Alt + Up to work in VSCode a less painful way is just to remap it to say Ctrl + Alt + Num8

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Not so much as a solution, so much as a workaround. I removed the bookmark shortcuts and replaced them with the Navigation shortcuts. This will give up Bookmark shortcuts 9 and 10.

In IntelliJ in the Remote Desktop:
Help -> Find Action..
Type "Back" in the input field and it should bring up the Navigation Back including displaying the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Left.
Press "Alt+Enter"
Press "Ctrl+9" and click Ok.

Repeat process for Forward.

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