A hotkey is a keyboard key or a set of keys that, when pressed simultaneously, cause the operating system or a program to execute a specific and pre-configured action.

Hotkeys - also known as keyboard shortcuts, or more rarely: key combinations - have been designed to speed up the access to actions in a program. They are intended to be used with a keyboard, either as a single key or as a combination of keypresses.

Ideally, they replace multiple mouse clicks or command line entries. Hotkeys have several advantages:

  • They improve productivity by accelerating access to commonly used functions. They allow a user to create simple macros by scripting a sequence of hotkeys.
  • They avoid having to switch with one hand between the mouse and keyboard.
  • They improve accessibility for persons with limited ability to use a mouse or with visual impairments.

Certain keys on a standard keyboard act as hotkeys by themselves: F1-F12, Insert, Delete, PgUp, PgDn. Most hotkeys are used in combination with a modifier key like Ctrl, Alt, Shift or the Windows key (Command key on Macs and Meta key on Linux).

Most hotkeys have to be defined by the application developer. Some applications allow users to define their own hotkeys commonly used functions for use within the application.

There are scripting utilities that allow a user to create their own hotkeys for various applications, even if these utilities were not intended to be used with hotkeys.

Questions that should have this tag should be related to

  • availability of hotkeys in programs.
  • avoiding unintended use of hotkeys.
  • creating user defined hotkeys within an application or with a 3rd party utility like AutoIt or AutoHotkey.
  • removing application specific hotkeys that interfere with a user's preferences.