Like its creators, I've abandoned WinKey. Whether or not it sticks has yet to be determined but I think it will thanks to the fine folks at QLiner. Some time ago, I tried their HotKeys application, a Win key mapping application, and discarded it based on two things:

  • Minor confusion when the on-screen keyboard would disappear after releasing the Win key
  • No support for Shift+Win, Ctrl+Win, or Alt+Win

The first issue has been addressed in that you can actually launch the on-screen keyboard as an application albeit it appears you can do it only through a Win key combination mapped from the application itself. There be no way to launch it externally as far as I can see. But it's not like I'd actually try to look for it from the Start menu.

The second issue is still outstanding but after a year with WinKey, I can honestly say, I have never used the Win key in combination with Shift, Ctrl, or Alt.

So with both impediments removed, it was time to take another look at the product and see what they've done in the year since I last saw it. The interface (and indeed, the website itself) is still pretty, almost Mac-like, which is probably not an accident. I like the drag and drop support if you want to shift shortcuts around. And it still has support for niceties like volume control and Control Panel applets. And best of all, it's still free.

But that's still not all. There are two new things that have really piqued this hillbilly's interest something that hasn't happened since the last family reunion.

Both are technically add-ins to the product but they are included with the base install. The first is support for zipping and unzipping files. As in, you press Win+1 (or whatever you've mapped it to) to zip selected files and Win+2 to unzip them. No more right-clicking and navigating to WinZip | Unzip to current location. It's all done with the keyboard now. (This is especially nice at the place where I'm working now where they've eschewed any third-party zip tool in favour of the not-so-esthetic Windows XP default extractor.)

The second is screen capture support. I haven't given it my full attention but it seems rudimentary compared to others. Still nice to have it as an option only two keystrokes away.

There are a couple of downers: I've managed to hang the app a couple of times in the short time I've had it installed. (The zip features, despite my raving, seem particularly buggy.) And the on-screen keyboard doesn't always refresh promptly (or at all). This is particularly true if you open the keyboard, switch to another application that covers it even partially, then switch back to it. The visual cues are all gone even though it still works as expected.

Also, it takes over your default Win key maps. Not too big a deal since it overrides them with the same functionality. But I was a little surprised to see the Run dialog appear for Win+R rather than SlickRun. And for Win+E, it doesn't actually open a new instance of Explorer, it switches to the existing one (if open). And if there is more than one instance open, it cycles through them. Very annoying but apparently will be addressed.

Finally, due to the flashy UI and the fact that it's a .NET app, it's not exactly what one would call a lightweight app. There are complaints about that in the forums and rumblings that the devs will switch to something more portable. Regardless, I don't care much given how many other .NET apps I'm running at any given moment.

Overall, my second impression is very positive. It still kind of surprises me that tools like this don't get as much press as, say, SlickRun or Launchy. Those two are still great and one or both will always be installed on my computer but there is no comparison 'twixt typing Alt+Space, then "vs", then Enter to launch Visual Studio versus typing Win+S.

Having said all this, I'll be using AutoHotKey instead.

Kyle the Expedient