Windows key

Windows key

The Windows key or Windows logo key (in short WinKey, Start key, or rarely Flag key, Go To Key (Canada), or Menu Key) is a keyboard key originally introduced for the Windows 95 operating system. On keyboards lacking a Windows key, Ctrl+Esc can instead be pressed, though some functionality is lacking. [Pressing the Ctrl+Esc combination merely brings up the Start Menu. Some Windows key-specific commands, such as minimizing all windows or showing the desktop, are not available from this menu.]

Historically, the addition of two Windows keys and a menu key marked the change from the 101/102-key to 104/105-key layout for PC keyboards: [Initially, 104-key keyboards were frequently called "Windows keyboards" but this denomination has become less and less used with time.] compared to the former layout, a Windows key was placed between the left control key and the left alt; another Windows key and — immediately to its right — a menu key were placed between the AltGr (or right Alt key on keyboards that lack AltGr) and the right control key. In laptop and other compact keyboards it is common to have just one Windows key (usually on the left). Also, on Microsoft's Entertainment Desktop sets (designed for Windows Vista), the Windows key is in the middle of the keyboard, below all other keys (where the user's thumbs rest).


Microsoft regulates the appearance of the Windows key with a specially crafted license for keyboard manufacturers ("Microsoft Windows Logo Key Logo License Agreement for Keyboard Manufacturers"). With the introduction of a new Microsoft Windows logo, first used with Windows XP, the agreement was updated to require that the new design be adopted for all keyboards manufactured after September 1, 2003. [ [ Amendment to the Windows Key Logo License Agreement] (page no longer accessible)] However, with the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft is currently publishing new guidelines for a new Windows Logo key that incorporates the Windows logo recessed in a lowered circle with a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 with respect to background that the key is applied to.

In Common Building Block Keyboard Specification, all CBB compliant keyboard must comply to the Windows Vista Hardware Start Button specification beginning in 2007-06-01.A few keyboard manufacturers have already incorporated this new design into their range of keyboards.

Usage with Windows

Within the standard Windows shell, pressing and releasing the Windows key by itself opens the Start Menu (focusing the Quick Search box in Windows Vista).

Pressing the key in combination with other keys allows invoking many common functions through the keyboard. What Windows key combinations ("shortcuts") are available and active in a given Windows session depends on many factors, including accessibility options, the type of the session (regular or Terminal Services), the Windows version, the presence of specific software such as IntelliType, and others. The External links section below provides a list of Microsoft articles with more details.

In Windows Vista, it is also a Hardware Start Button. It sends the same scan code as regular Windows key, but compliant hardware will turn on computer.


*Windows Logo Key to Open the Start Menu
*Windows Logo Key + B to Select the first icon in the Notification Area
*Windows Logo Key + D to Show Desktop
*Windows Logo Key + E to Open My Computer
*Windows Logo Key + F to Open Search
*Windows Logo Key + F + Control Key to Open Search For Computers program
*Windows Logo Key + F1 to Open Help
*Windows Logo Key + L to Switch Between Users, or Lock desktop while unattended
*Windows Logo Key + M to Minimize All Windows
*Windows Logo Key + M + Shift Key to restore after Minimizing All Windows
*Windows Logo Key + R to Open Run Dialog
*Windows Logo Key + U to open [ Utility Manager]
*Windows Logo Key + Y to Open Yahoo Messenger (if loaded)
*Windows Logo Key + Pause Key To Open System Properties
*Windows Logo Key + Tab Key To Switch Between Active Windows
*Windows Logo Key + X to enter Windows Mobility Center (Windows Vista+ only)
*Windows Logo Key + P to switch Projection modes (clone, extend, single, multiple monitors, etc.) (Windows 7 only)

Usage with other operating systems

The Windows key can also generally be used under different operating systems. Under Unix and Unix-like operating systems it is often used as the Meta key or Compose key.

Desktop environments such as KDE and GNOME for GNU/Linux support it, though it may be necessary to configure its functionalities after installation. Free operating systems often refer to the key as "Meta" or "Super".

Apple's Mac OS X uses the Windows key as a replacement for the Command key if a third-party keyboard is used that does not include the latter. This sometimes leads to placement issues for users used to Apple keyboards however, as the Command key is usually placed where the Alt key is on most keyboards (next to the Space bar)

When using a keyboard on the Xbox 360 console, pressing the Windows key performs the same action as the Guide button on the Xbox 360 controller or remote controls, opening the Xbox Guide in game play. Additionally, holding down the Windows key and pressing M opens a pop up conversation window over game play if an Instant Message conversation is in progress.

When using a USB keyboard with the key for input on a PLAYSTATION 3 console, pressing the Windows key performs the same action as the PS Button on the Sixaxis Controller, opening the XrossMediaBar.

Criticisms and solutions

The placement of the Windows keys, especially the left one, can be problematic due to the possibility of hitting them inadvertently, causing the deactivation of the current window, [See modifier key for more info related to real-time games] while trying to use the CTRL or ALT keys. This is especially problematic during full-screen games as it forces the game to minimize or switch to a windowed mode. Thus the Windows key has become particularly reviled by gamers. To avoid such problems, some applications disable the Windows keys while they are running and some users simply physically remove them from the keyboard. Some keyboards, such as the Logitech G15, have a switch to disable the Windows keys. Alternatively, one can modify the registry to disable the keys. [ [ How to disable the keyboard Windows key ] ]

Users of non-Windows systems used to be disturbed by having a Windows-specific logo on their keyboard. For this reason, sets of stickers and key-caps are available, mainly from online stores, which can be used to restyle the Windows keys with a Tux image, a KDE or specific Linux distribution logo, or other graphics. Some keyboard manufacturers, such as Cherry, also produce keyboards with a "Tux key". Some keyboards now have omitted the right windows key and left context menu key. [,en">]

Recently, some netbook portables, such as ASUS Eee PC and Acer Aspire One, are coming with a Home key instead of a Windows key, mainly because the GNU/Linux installed there as OEM.


See also

*Menu key
*Command key (Apple)
*"X" key (X Window System)

External links

Windows-specific articles

:"(be sure to check the "Applies To" and the "Other information" sections for each article)"
:Windows shortcuts:* [ Video demonstration of the Windows Key shortcuts in Windows XP] :* [ Microsoft keyboard shortcuts] :* [;en-us;301583 Windows XP keyboard shortcuts] :* [;en-us;126449 Windows 95, 98, Me keyboard shortcuts] :* [ Windows Vista keyboard shortcuts]

:Disabling the Windows key:* [ Disabling the Windows Key]

:Overriding or Disabling Default WinKey Keyboard Shortcuts:* [ Overriding or Disabling Default WinKey Keyboard Shortcuts]

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