My dad’s getting on in years and his motor control is diminishing. I’m wondering if there’s a way to set up some keyboard shortcuts on his PC to launch his favorite few programs so he doesn’t have to use the mouse quite so much? Ideally, the function keys, if that’s a possibility.
Sorry to hear that your Dad is starting to have some challenges around fine motor control. Modern computer interfaces are still primarily designed for the fully able, though there are a lot more assistive technologies and interface elements that can be utilized to make things easier. Windows has an entire suite of accessibility features, actually, so you might want to start with this page of info: Windows 10 Accessibility Features.
If all you seek are some keyboard shortcuts to make launching a few favorite programs easier, however, that can be done directly through the options on a program shortcut icon directly on the Desktop. Sound complicated? It’s not. In fact, since I already have a shortcut for the public library sharing app OverDrive on my Desktop, I’ll go through every step required to create a shortcut to make launching it super easy…
CREATE A KEYBOARD SHORTCUT TO LAUNCH A PC PROGRAM
The first step is to either create or find the Desktop shortcut for the program or app in question. You can always tell it’s a shortcut by the tiny curled arrow on the lower left:
I don’t want to actually launch the program, however. Instead, a right-click on the icon brings up a contextual menu with a number of different options:
You want to choose “Properties“, the very bottom option, from the list. Once you do, a small window will pop up with quite a lot of tabs along the top:
You can rename the icon if you want by simply replacing the text in the upper box, and you can see the exact size, etc. Remember, though, this information is for the shortcut so the program itself is definitely bigger than 2.47KB.
Along the top is a tab labeled “Shortcut“. Click on it and some different information is displayed:
There are a number of fields here, but you just want to focus on the one labeled “Shortcut key“. Click to move the focus into that box (it says “None” by default), then press the keyboard combo you want to define as the launch sequence.
Not only don’t I want to map something like the “O” key to launch the app in this instance, but you also can’t remap a control sequence either. No remapping Ctrl-Z to launch Zoo Tycoon! Why? Because every time your Dad then pressed “O” he’d launch the program, not get that letter to appear. Similarly with Ctrl-Z. You can map more complex sequences, however, so I can set up Ctrl+Alt+O to launch OverDrive if I want:
What’s way more useful is that you can click in the “Shortcut key” box, then press a function key you’d like to use too. So maybe F1 launches OverDrive, F2 launches Zoo Tycoon, and so on.
Once you’re happy with the shortcut, click “Apply” on the lower right. Most likely, you’ll then get this prompt:
If your account is an administrator account, a click on “Continue” is sufficient. If not, you might be prompted to confirm your access rights at this point.
Once done, however, the keyboard shortcut should be set and will be remembered across reboots too. In my case, a quick press of Ctrl+Alt+O fires up OverDrive, just as I’d hope:
Notice the lower left of the window: “For Help, press F1”. That’s one good reason not to assign this program the F1 key as a shortcut, or you’ll never be able to use F1 to invoke help. I suggest you skip F1-F4 and use the higher numbers if you want to utilize the function key row for this task. Finally, create a cheat sheet for your Dad that indicates keystroke and app and I bet he’ll be darn appreciative of your efforts.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Windows 10 for quite some time and earlier versions of Windows before that. While you’re visiting, why not check out my Windows 10 & PC help area? Thanks!