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I'm writing an app that allows the user to open up a window when they put in a shortcut key.

I have this feature working but I would like to know what shortcut key combination would be best. I obviously don't want to pick something like Ctrl-C as I want the user to be able to use the program without having to Copy to clipboard each time.

At the moment, I've made Ctrl-Alt-R which I think is obscure enough. The only other program I've seen use this is VS2010 which loads up some non-useful page.

Is there some sort of etiquette when it comes to assigning global shortcut keys?

EDIT - Hi guys, to clarify, yes it's a GLOBAL shortcut designed to be used when the program is not in focus. And the program doesn't make much sense without it. It's a language dictionary/flash card program that runs on the task bar, when the user presses the shortcut, it's supposed to search the dictionary and add the highlighted word to their flash card collection.

Therefore, things like Ctrl-T or anything that is commonly used is not going to be good as I don't want them opening up my program when they want to open up a new tab.

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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com May 22 '11 at 14:21

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

2  
Are you talking about a global keyboard shortcut? No, you don't want one of those. –  Cody Gray May 22 '11 at 10:11
    
If you have decided on Ctrl + Alt + Key, you might as well pick a key that makes sense from a semantic point of view. I.e. Ctrl + t stands for new tab, Ctrl + n for new document, so pick a letter than makes sense in your application, for example Ctrl + Alt + d for dictionary (after you have ensured, no major software commonly uses that). –  kontur Jan 3 '13 at 11:35

5 Answers 5

The best way is to not force someone to use anything.

Keep a configuration file and allow your application's users to tailor keyboard shortcuts to their liking.

If you don't want to implement that however, go with standard conventions. For example, opening a new tab is usually Ctrl+T (DakotahNorth's right - Ctrl+N is standard for new window).

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1  
lol - a great idea until the user sets it to Ctrl+C and desktop support techs TP your house for allowing the user to override an O/S standard key mapping. ;-) –  Steven A. Lowe May 22 '11 at 5:27
    
Meh, it's done in the *nix world all the time :) Although I'm sure that if you're using a *nix variant, one could assume that you know what you're doing enough to either not remap O/S standard keys, or at least know of alternatives :) –  Demian Brecht May 22 '11 at 5:56
    
@Demian note the 'windows' tag on the question –  Steven A. Lowe May 22 '11 at 7:24
    
@Steven: True, but I have seen Windows applications that employ the same principles. –  Demian Brecht May 22 '11 at 7:55
    
+1 - don't hard code this. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 22 '11 at 8:17

Consider using Ctrl-N.

For example, both chrome and explorer use Ctrl-N to open up a new browser window.

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2  
yes, Ctrl+N for New Window - existing precedent –  Steven A. Lowe May 22 '11 at 5:26
    
Blech, I was thinking Ctrl+T for standard new tab.. I'm dumb :P +1 –  Demian Brecht May 22 '11 at 5:54
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Problem is that RoboShop seems to be talking about a global shortcut, so if he used e.g. Ctrl+N, you would never be able to open a new window in Chrome or IE because hitting Ctrl+N would be hijacked by his program. –  Carson63000 May 22 '11 at 6:04
    
If this is a global shortcut ... then Ctrl-Shift-N or Ctrl-Alt-N add a more global aspect to the shortcut but preserve using N. –  DakotahNorth May 22 '11 at 12:18

I've read somewhere that Microsoft used Ctrl-Alt-Del for "attention please" because literally all other key combinations had been used by somebody already. Before that it triggered a reboot.

If Microsoft cannot find an global unused key combination not interfering with somebody elses program, you probably cannot either.

Make it configurable what key-combination to use. Perhaps even reconsider if you need this to be triggered by a key-combination at all...

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I'm pretty sure it's because, by OS design, no program can interfere with the function of Ctrl-Alt-Del, so it's a good place to bring up a menu which has reboot, task manager, etc. –  Nathan MacInnes Sep 23 '11 at 7:56

How about the function keys? F10/11/12 could do the trick. Or maybe one of these with ctrl.

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Your application could benefit from having a right click context menu with an option to search within your application as highlighting a word is mostly done with a mouse. Therefore, relying on the users to remember some complex shortcut that is used occasionally does not sound like a good user experience.

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