This is a UX/documentation issue combined with a "what the heck" windows issue; hopefully this is the right place to post it, I couldn't find a stackexchange site focused on documentation.

In my documentation for my cross-platform (OSX/MacOS and Win10) application, I'm working on explaining how these operating systems will variously consume some keystrokes before they reach the application; this affects what keyboard shortcuts can be ultilized at the application level. Each OS will do this differently (and then there are the CMD-key vs. Control-key menu invocations and similar.) Plus, the user can override some of those things (at least on the Mac... more on that below.) So it's something I want to cover well.

My application can map any internal function to any key combination that reaches it; but what key combinations actually reach it vary by what keyboard you have, what OS you're running, and again at least on a Mac, by what the user keyboard preferences are set to as well.

So under OS X / MacOS, I am referring to the Keyboard Preferences to point them to the standard OS user settings they might want to examine and/or modify if they want to change which keystroke combinations actually end up available to them down at the application level. I'm primarily an OS X / MacOS user, and I'm sure I'm using the right terminology there, as well as pointing them to the correct facilities.

But I'm at a loss for a way - ideally as concise - to refer the user to a similarly handy Windows preferences facility such that they'll "get it" on first reading. I found this, which seems to imply there is no such facility, standard... but I can't find a built in means to manage such things, so perhaps this kind of find-it-and-add-it-on facility is all there is?

If there is such a thing standard, where the heck is it? And what would it be called?

keystroke flow

  • Given the existence of keyloggers (whether operating for good intentions or bad), it is evident that it is possible for software to receive all keystrokes. Perhaps your problem could be avoided by lower-level access to keystrokes?
    – straya
    Feb 21, 2020 at 0:39
  • @straya -- no doubt I could pirate all the keystrokes if that was my aim, however, that's not quite the nature of the problem - if the OS is intercepting and consuming keystrokes, one assumes it is doing so for the right reasons (ie, the user wants it to, at least under OSX/MacOS.) One thing I was after was to be able to detect which keys those where so as to not offer them as selectable in-app keystroke command options. The other is simply to be able to describe the issue well in the documentation. I've got all this going on the Mac. Windows... not so much.
    – fyngyrz
    Feb 22, 2020 at 23:20

1 Answer 1


On Windows these are typically referred to as keyboard shortcuts. The standard is that the standard system commands are available and remain the same, so certainly the standard exists, Microsoft may not be making it as easy to break the standard as Apple though.

  • I'm taking this as authoritative until/unless I hear otherwise. Have written the Windows 10 referencing portion of the keyboard remapping docs for my app accordingly.
    – fyngyrz
    Feb 23, 2020 at 0:04
  • @fyngyrz Microsoft terminology support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4026425/… "system commands" is terminology more rooted in command line tools (so I removed it from Answer)
    – straya
    Feb 23, 2020 at 0:16
  • Oh, plus a handy list of them. Wish I could upvote you twice :)
    – fyngyrz
    Feb 23, 2020 at 18:52

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