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Did you know your keyboard has a menu key? On full-sized keyboards, you’ll find it to the left of the right Ctrl key. This key opens context menus, but you can tweak it to make it more useful.

Where is the menu key on the keyboard?

Menu key position highlighted on physical keyboard
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On full-size keyboards, the menu key is located between the right Windows key and the right Ctrl key to the right of the space bar. The menu key is also sometimes referred to as the «application key».

Some smaller keyboards, such as laptop keyboards, are not listed on the keyboard to save space. Other smaller keyboards skip the right Windows key and leave the menu key between the right Alt and Ctrl keys.

In any case, if your keyboard has a menu key, it will be to the left of the right Ctrl key. It doesn’t have the word «menu» printed on it — it has a small picture that looks like a menu. This image is not standardized and will look different on different keyboards. Sometimes it shows a little pointer hovering over the menu, and sometimes it looks like a stylized menu — a square or rectangle with some horizontal lines inside.

What is Menu Key For?

The menu key opens the context menu for your current application. It’s like right clicking on your choice in the application.

Give it a try — press the menu key while browsing this web page and you will see your web browser’s context menu, just like you would right-click on the page.

This key is useful if you don’t have a mouse or don’t have a right-click mouse. It works in many different applications. If you select a file or folder in File Explorer and press the menu key, you will see a context menu, just like you would right-click on the file.

Context menu opened in File Explorer

This key allows you to use the context menu only with the keyboard and without a mouse. Press the menu key, use the arrow keys to select an option, and press Enter to activate it. Select text or other items using keyboard shortcuts and press the menu key to activate context menu options—all without taking your hands off the keyboard.

Microsoft is currently talking about converting this key to an Office key to match the Windows key. Most PC users most likely don’t touch this key, which explains why Microsoft comes up with this idea. It’s kind of like a relic like the Sys Rq, Scroll Lock and Pause Break keys.

RELATED: What are Sys Rq, Scroll Lock and Pause Break Keys on my keyboard?

Shift + F10 can function as a menu key, too

Shift and F10 keys highlighted on PC keyboard
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If your keyboard doesn’t have a menu key, but you want to open the context menu with a keyboard shortcut, fear not. You can press Shift + F10 in most applications to open the context menu. It’s basically the same as the menu keys.

This does not work in all applications, however, it depends on the applications. If nothing happens in the application you are using, try Ctrl + Shift + F10.

How to remap menu keys

The menu key isn’t as annoying as the Windows key, which can take you out of games and other full-screen apps if you accidentally press it. However, you can change the behavior of the menu key and do something more useful. After all, if you’re not using this key, it’s the primary keyboard.

We like SharpKeys for quickly remapping a key to another key. You can remap keys in the Windows Registry, but this is much more complicated. SharpKeys provides a user-friendly GUI that sets up basic registry values ​​for you.

Once SharpKeys is installed and running, click the «Add» button to add a new remap.

SharpKeys window displaying the Add button

Select «Special: Application (E0_5D)» in the left pane. You can also press «Enter key» and press the menu button — as we mentioned above, this is sometimes referred to as «app key», as it is here.

In the right pane, select whatever key you want to remap the menu key to. For example, you can select «Web: Back» and the key will function as a back key in your web browser and any other application that supports that key.

When you’re done, click OK.

Menu key remapping in SharpKeys

Click «Write to Registry» to write your changes to the Windows Registry. Now you need to close the SharpKeys window and then either restart your computer or log out and log back in. Changes will take effect the next time you sign in.

If you want to change the action of the key or undo the changes, open SharpKeys again, select the rule and use the Edit or Delete button to change or delete it. Write the changes to the registry, and then log out and log back in.

Write to registry button in SharpKeys

You can use SharpKeys to remap other keys, for example you can use the Caps Lock or Windows feature as other keys.

How to Customize the Menu Key with AutoHotkey

For more advanced customization, we recommend AutoHotkey. You can use AutoHotkey to write a quick little script that will listen for the menu key and do other things when you press it. In AutoHotkey, this key is called «AppsKey».

For example, the following line in an AutoHotkey script will disable the menu key («AppsKey») and make it do nothing («Return»):

  AppsKey :: Возвращение 

This code in an AutoHotkey script will listen for the menu key and launch Microsoft Word when pressed:

  AppsKey ::

Force menu key to launch Word with AutoHotkey script

There is a good chance that the menu button will disappear at some point. However, while keyboards still have Scroll Lock keys, there’s a good chance the menu key will be around for decades to come.

RELATED: How to write an AutoHotkey script

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