Setting up and using Keyboard Express

A quick note about this page. I've included links to some screen shots that will illustrate various points. To return to this page after viewing the picture, click on your back button.

Most of the information I present about Keyboard Express (affectionaly refered to as KE) was garnered using the version 2 program. The information is applicable to all versions, though. What I won't go into are the global and local connotations of using hotkeys. Global simply means able to use the hotkey in all windows/programs while local means it applies to only one window/program.

Once you have KE installed on your computer, there are two ways to start the program. You can use the Start menu with win95 and click the shortcut (usually in the Programs/Utilities listing) or double-click the icon if you're using the win3 version.

For both versions of windows (3 and 95) you can have KE auto-start for you. For win3 you do this by dragging and dropping the KE icon to your Start folder. For win95 it's a little more complicated.

Right click a blank area of the task bar. Select Properties from the popup menu. Then select the Start Menu tab (**screen shot available**) and, finally, the Advanced button down on the right side (**screen shot available**). This will open up an Explorer like window showing you the Start menu contents. (**screen shot available**)

On the left side you should see something like this:

   Start Menu
     + Programs
Click the plus sign next to Programs to open that folder (expand it in techy talk). Somewhere in that list that appears on the left will be an item called StartUp. Click on that to show the contents in the right view pane.

Now click in the right pane and select New/Shortcut from the popup menu. Use the Browse button to find where the KEYEXP.EXE file is and double-click on the file name when you've found it. This becomes the "Command Line" for your shortcut. Next, you are asked to name the shortcut. Go ahead and name it Keyboard Express.

After putting Keyboard Express in the startup folder whenever you start windows, the program will automatically load and go hide in the background. You call KE forward by holding down the control key and right clicking anywhere. To push KE back into the background once more you click anywhere on the desktop EXCEPT on the KE window.

If this is your first time using KE, you need to create a key template file. Bring KE to the foreground with the control-right click. Select File/New and follow the prompts to name your template file. From then on, until you change your template file, KE will start with that listing of hotkeys.

Now we need to create our hotkeys. There are two ways to create them. By manually entering the information into each key, or by capturing the keystrokes as you type. Since most of us use KE to enter contests, I'll pick a site and walk you through both methods using that site as a guide.

I'll use the Video Computer store site as our example. The url for that sweeps is http://www.vcstore.com/contest.html . They have a good form there that will introduce you to many of the concepts of how to enter data into a hotkey.

Do the control-right click to bring KE to the foreground. On the right side, click the Add Hotkey button. In the next dialog you select which hotkey to use. Since this is for the Video computer site, let's use Alt-V. You can either scroll down and highlight alt-v, or simply type the hotkey itself by holding down the alt key and pressing V. Be sure to release the keys. KE won't do a thing until the keys are released.

Now that you have selected your hotkey, click the Enter Keystrokes button to take you to the next step. This is going to bring up a window with what looks like a funny typewriter keyboard at the bottom. Don't let all that stuff scare you. As much of a power user as I am, I only use about two or three of those buttons. (**screen shot available**)

First thing we want to do is name this hotkey. In the upper right hand corner you will see a space called Nickname. KE will usually start you there. Type in Video Computer Store and then press the tab key.

This moves you to the main entry portion. This is where you type in the information for the hotkey. I know what the form for that site requires so I'm going to use (this) to indicate what you should type in, but without the ( ). Anything that appears like is what KE will put in for you as you use that funny keyboard at the bottom.

Type (your name). Now use the mouse to click on the key marked TAB in the bottom half. You should see appear after your name. Type in (your email) and do the tab bit again. Type (your organization) and tab. (address)(city)(state)(zip)(where did you hear about us?). When you are all done, you should see something like this:


Rich Strecker<tab>home user<tab>1234 Main St.<tab>Great Town<tab>PA<tab>12345<tab>Friend

Once you are sure you have the information entered correctly, click on the Update button in the lower left corner. Congratulations! You've just created your first form filling hotkey.

Now, let's use that hotkey. Click anywhere outside the KE window to send it back into the background once more. Start up netscape and head over to the video computer site with the url I gave you above (if you aren't already bookmarked for there).

You'll have to scroll down several pages to get to the form. Someday they'll trim that list of winners. They just keep adding to it without trimming anything out.

Once you have the form in sight, click on the first field, which is asking for your name. That puts the blinking text cursor in the field. At this point you hold down the alt key and press V (alt-v). Now sit back and watch KE whip through that form.

If this is the first time filling in the form, proofread it to be sure the information was entered correctly. If so, hit submit and you're in the running for one of their software packages.

The thing to remember is that EACH hotkey can contain as little as one letter, or as many as 5,000 letters. There isn't a form on the 'net that you can't make a hotkey for. To put that in practical terms, with over 480 possible hotkeys, you could put a heavy novel into KE, with each page of the novel as a single hotkey.

Now, let's move to the other way to enter data into a hotkey. Using the same form at the Video Store we're going to "capture" your keystrokes to a hotkey. This simply means that as you type, KE is going to remember what you typed.

Back to the Video Computer store site and down to the form. To capture a hotkey you need to bring KE to the foreground and do the Add HotKey bit again. Only, this time, instead of Entering Keystrokes, click the Capture Keystrokes button. KE will ask you for a nickname for your hotkey so go ahead and fill that in. As soon as you click OK it's going to look like KE shut off. It only went into the background and is quite active.

Position your cursor in the first field of the form and type your name in. Use the tab key to move to the next field and fill that in. Continue to do this until you have the form filled in.

Now, before you click on the submit button, do the control-right click to bring KE back to the front. You'll get a small dialog that says Capture successfully completed for . Click ok and you'll be looking at the main window of KE. Click on the Modify Keystroke button and take a look at what KE did for you. You can click on the Cancel button in the bottom left when you are done, or Update if you made any changes.

Remember, to use the hot key, you use your browser to get to the form and you position the cursor in the first field of the form. Then you type the hotkey combonation, such as alt-v or control-t. I really don't recommend using the F keys at the top (or side) of your keyboard. Especially the F1 key since that is the universal Help key for programs. F3 also has a special purpose in search routines. Stick with the control or alt key combonations. You'll have plenty of hotkeys.

Many of the forms you need to fill in contain what are called radio buttons or check boxes. If you treat each button or check box as a seperate field, you can tab from one button to another. Just as if it was a long, fill in your name type field. If it's a button (or a check box) you want to mark? Simply press the space bar and tab on to the next.

As you can see, it's really easy to enter the information into a hotkey. If you want to modify a hotkey, you simply highlight the key in question and click Modify Keystrokes. I'll do this if I've made a typing mistake, such as spelling my name wrong. If you look at such a hotkey capture you'll find things like . KE captures ALL keypresses, including the shift, control and alt keys, as well as the editing keys between the main keyboard and the numpad. Even the F keys are captured.

A note here about how KE stores keypresses. When you enter your email address you use an @ sign between your user name and your isp's domain name. KE does not put in @ into the template file. Instead, it puts in 2. Remember, KE captures ALL keystrokes, including the shift key. Keep that in mind if you manually add a key or edit an existing key.


Seen enough? Let's go home then.

6954