Two new Microsoft keyboards have a dedicated Office key. Office-Watch.com has tested one of these keyboards to see how the new Office key really works. We have a full list of Office key shortcuts plus how it works inside Word, Excel and PowerPoint and geeky hardware info.
Hard information about the new key has been surprisingly hard to find. First reviewers were given limited and supervised access only. Microsoft seems reluctant to talk about it, not revealing the full list of shortcuts available with the new key. Even purchasers of a keyboard with the new key are left in the dark.
The Office key (left) and Emoji / Expressive Input key (right)
Real world testing
We’re interested in seeing what the Office key can do with Windows 10 and Office 365. The little known is based on part-information from hardware beta testers, not documentation from Microsoft.
We bought a Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard to see what it can do. Amazingly even the documentation with the keyboard is lacking. We spent sometime trying keyboard options to discover what Microsoft has made possible but won’t tell paying customers.
The Office key is currently only on Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard and Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard. The hope is that it spreads to other keyboards, just like the Windows key did from its launch in 1994. For the new key to become popular, the integration with Windows must be improved and be enabled at all in the Office programs.
As we’ll see, there’s NO use for the Office key inside the Office programs … truly.
What is the Office key?
The dedicated key uses the current Office logo symbol. It’s to the right of the spacebar, replacing one of the Windows keys.
There are various layouts available including US layout. We bought a UK layout keyboard with the Alt Gr key.
The two new keys need Windows 10 v1903 (May 2019) or later to do anything.
Next to the Office key is the Expressive Input or Emoji key that we’ll look at separately.
With earlier versions of Windows, Mac, iPad etc the keyboard works but won’t recognize the Office or Emoji keys.
What does the Office key do?
Pressing the new key alone opens the Microsoft Office app, the gateway or promotional app.
Office key combinations
The new key works with some other keys to open some Office programs. None of these useful shortcuts are documented anywhere either in the paperwork with the Microsoft keyboard nor in online documentation links.
Many people buying this keyboard would have no way of knowing what the new key could do.
We tried all the combinations we could think of and came up with this list.
Office + …
W – Word, opens new window
X – Excel, opens new window
P – PowerPoint, opens new window
O – Outlook, opens to Inbox
D – OneDrive, opens Explorer window to OneDrive, if one isn’t already open
N – OneNote, opens new window
L – LinkedIn (web site)
T – Teams
Y – Yammer (web site)
If the program isn’t available (e.g. Yammer) the product page is opened instead.
Office + Escape
Office + Escape cycles through the open applications, bringing each to the front in turn. It’s the way Alt + Tab worked many years ago before Flip, Switcher or Timeline views existed. Was this a deliberate ‘retro’ inclusion or accidental?
The Emoji key (officially called the Expressive Input key) has the same key combinations as the Office key. The only difference is that the Emoji panel appears for a moment. For example press Emoji + X displays the Emoji panel for a moment while Excel starts.
According to the small paper guide there’s more information about the new key at https://aka.ms/officekey
but that link doesn’t work at the moment. UPDATE: after this review was published in the Office Watch newsletter .. magically the link was fixed. Coincidence? Keyboards with an new key have been on sale for over a week, but still the vital web link doesn’t work. Doesn’t anyone at Microsoft check these things? The current result for the documentation page.
Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center
Microsoft’s software to accompany their accessories is no help either. Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center v11 recognizes the Bluetooth Keyboard but has no additional help, controls or even a mention of the Office key.
All the customizable keys on the Bluetooth keyboard, with no mention of the Office key.
Dedicated Office key inside Office
What does the Office key do within Office? Nothing, not a thing.
You might expect that a dedicated key could be assigned to styles or macros in Word, Excel or PowerPoint. But no.
If you try to assign a shortcut key, say in the Word Style, Shortcut Key, the Office key appears as Alt+Ctrl+Shift+ however it doesn’t recognize a second letter or number to complete a shortcut.
If the new key was available in the programs, you’d have to avoid conflicts with the existing shortcuts mentioned above. That said, there’s scope for shortcuts like Office + numbers and any letters not used by Windows, if the Office programs are updated.
It’s a typical lack of co-ordination between Microsoft divisions. The Office key seems to be the brainchild of the hardware and Windows teams. All the integration is within Windows. The Office team has had plenty of time to include the key within their programs, even just for user assignment, but nothing has been done.
Office key workaround
Keyboards without a Windows key can get the same effect by typing Ctrl + Escape.
The Office key also has an alternative but it’s nowhere as convenient. Four fingers are needed so a well-trained octopus could handle it.
Hold down Control, Alt and Shift together then press the Windows key!
In other words: Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Win
Office key scan code
Hardware geeks will want to know the low-level details. We took our own advice about keyboard checking software
According to keyboard checking software the Scan code is 0x5b (91) or VK_LWIN
However, that’s the same scan code as the Windows key. Even stranger, the keyboard says it’s the left Windows key when it’s really on the right side.
The dedicated Office key is little more than a novelty at the moment.
With no little documentation, most users would not know how to use the key.
Beyond that, Microsoft should publish the scan codes and other hardware details. That allows third-parties to support the key and encourage implementation.
If Microsoft wants to make the Office key as ubiquitous as the Windows key, they’ll have to do a lot better. For starters, tell people who have bought a supported keyboard how to use the #£$% thing!