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What’s up with the Office key?

Microsoft is planning an Office key addition to keyboards, to go with the existing Windows key.  Here’s what we know and don’t know.

The company is testing physical keyboards with an Office key combined with preview versions of Windows.

Source: originally Microsoft via leaks

It seems the Office key code is in the current Windows 10 May 2019 release.  Based on a German language bug when pressing Win + A.

About Office key keyboards

Keyboards with an Office key are codenamed Holgate with Holgate Low and Holgate Mid.

They are NOT for sale yet.

If it’s like the release of the Windows key, Office keyed keyboards will first appear on Surface device keyboards either included in Surface devices or as external keyboards.

Third-party keyboard makers will be able to release keyboards with an Office key.  Also an option for other laptop makers, though Microsoft may delay permission to give their own Surface devices a unique selling point.

What will the Office key do?

That depends on Microsoft but their questions to testers indicate what they have in mind.

The current preview Office key shortcuts are Office key + W,X,P,O,N, T, Y or D,  L

They open Word, eXcel, PowerPoint, Outlook, oneNote, Teams and Yammer.

D is for oneDrive  L for Linked

It seems Microsoft wants the Office key to control functions across multiple apps which don’t have a shortcut now.  Their example is Office key + S  for Sharing.  That would work in Word, Excel, PowerPoint  etc to share the current document i.e. open the File | Share pane.

Microsoft’s question to Office key testers

What we’d like from the Office key

In short, more configurability and on-screen prompts.

One of the great, but underused, parts of the ribbon are the keyboard shortcuts with on-screen reminders.  Press the Alt key in Word 2007 or later and immediately reminders appear for what you can do next.

If you forget a shortcut, Office’s little tags remind you.  Once you remember a shortcut, there’s no need to wait for the prompts, just press the right keys.

What’s lacking from the Windows key is a subtle, unobtrusive reminder of the key combinations available.  Little wonder most people only use the Windows key to open the Start menu while the rest of its power hides away.

An Office key will only be truly useful if they have some on-screen reminders like the ribbon tags.

Office key also needs to work within each Office program.

Ideally, there should be integration with the existing shortcut key features like Customize Keyboard in Word.  Office key plus <something>  could be assigned to a command, macro or style.

A great idea but to make that happen needs Microsoft’s hardware and Windows teams to work with the Office development team.  The teams don’t always ‘play nice’ together so we can only hope.

The Windows team could help too.  Some integrated Windows key configuration is long overdue so users can assign Windows key + combinations to their own preferences such as opening apps etc.  There are third-party programs available but a Microsoft supplied tool would be better.

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