Windows key

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The Windows key used prior to Windows XP (center)

Windows logo key (also known as Windows key, start key, logo key, flag key or flag) is a keyboard key which was originally introduced on the Microsoft Natural keyboard before the release of Windows 95. This key became a standard key on PC keyboards. Tapping this key invokes the operating system's start menu, if it has one. In Windows, Ctrl+Esc performs the same function, in case the keyboard lacks this key.

Historically, the addition of two Windows keys and a menu key marked the change from the 101/102-key to 104/105-key layout for PC keyboards:[1] compared to the former layout, a Windows key was placed between the left Ctrl and the left Alt; another Windows key and—immediately to its right—a menu key were placed between the AltGr (or right Alt key on keyboards that lack AltGr) and the right control key. In laptop and other compact keyboards it is common to have just one Windows key (usually on the left). Also, on Microsoft's Entertainment Desktop sets (designed for Windows Vista), the Windows key is in the middle of the keyboard, below all other keys (where the user's thumbs rest).

On Windows 8 tablet computers, hardware certification requirements dictate that the Windows key is centered on the bezel below the screen, except on a convertible laptop, where the button is allowed to be off-center in a tablet configuration.[2]


Microsoft regulates the appearance of the Windows key logo picture with a specially crafted license for keyboard manufacturers ("Microsoft Windows Logo Key Logo License Agreement for Keyboard Manufacturers"). With the introduction of a new Microsoft Windows logo, first used with Windows XP, the agreement was updated to require that the new design be adopted for all keyboards manufactured after September 1, 2003.[3] However, with the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft published guidelines for a new Windows Logo key that incorporates the Windows logo recessed in a chamfered lowered circle with a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 with respect to background that the key is applied to.[4]

In Common Building Block Keyboard Specification, all CBB compliant keyboards were to comply with the Windows Vista Hardware Start Button specification beginning in 2007-06-01.[citation needed]

Use with Microsoft Windows[edit]

On Windows 9x and Windows NT families of Windows operating system, tapping the Windows key by itself traditionally revealed Windows Taskbar (if not visible) and opened the Start menu. Starting with Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, this key still launches the Start menu but no longer shows the taskbar.

Pressing the key in combination with other keys allows invoking many common functions through the keyboard. What Windows key combinations ("shortcuts") are available and active in a given Windows session depends on many factors, such as accessibility options, the type of the session (regular or Terminal Services), the Windows version, the presence of specific software such as IntelliType and Group Policy if applicable.

Below is a list of notable shortcuts. Unless otherwise noted, they are valid in the next version of Windows.

Windows 95[edit]

The following shortcuts are valid in Windows 95.[5][6]

Windows XP[edit]

Windows XP adds the following shortcuts.

Windows XP Media Center Edition[edit]

Windows XP Media Center Edition adds the following:

Windows Vista[edit]

Windows Vista adds the following shortcuts:

Windows 7[edit]

Windows 7 introduces the following:

Windows 8[edit]

Windows 8 introduces the following:

Windows 8.1[edit]

Windows 8.1 introduces the following:

Windows 8.1 overrides the earlier setting of WIN + s button. Win + s combination was used for making screenshot under Windows 7 + OneNote, after upgrading to Windows 8.1, this feature works with WIN + SHIFT + s button combination.

Microsoft Office[edit]

Additional installed software may introduce other shortcuts using the Windows key. For example, Microsoft OneNote adds several shortcuts:

Use with non-Microsoft operating systems[edit]

The Windows key can also be used on other operating systems.

On Unix and Unix-like operating systems, it is sometimes called "Meta" or "Super". The X window system usually treats this key as modifier MOD4. KDE and GNOME, which are the standard desktop environments of Linux distributions usually support the key, though it may be necessary to configure its functionality after installation. GNOME Shell uses the Super key as its default keyboard shortcut for bringing up the Activities Overview. Similarly, Cinnamon uses the Super key to pop-up its main system menu (normally docked at lower-left of screen). In the Compiz window manager, the Super key can by default be used in conjunction with the scroll wheel to zoom in or out of any part of the desktop. OS X uses the Windows key as a replacement for the Command key if the keyboard does not include the latter. This sometimes leads to placement issues for users used to Apple keyboards however, as the Command key is usually placed where the Alt key is on most keyboards (next to the Space bar).

On Xbox 360, pressing the Windows key performs the same action as the Guide button on Xbox 360 Controller or remote controls, opening the Xbox Guide. Holding down the Windows key and pressing M opens a pop up conversation window over gameplay, if an instant message conversation is in progress. On a PlayStation 3 console, pressing the Windows key performs the same action as the PS Button on the Sixaxis Controller, opening the XrossMediaBar.


  1. ^ Initially, 104-key keyboards were frequently called "Windows keyboards" but this denomination has become less and less used with time.
  2. ^ "Windows Hardware Certification Requirements for Client and Server Systems". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Amendment to the Windows Key Logo License Agreement (page no longer accessible)
  4. ^ Windows Vista Hardware Start Button
  5. ^ Windows 95 Tips.txt File Contents.
  6. ^ Microsoft Windows shortcut keys.
  7. ^ "Keyboard shortcuts - Windows 8, Windows RT". Windows 8, RT Help. Microsoft. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  8. ^ Thurrot, Paul (26 June 2013). "Hands-On with Windows 8.1: Power User Menu". Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. Penton. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Chen, Raymond (14 January 2014). "How do I hit the Win+PrintScreen hotkey if my tablet doesn't have a PrtSc key?". The Old New Thing. Microsoft. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 

External links[edit]