Monday, July 21, 2008

Key Bindings, or "Another Dull Technical Post"

So I'm finally doing it. I'm overhauling my key bindings. It's big, and it's dumb, and it makes me tired just thinking about it, but it'll help me in the long run. At the very least, it ought to clean up my interface.

Lucky for you, I don't know what key bindings are available, so I'm going to make a big fat list that you can use when you want to manage your OWN key bindings.

Key bindings: In the list you get when you hit ESC, "Key Bindings" is one of the options. Enter, and a plethora of confusing bars with keys and "Unbound" stare back at you. Key bindings are what bind your spells and abilities to your keyboard. You can change them. The only problem is that you have to remember what you changed them to when you reinstall your game.

Mouse bindings: If you're serious about PVP in particular, I suggest getting a mouse with extra buttons (mine has the scroll wheel and two buttons on the side). I use one of these buttons for my auto-run and it's the best thing ever. The other is good for a "panic" button -- abilities you use when you're in big trouble.


On Changing Key Bindings

You want your most time-reliant spells on the easiest keys to reach. For me, this means keys within easy reach of my left hand while I use the mouse to move my character. Other people advise putting your movement keys close to your right hand and having both hands on the keyboard (though it takes time to move back to your mouse to look around).

Do whatever seems best for you. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to reach as many abilities as you can for instant reaction.


Movement Keys: Move and Steer, Move left/right/forward/back, Strafe, Autorun, Autofollow, Pitch, Toggle Run/Walk. Pretty obvious. Most of them have more than one keybinding, so I suggest getting rid of the ones you don't use (or know about).

Keys I would keep bound to something:
  • Jump (default spacebar)
  • Sit (default X) - For fun.
  • Autorun (default NumLock)
  • Forward/Backward/Left/Right (double defaults)
Defaults I unbound due to non-use:
  • Move and Steer (default mouse wheel) - Hold the button down and you run, and you change directions when you move your mouse. It's a lot of holding for me. I prefer clicking autorun on and off.
  • Strafe (default Q and E) - Move left or right while still facing forward. Some people find it useful. If you're using your mouse to move and still want strafe capabilities, I might suggest changing your left and right arrow buttons to strafe with.
  • Pitch (default Insert and Delete) - Move up or down in the air or water.

Chat Functions: Open chat, scroll chat up or down, scroll combat log up or down, toggle combat log. Most of these keys are useful as they are, but some are in prime positions that you might want to rebind to a more urgent spell.

Keys I would keep bound to something:
  • Open Chat (default Enter)
  • Open Chat Slash (default /)
  • Chat Reply (default R) - I plan on changing this key because it's in a great "urgent spell" location, or just removing it and sticking to /r to reply. More work, but better response time.
  • Chat Re-Reply (default Shift-R) - Plan on changing this to go with the new "reply" key.
Defaults I unbound due to non-use and occasional annoyances:
  • Anything that scrolls. Anything combat text related. I can click on the tab and arrows to scroll just fine, thanks.

Action Bars & Multi Action Bars (2 separate sections): This is where things get hairy. I suggest writing down which key bindings you want to keep from the other sections before you delve in here. It's very easy to accidentally bind all of your most useful keys to your action bar without thinking, unbinding keys you use all the time, so the action bar requires the most planning. You can also download addons that make action bars smaller, cleaner, and which actually give you more action bars.

Unbound keys I bound:
  • Basically, bind anything in any order that makes your life simpler. I'm going to use my number pad for buffing, etc, and bind my top number row and the Q-P row for my spells. Rebinding your keys is a good time to move spells around that you don't use or that are situational.
  • Toggle Actionbar Lock - I find it useful to be able to bind and unbind my bars at will. I leave them bound from Interface options (if you don't, they'll be unbound whenever you log in) and just unbind them when I need to switch a few things out. (Nice for bombing dailies.)
Default keys I found annoying:
  • Action Pages (default shift-1, shift-2, shift-3, shift-4, shift-5, shift-6) - How many times have you been trying to do two things at once and suddenly your action bar changes? Those are Action Pages. I unbound mine.

Targeting: Target pretty much anything using these buttons. Party members, self, previous friendly or hostile target, pets, assist, etc.

Keys I would keep bound to something:
  • Target Nearest Enemy (default Tab) - This is how I target my enemies. (I always end up clicking on my big Tauren husband if I use the mouse.)
  • Pet Attack (default Shift-T) - Just for people with pets.
  • Target Party Members (F1-f5) - Best for healers or if you're going in for an assist. Still, there are addons that make it easier to target who needs to be targeted, especially for raids.
  • Focus Target & Target Focus (no defaults) - Great to set a focus for complicated macros on certain spells, especially in arenas. (Example: Focus a healer to quickly silence their heals with a silencing macro.)
  • Most of these buttons are up to the player. They can be very effective if used right and very confusing if used wrong.

Interface Panel Functions: Toggle Character Pane, Bags, Keyring, Spellbook, Quest Log, Action Pages, etc. These are the icons at the bottom right of your screen. You use them constantly, but they aren't vital in a quick-decision, live-or-die situation, so I don't see much need for toggling panes or logs that you can just click on. Or that randomly open when you forget to hit "Enter" before you type.

Keys I would keep bound to
  • Open All Bags (default shift-B)
  • Toggle Game Menu (default Esc)

Misc. Functions: Minimap, Sound, Screenshot, etc. Anything you don't use, unbind. I take a lot of screenshots (print scrn), and need Toggle User Interface (Alt-Z) for that, so I keep those bound. Everything else can be adjusted through the sound panel or buttons.

Camera Functions: I only use the zoom in and out, although the other functions might be useful if you used keys to move instead of your mouse and wanted to look around quickly without shifting your hand away from the keyboard.

Raid Targeting: Only pertinent to raid or instance leaders. Puts that little picture icon above the monster's or a player's head for visual reference.


That's pretty much it. :) I'm gonna go manage my bars now. Yay! (Have you ever noticed that these "tutorial" posts are always me writing down stuff I need to know to do something? Bwahaha, I disguise my notes on stuff as informing you. So sneaky.)

10/19/08 - Supplemental Gallery added.


  1. I disguise my notes on stuff as informing you. So sneaky.

    And yet still informative. I love your site. Entertaining, useful. I've been meaning to get around to key bindings for a bit now and the whole "figure out what to do first" has been huge mental wall. Thanks for throwing a rope down to us!

  2. Yay! *blush* As long as I'm not becoming dry as toast. Hee.

  3. OMG, THANK YOU for actually showing what they mean by "Special Action Button 2" in the key bindings interface. Blizzard's keybinding interface is just plain unholy!

  4. If you use something like Dominos or Bartender, you can change the keybindings in an infinitely easier to understand way:

    Just mouse of the button you want to bind, and press the button you want it bound to.

  5. But I've heard of massive issues when they reset or a patch makes them not work?


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