How to use volume as an Alt button on the Surface Pro 4

Hayden Scott-Baron
Sep 2, 2016 · 3 min read

The lack of Cintiq style ‘ExpressKeys’ on the Surface Pro 4 is a huge nuisance, and ‘toolbar’ apps to simulate extra buttons are universally terrible. After 10 months of using the tablet I finally found a solution: you can remap the volume buttons to keys like Alt!

Using the volume button as ‘Alt’ to allow colour picking without moving my hands.

You can map the volume up and volume down buttons as different keys, and you can limit this to specific applications! I’ve set mine to Alt and Tab, to allow colour picker and GUI hiding. It’s pretty easy to setup or disable.

The 3 easy steps for setup

Step 1: Install AutoHotKey.

AutoHotKey is a small free app for Windows which uses scripts for input remapping. This is a pretty simple use of it, apparently!

Step 2: Create a .ahk file on your desktop

Create a text file called MyHotkeys.ahk (or whatever you’d like) in notepad, and paste the following text block in there:

; save as MyHotkeys.ahk and use with AutoHotKey
; sorry for any mistakes!
; - Hayden (twitter: @docky)
#NoEnv ; Recommended for compatibility with AutoHotkey releases.
; #Warn ; Enable warnings to assist with detecting common errors.
SendMode Input ; Recommended for new scripts.
SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir% ; Ensures consistent starting directory.
; make this modify photoshop only
#IfWinActive, ahk_class Photoshop
; right button
Volume_Down::Send {Alt Down}
Volume_Down Up::Send {Alt Up}
; left button
Volume_Up::Send {Tab}
; make this modify clip studio pro only
#IfWinActive, ahk_exe CLIPStudioPaint.exe
; right button
Volume_Down::Send {Alt Down}
Volume_Down Up::Send {Alt Up}
; left button
Volume_Up::Send {Tab}
Volume_Up Up:: Send {Alt Up} ; fixes stuck alt (not sure why?)
; anything non-app specific goes below this line
#IfWinActive

I’ve set this up Photoshop and Clip Studio Pro, but you can easily make it work for any app and shortcuts by editing this file.

Step 3: Double-click MyHotkeys.ahk to start AutoHotKey

You just need to double click the newly created .ahk file to run AutoHotkey. Look out on for the tray icon!

Customising the buttons

You can edit the text file to support any different keyboard shortcuts. You can make the shortcuts work for every app by moving all the code to the end of the file, but this will mean your volume button never works as volume.

I hope this helps some people, and I really wish I had known this 10 months ago! Maybe some day Microsoft will all this in the drivers! Let me know if you have any good edits for the text file by leaving a comment, or replying on Twitter.

If you want to see my Surface Pro based artwork, check out dockydraws on instagram.

Hayden Scott-Baron

Written by

Professional game developer since 2003, including RCT3, Lostwinds, Kinectimals and Tumbledrop. Manga artist on the side. Making indie games for iPhone & PC/Mac.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade