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Why it matters: For years, Steam and various third-party tools have given users options to customize how their PCs register inputs from different game controllers. Recent alpha and beta-phase testing from Microsoft indicates the company plans to officially offer similar functionality on Windows and Xbox, though only for certain controllers.
Xbox Insider alpha and beta versions 2308.230720-2200 add the ability to map keyboard inputs to buttons on the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and the Xbox Adaptive Controller. PC users can receive the update through Windows Gaming Preview.
The patch requires OS version XB_FLT_2308ZN\25398.1641.230720-2200 and has already been made mandatory for testers. To map buttons, open the Xbox Accessories app and select Configure, create or edit a profile, pick the desired button, select Primary or Shift, then navigate to the new Key tab.
The feature allows only one key per button, but users can combine it with any combination of the Win, Shift, Ctrl, and Alt keys. For example, a single button can map to Crtl+S or Ctrl+Alt+B, but not Ctrl+Alt+V+B. Additionally, the functionality doesn't support Bluetooth, so using it requires either a wired connection or a 2.4 GHz dongle.
Windows Gaming preview testers can access the feature through the Xbox Accessories app. To join Windows Gaming preview, open the Xbox Insider Hub app (available from the Windows Store), select Previews > Windows Gaming > Join, select Windows Gaming again, save, and reboot.
Xbox owners can join the Xbox Insider Program by searching for and installing the Xbox Insider bundle in the Microsoft Store. It includes the Insider Hub and the app used for reporting feedback.
The update echoes what Steam and third-party apps have users for years, letting players customize controller inputs for games that offer limited or no gamepad support. Steam's controller customization setup has been praised for its breadth and flexibility, but an OS-level option from Microsoft could help significantly with games and other software not running through Steam. It's unclear why Microsoft isn't opening the feature to standard Xbox controllers, but enabling it for the Adaptive Controller expands the product's ability to help users with special needs.
It's unclear when the extended controller customization will come to all users, but Microsoft just started rolling out a new Xbox home screen that allows all Xbox Series console and Xbox One owners to edit the dashboard. New payment options through PayPal and Venmo are also available.