Microsoft's Copilot key leverages a Function key not found on modern keyboards

Alfonso Maruccia

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Key combo: Microsoft is set to introduce an official Copilot key for upcoming AI PC products. Delving into its functionality, the new key operates similarly to a keyboard combination from the 80s.

Microsoft describes the Copilot key for Windows 11 PCs as a means to "empower" users and enable them to easily embrace the upcoming AI "transformation." The new key will soon become a standard part of Windows keyboard configurations, and newly released laptops are already equipped with this additional keyboard feature.

Tom's Hardware obtained a couple of new Dell laptops (XPS 14, XPS 16) featuring the new key and decided to test them. The Copilot key is designed to open the Windows Copilot chatbot feature, but with the appropriate software, it can be reprogrammed to accomplish different tasks or simulate different key combinations.

Tom's utilized AutoHotkey, a well-known tool for macro scripting and automation that can also be used to log keystrokes and their resulting scancodes. A scancode is the data most computer keyboards send to the PC after a key has been pressed, allowing Windows to respond with the most appropriate action, such as opening File Explorer or the aforementioned Copilot chatbot.

According to AutoHotkey logs, the Copilot key is interpreted by Windows as a combination of the following three keys: Left Ctrl, Windows key, and F23. The F23 function key is not typically found on modern keyboard layouts, which usually include 12 function keys at most on traditional full-size keyboard designs.

Double function key rows were available in older keyboard models, particularly those used to interact with mainframes or larger computer units. The IBM Model M 122 keyboard, a popular choice launched in 1985, had this configuration. It occurred several years before IBM's decision to exit the PC market by selling its business to Lenovo in 2005.

Keyboards with 122 keys were still being sold in the 90s, and Windows is programmed to accommodate this older design even today. The operating system can easily manage scancodes belonging to the extra function keys. Microsoft probably chose the "exotic" key combination for Copilot because it is unlikely that anyone would need to press these three keys simultaneously otherwise.

Now that we understand how the Copilot key functions, customizing the feature will be easier on "non-AI" PCs. Tom's Hardware suggests a quick AutoHotkey script to overwrite Microsoft's official combination every time Windows 11 boots, allowing the Copilot key to perform more useful tasks such as opening an application, entering a text string, or launching a website.

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This is only forward looking for Microsoft and no one else, especially not end users. They're not chasing a trend, they are driving it... obnoxiously.
 
Copilot is trash, only useful for quick information search

see? it is useful, even if you said "only" it means huge. I mean I do use copilot when I'm really doing quick research or looking for quick insight for what I'm doing, and that really save times for me. me myself wouldn't mind faster shortcut to do copilot rather than using Windows + C
 
"The Copilot key is designed to open the Windows Copilot chatbot feature, but with the appropriate software, it can be reprogrammed to accomplish different tasks or simulate different key combinations...the Copilot key is interpreted by Windows as a combination of the following three keys: Left Ctrl, Windows key, and F23."

Okay, so the Copilot feature is interpreted as a combination of keys in Windows, but where does it sit on the keyboard? Placement matters. There's only so much space on a 109-key keyboard. It doesn't matter what key combination invokes Copilot. If it replaces another key, it becomes that key.

The technically-smarter solution would be to include a dedicated F23 key on all new keyboards, so users can choose to invoke Copilot, without losing the start button or the right-click context menu. But, we all know that's not going to happen. People avoided using Cortana because it wasn't part of the keyboard hardware and was, at best, a tertiary system that provided maybe 5 minutes of "woah, so this is the future"!, before the party trick got old and everyone decided it wasn't very useful.

Given how much money is being thrown at generative AI, I have a feeling it's not going to be "optional" this time...
 
Copilot is trash, only useful for quick information search
Yep, Tom's Hardware also did an analysis of copilot and found it was useless and did not help productivity or speed up operations and offers nothing at all over using say BIng to ask the questions. Thi9smis marketing BS 101 from MS that have literally nothing to offer that is useful to PC owners and has latched on to AI BS as their next money spinning venture.
 
MS Employee A: Let's try and drive Co-pilot usage by showing our commitment to AI.
MS Employee B: But how? We have been marketing this for sometime, but don't seem to be getting much traction.
MS Employee A: How about repurposing a key on the keyboard for Co-pilot? People will look at the keyboard and see Co-pilot, or they may accidentally hit the key and start Co-pilot. Then they may start using/ exploring it?
MS Employee B: Sounds like a plan. Let's find a strategic part of the keyboard to plant this key.
 
Copilot is trash, only useful for quick information search

Which given the state of search engines, even Microsoft's own Bing, that were only briefly good for finding information before advertisers got their dirty mitts in...

means very useful.
 
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