Remap the arrow-keys movement with shift+w|a|s|d

I moved to a mechanical keyboard and want to stop using the arrow keys in favor of the Shift+W (A,S,D) key combination. Here’s the story of how I made that happen.

After borrowing a mechanical keyboard from a colleague I decided to buy one for myself. I decided on the CoolerMaster TK Stealth. This is not too expensive but very durable and has gotten great reviews. The TK Stealth has a regular layout with a numpad section and arrow keys.

The one I borrowed was a compact keyboard without arrow keys. Instead of the arrow keys it used FN+A key for left. FN+W for up. And so on. WASD is what most gamers are used to for movement.

The reason why I want to use the WASD keys for movement is so that my fingers stay on the home-row. This should speed up the number of keystrokes while also making typing feel much easier. Less strain on the fingers.

Challenge accepted

To remap keys and key-combinations in OSX Yosemite there’s one tool I know of that works very good. And that’s Karabiner. What I want to achieve is the same behaviour as the arrow-keys in every application. I decided on the left shift key because it’s located near WASD. It’s easy to press Shift with your pinky and WASD with your other fingers.

Remapping keys on OSX Yosemite

Karabiner does not have this feature built in so we need to roll our own. Fortunately Karabiner allows us to write into a private.xml file with custom configurations. After some experimenting I came to this solution. The solution remaps the left shift key plus any of WASD (w,a,s,d) keys to their relative cursor movements.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    <name>Allow Shift+WASD keys to behave like arrow keys</name>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::W , ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L, KeyCode::CURSOR_UP | ModifierFlag::NONE</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::A , ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L, KeyCode::CURSOR_LEFT | ModifierFlag::NONE</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::S , ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L, KeyCode::CURSOR_DOWN | ModifierFlag::NONE</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::D , ModifierFlag::SHIFT_L, KeyCode::CURSOR_RIGHT | ModifierFlag::NONE</autogen>

The ‘code’ is pretty straightforward. If you want to dig into the internals more take a look at github: tekezo/Karabiner I found this page very helpful.

Putting it all together

Find the private.xml which lives in /Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Karabiner and copy the code above into this file. Start Karabiner and press the option Reload XML. Now search allow and select the option. Now you can use Left Shift + W (or A, S, D) to simulate the arrow keys. :)

Hope you enjoyed this post. :smile:

Written on March 21, 2015