A Beginner’s Guide to Key Binding
by Dritz

(Original keyboard image retrieved from http://www.seoconsultants.com/windows/keyboard/#CtrlW)

I. An Introduction to Key Binding
II. How to Bind Keys
III. Basic Key Binding Tips
IV. Key Binding with Modifiers
V. Final Words

I. An Introduction to Key Binding

This guide introduces the basics of key binding. Key binding is an essential technique in creating an efficient and comfortable playing environment. Most veteran players will already know much of the information in this guide, but most new players probably won't, especially if this is the first time they have played an MMO.

So, why key bind when you can click every button? It's the same reason you change the control settings on a console game. Efficiency. Using key binds increases reaction speed and allows mouse turning. It would be wise to bind any spell that is used often. However, there’s no need to key bind everything. A combination of clicking and key binds is perfectly acceptable.

II. How to Bind Keys

To access the key binding menu in World of Warcraft, press the Game Menu key (which is normally ESC) and click on the Key Bindings option under the Interface option. This will take you to the key binding user interface. Take care to check the box next to Character Specific Key Bindings at the top right corner unless you plan on using the same key binds between all your characters.

Commands can be bound to two different keys, which are represented by the two columns, Key 1 and Key 2. As you can see from the image below, the movement keys are bound to not only W, S, A, and D, but the arrow keys as well.

To bind a key to a command is simple. Click the button in the column next to the command that you wish to bind. Below, I am changing the key bind of Move and Steer.

Note the ‘Press Key to Bind to Command -> Move and Steer’ message near the bottom. Now press the key you wish to bind to the command.

And that’s it. Remember to click Okay to save your binds; if you hit Cancel, all binds you created during that period will be lost. Reset To Default speaks for itself.

NOTE: Remember that you can bind almost any key or a combination of keys (by binding a key and a modifier key) to a command. Note that this also includes the keys on the mouse. However, there are a few keys on the keyboard that cannot be bound which are shown in the image below.

The keys highlighted in orange are keys that cannot be bound to anything. Along with these keys, key combination that are used as Windows shortcuts – such as ALT+TAB – cannot be used as key binds. The keys highlighted in red are special modifier keys, which cannot be bound by themselves, but can be bound if used in a combination with another key. Modifiers will be elaborated further upon in section IV.

III. Basic Key Binding Tips

Key binds are meant to make your game play more efficient, and more comfortable. There are three rules that I generally follow when I create key binds.

1. Keep the key(s) in reach of the movement keys.
Each key bind should be within easy reach of your fingers. Generally, you want all combat key binds to be in reach of your movement keys. Because you can press a movement key while pressing a key bind, it allows freedom to move while casting, while also granting you free control of your mouse.

Here’s an example of what I mean below.

The green keys are my basic movement keys (move forward, strafe left and right). All the yellow keys are the keys that I have bound, including their modifiers. Note that they only go as far as my fingers can reach comfortably.

2. Keep the key binds simple.
While it is possible to key bind a command to a combination like CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+SPACE, it is a pain to press something as complicated as that. Also, complex key binds become hard to remember as the numbers of key binds increase - especially if you have multiple characters. From a gaming perspective, there are more things to pay attention to than the buttons you are pressing (aka watching where the fire is) so it’s best to keep things simple and clean.

3. Keep everything comfortable.
If the first two rules are true, this generally becomes true as well. World of Warcraft is a game that is normally played for hours, so it should be important that you’re comfortable while playing. It’s just no good if your key binds are so complex and out of reach that it looks like your fingers are doing DDR on the keyboard. Imagine doing that for hours on end in raid!

IV. Key Binding with Modifiers

At the bottom of section II, and mentioned slightly in section III, modifier keys are the keys ALT, CTRL, and SHIFT. Modifiers are used in combination with other keys to create key binds. They are useful when you wish to bind the same button to a different command. An example would be that if you had B already bound, but wish to use the B key again. All you would do is add the modifier SHIFT to B to create SHIFT+B, which is highlighted in red below.

SHIFT alone cannot be used as a key bind, but it can be used if used in a combination with a normal key like B. The B key is still its own key bind, while SHIFT+B counts as a different one. Along with that method, modifiers can be combined with other modifiers along with a normal key to create key binds. An example would be SHIFT+CTRL+B, as highlighted in red below.

However, I recommend using only one modifier if a modifier is used for a key bind. Double modifiers tend to be overly complicated due to the need to press three buttons.

NOTE: To those with multiple macros, macros with modifiers will conflict with modifier key binds. For example, say you had this macro which you bound to B,

/cast [nomod] Battle Shout; [mod:shift] Commanding Shout

While you already have Berserker Rage bound to SHIFT+B.

Normally, the macro (bound to B) will cast Battle Shout when B is pressed, and when SHIFT is held down, Commanding Shout will be cast when B is pressed again. However, since SHIFT+B is bound already to Berserker Rage, it will take priority over the macro, causing the mod cast in the macro to not cast. In simpler terms, modifier key binds will always have priority over modifiers in macros.

V. Final Words

Remember that the most important thing about key binding is being comfortable with your controls. Just how every person is different, everyone has their own set of key binds that they are comfortable with. Figuring out how to key bind to your own style takes experience, and that isn’t something that this guide can provide, but I hope I provided some tips to help you along the way.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!