Hotkeys execute actions by pressing a key. Hotkeys are bound to predefined actions and cannot be changed mid-game.1 For example, a Barracks will produce one Marine when the key is struck. Because there is no mouse movement, using the hotkey is faster than clicking on the Marine icon after selecting the Barracks.
Note that any hotkeys listed in this article assume the default hotkey settings, using a standard American QWERTY keyboard. If you use an alternate keyboard layout through the Windows layout manager, hotkeys will function as if you were using a QWERTY keyboard, but will be relabeled to accommodate your keyboard - that is to say, if you have an A key where the Q key would be for QWERTY, most hotkeys will treat an A as a Q. However, keyboard layout changes made through other methods (registry editors like Sharpkeys, for example, or hardware-mapped keyboard layouts) are invisible to StarCraft 2's client, and you must adjust the hotkeys as necessary.
Hotkeys also refers to keys that can be assigned to units and buildings or locations. Units and buildings are assigned to the number keys (- ) along the top row of the keyboard. Locations are assigned to through . To assign units or buildings to a hotkey (sometimes called a control group), select the units you wish to assign and then press +# where # is the key you want to assign them to. If you wish to add units to a control group without overwriting the units already in the group you may also press +#.
Hotkeys are stored in the account profile folder in your Windows My Documents folder. You can manually edit the hotkey file, and, although probably illegal for tournament play, there are a lot of fun tricks only possible this way. For example, more than 2 keys can be assigned to the same action. Although not considered a hack, this sort of editing is outside the scope of this article, and maybe breaks the wiki's rules anyway. Google it.
1. Hotkeys can be changed mid-game, but doing so in a multiplayer game is difficult, since the game is not paused. In single-player modes, however, it is easy. Try playing a Custom game against a Very Easy AI to try out new layouts without reloading every time.
Benefits of Using Hotkeys
A keyboard, although blunt, is a faster and more precise and exact instrument than a mouse; thus, hotkeys offer fast, precise, and exact execution of commands. A mouse must be navigated across the screen to execute commands; even assuming a very high DPI setting and perfect accuracy on the part of the player, clicking the mouse button still takes approximately the same amount of time as pressing a key. Thus, using a hotkey is always faster than using the mouse.
Imagine that the Red Player is using hotkeys, and the Blue Player is not. Let us assume that Blue is adept at using her mouse, and Red is equally adept at using his hotkeys. Blue's actions will typically take her 100ms (milliseconds; 1,000ms = one second) longer than Red. In a ten-minute game, assuming Blue has an APM of 120, her choice to neglect hotkeys adds up to 1.2 wasted seconds per minute. Very few players can control the mouse with the accuracy and celerity requisite to execute commands with only a 100ms delay over hotkeys; for most players neglecting hotkeys, the lost time balloons wildly out of control, and can be measured in minutes, not seconds.
Worse, certain actions can only be performed with hotkeys. For instance, control groups, base centering, and camera bookmarks are not accessible via the mouse. To demonstrate this, let's say that our two players are Terran, and have sent out an SCV to scout the enemy. While scouting they determine that they need more Marines.
Blue (who does not use the keyboard) would need to:
- look at the lower left quadrant of her monitor
- position the cursor over the minimap
- click on the minimap to reposition the camera
- look back at the main part of the monitor
- click on the Barracks
- look at the lower right quadrant of the monitor
- position the cursor over the command card
- click on the Marine button
- look back at the lower left quadrant of her monitor
- position the cursor over the minimap
- click on the mini-map to zoom over to her scout
- position the cursor over the scout
- click on her scout
Compare that to Red, who has assigned thehotkey to his SCV and the hotkey to his Barracks. To perform the same actions, he would just need to:
Red would not even look at his base. He would useto select his SCV again, and could press to center his screen on the SCV.
Clearly, Red's play will be faster and more efficient at all levels.
- Control Group hotkeys
- One of the most important aspects of Micro game is to create and to use control groups so that one can quickly control selected sets of units. StarCraft II allows the player to assign the top-row of numbers (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0) to groups of units or buildings. These groups can be redefined and reassigned at any time.
- Command hotkeys
- Command hotkeys are predefined hotkeys that execute a command or issue an instruction to a selected unit/building when pressed.
- Camera hotkeys
- The through keys are used to quickly zoom the main viewport to a specific location on the battleground. Press Control and the camera key to assign a location. Press the camera key to return to that location. You can assign a new camera location at any time, and it will overwrite the old one.
- Building / Unit hotkeys
- Starcraft II has several pre-programmed keyboard shortcuts to issue commands to buildings and units. This category of hotkey is defined during the startup of the Starcraft II client and cannot be changed mid-game.
- User Interface Hotkeys
- This category of hotkey includes shortcuts which control the game client itself as opposed to issuing commands within the game (for instance, commands to bring up the menu).
Group Hotkeys aka Control Groups
In StarCraft II the number keys at the top of your keyboard can be used to create up to 10 groups of units and/or buildings in order to quickly select multiple items.
To create a control group and assign a hotkey to select it:
- Select the units or buildings you wish to have in the group using whatever selection method you prefer
- draw a box over the units
- and + individual units
- + a unit to select all of those types of units in the main window
+ to create the group and assign the key to select it
- where # is the number key
Alternatively you can press+ to create the group and assign the key to select it (just like + ), but this will also remove the units from other control group(s) they may be part of.
At the top edge of the information area of your main window (at the bottom of your screen) you will see a graphic that shows the group number along with the quantity of units or buildings in the group.
You can't remove units from a group, but you can re-define the group with new units added or current units removed.
- Press the key that corresponds to the group
+ on the units you want to add or remove (if no group exists, this creates it).
- + + to add or remove all units of the same type
- Press + to redefine the group with the new selection
You can add units to the group by selecting the desired units and pressing+ .
You can quickly add units to a group by selecting them and pressing+ . If some of the units selected are already in the group, only the new units will be added. This can be very useful for boxing your units after reinforcing an army, and adding the new units to the group without having to make sure you have the entire existing group selected (or risk accidentally removing some units from the group.)
Groups of buildings are defined in the same way as above, but the player selects buildings instead of units. The most common use for this feature is for the player to create groups of their unit creation buildings. For instance, a Terran may create a group of all their Barracks or a Protoss may group their Robotics Facilities together.
When a unit creation command is given to a group of buildings, the spawning of new units is spread evenly across the group. So if a Terran has their group of two Barracks selected and presses thekey twice, they will start spawning two new Marines, one from each Barracks.
Groups of building can also be set to use the same rally point by right-clicking on the location where you want the newly spawned units to move to.
Strategies for Using
The most common way to use your 10 hotkeys is to divide the keys into unit groups and building groups. Most Starcraft II players are finding that 4 unit control groups is usually sufficient; so keys- are assigned to unit groups while keys - are used for groups of buildings. You should experiment to find the key combinations which feel the most natural and easy to use for you.
Whatever scheme you select, it is best to be consistent. Muscle memory is most effective when each key always does the same thing.
Units may belong to multiple groups. For example, perhaps as a Terran player you'd like to have all of your Marines and Marauders move together as a unit, but when fighting, you'd like your Marauders to focus fire on armored units. You could assign all your infantry to groupthen create group with only the Marauders.
With the release of Legacy of the Void,+ is now used to remove selected units from all previous control groups when assigned to a new control group.
+ will create a new group with selected units.
+ will add selected units to an existing group.
+ will create a new group with selected units and remove these units from existing group or groups.
+ a unit in the selection panel to select all units of that type.
+ a unit in the selection panel to remove that single unit.
+ + a unit in the selection panel to remove all units of that type.
Command hotkeys are pre-defined hotkeys which execute a command or issue an instruction to a selected unit/building when pressed. There are general hotkeys which apply for all races and there are race specific hotkeys which issue commands to the buildings and units of that race. In the Micro (StarCraft) section we discuss many of the key and mouse commands which can be used to position your units for attack.
A couple of highlights from that section are worth pointing out here.
Attack / Attack-Move
The(Attack) key is an overloaded hotkey. If you press and then click on an enemy unit or building, your selected units will attack the enemy. If you press and then left-click somewhere on the map, your selected units will move toward that location, engaging any enemy units they encounter along the way in combat.
Also, pressingand then clicking on one of your own units/buildings will force your selected units to attack yourself. This can be useful when one of your buildings is accidentally blocking your own units from advancing.
Stop / Hold
Pressing the(Stop) hotkey will stop your units in their tracks whether they are moving or not. This comes in handy when you didn't "A-move" your units and they suddenly encounter resistance along the way. A unit which has been stopped will still pursue enemies if necessary.
Stopped units can be baited to move from their location. If you're trying to block a ramp or other chokepoint with your units, you should use the(Hold Position) hotkey instead. This command forces them to hold their ground instead of pursuing enemies that are moving out of range.
Observer) between its location and the point that you tell it to patrol to. Just like a normal attack-move, the unit will automatically engage any enemy troops that it encounters, unless it has no way to attack them. If an enemy opens fire on the patrolling unit and it has no way to counter-attack, the patrolling unit will run and lose its patrol route. Complex patrol routes can be established by holding Shift while creating the patrol route. The patrol will go from point to point, as per normal queue commands, and return to the point of origin after reaching the last destination, then begin the entire patrol circuit again.hotkey is used for Patrol. A unit on patrol will effectively perform an attack-move (or just moving if unit cannot attack like
Terran and Protoss players can optimize construction commands by selecting a worker holding minerals. Issue the build command to that worker by holdingpressing . After the worker has finished that building it will return the resources and resume mining. This will not work for Zerg players because Drones become their structures.
By default Starcraft II allows the player to bind thethrough function keys to focus the camera on an area of the map. Note that there are more than four camera hotkeys available. Cameras five through eight can be defined in the Hotkeys panel of the options menu.
To save a location as a camera hotkey:
- Focus the camera on the area of the map you wish to bookmark
-F# to bookmark that location with that key
- Where F# = , , , or
Pressingthrough will focus your screen on the section of the map which you have bound it to. The most common uses for camera hotkeys include:
- Expansion bases
- Enemy locations
Vigorous, dynamic use of camera hotkeys offers the potential for exceptional efficiency in issuing commands and attending to the battlefield, independent of highly mobile control groups, and not subject to the vagaries of thekey.
focuses the camera on your town structure (Command Center, Hatchery, or Nexus, or derivatives thereof). If you have more than one, cycles through them one by one. Note that Backspace will not focus on floating Command Centers or Orbital Command Centers, and will focus on town structures even if they are devoid of resources (e.g. exhausted expansions, macro hatcheries, etc.).
focuses the camera on the location for the last even notification. Pressing it again cycles through recent events.
Buildings / Units Hotkeys
StarCraft II has several pre-programmed keyboard shortcuts to issue commands to buildings and units. See Hotkeys per Race.
User Interface Hotkeys
- achievements = Display
- = Display the main Menu
- = Display the Chat window
- = Display the Help window
- + = Ping the map at the current location
- minimap terrain + = Show/hide
- + = Alliance options
- + + = Show FPS
- / = Adjust view
- = Adjust view height
- + [any command] = Create a series of commands
- = View last warning area
- = View base
- = Show / hide health points bar
- worker = Select idle
- = Select the entire army
- Warp-in units =
Main Menu hotkeys
- = Achievements
- = Message Log
- = Options
- = Pause
- = Resume
- = Quit Game
- = Return to Game
Replay and Observer Mode hotkeys
- = Compare total mineral, gas and population cost of fightable units
- = Compare units that are being produced, constructions that are being built and technologies that are being researched
- = Compare the amount of mineral and gas gathered within one minute and the amount of workers
- = Compare lost units and their costs
- APM = Compare
- EPM + = Compare
- = Compare current mineral, gas and population
- = Compare the total amount of resources that are spent on technologies and units
- = Compare all units
- = Compare all structures
- = Compare upgrades
- = Close compare window
- = Show visions of all players
- - = toggle views among player 1 to player 8
- = Show POV of current player
- = Show / hide HP bar
- / = Increase / decrease playing speed
- = Pause / resume replay
- = Limits vision to selected unit's owner. Hold to view.
- + = Toggle 1v1 Name Panel
- + = Toggle 1v1 Resource Compare Panel
- + = Toggle 1v1 Army/Worker Supply Compare Panel
- + = Toggle 1v1 Unit/Worker Killed Compare Panel
- + = Toggle 1v1 APM Compare Panel
- + = Toggle UI (Command Card/Minimap/etc.)
- + = Hold to follow the selected unit with camera
- + + = Follow the selected unit with camera
- = rotate Camera CW
- = rotate Camera CCW