Click No More! - A Guide to Keybinding

85 Human Warrior
3570
I've seen more questions on these forums regarding keybinding than I care to count, and generally we simply give the OP a few general tips and move on to other topics. However, the questions keep popping up, and since no one else seems to have any urge to do so... it's guide time.

Note: This guide is not intended to be a comprehensive, end-all / be-all resource for keybinding techniques and strategies- these guides already exist elsewhere on the interwebz, and have been written by much more proficient players than myself. This guide is only intended as a starting point, a basic, general overview of keybinding for players new to the practice.

-- What Is Keybinding? --

To begin, let's start with the most basic question: "What the heck is keybinding, anyway?"

Keybinding is the practice of assigning (via the Blizzard Interface menu or via an add-on such as Dominos) various abilities placed on a player's action bar to a specific, unique key on the keyboard or mouse (if applicable), or to a unique combination of keys. Basically, whenever the player hits the key (or key combination) to which an ability is bound, that ability is then used (macros, also, are bound in this manner - for more information on macros, Raygecow has an excellent guide for beginners:

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/1406723352

The short version: you hit a button, you do something. Bam. Simple. Moving on.

-- The Virtues of Keybinding --

The next question that comes up is, "Why should I keybind?"

Without going into too much mind-numbing detail regarding the differences in dungeon, PvP, and raid performance from those who keybind to those who don't, the bottom line is that players who keybind have a much faster response time to what is happening around them, able to unleash a string of abilities in the time in can often take a "clicker" (someone who doesn't keybind) to find just that one spell. Keybinding transfers an ability rotation from a player's visual memory to a player's muscle memory, allowing him or her to react sometimes before they're even aware of what they're reacting to.

The short version: keybinding saves time and effort. Why not make the game easier for yourself?

-- Binding Keys and Keybinding Logic --

Now we come to the good part: "How do I keybind?"

Back in the day, we had to do this thing called "manual keybinding," which meant that we had to go into the Blizzard Interface menu and manually change and re-arrange our keyboard layout to suit our rotation and style of play, one key and key combination at a time.

This meant that you had to know how each Action Bar was laid out in order to bind your keys (Bar 1, Button 1; Bar 3, Button 5) etc. This could often take a great deal of time to steamline and set up effectively (and those of you who want to learn how to do this can simply go into the Keybinding menu and play around with it to see what I'm talking about: Esc --> Key Bindings).

More recently, we've taken to using (and recommending the use of) add-ons like Bartender and Dominos for this task- Dominos, especially, is a major time-saver due to the fact that it lets a player mouse-over the Action Bar slot they wish to bind and simply hit the key or key combination they wish to bind it to. Bartender does offer some further customization over Dominos, but Dominos is much more user friendly and what I recommend for those new to add-ons / keybinding.

The following sections can easily be put into practice using either medium mentioned above.
Edited by Rynok on 6/8/2012 10:13 AM PDT
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85 Human Warrior
3570
-- Getting Started --

For players who have never made use of keybinding before, we generally recommend keybinding only one or two abilities to start with and then adding more only after those keybinds have been mastered. We also recommend that these one or two abilities be the most commonly used in a player's rotation, in order to force the player to make use of the new keybinds.

The basic logic behind which ability to bind to which key is rather simple: the most important and most used abilities should be bound as close to your natural hand position on the keyboard as possible, without modifiers or special combinations. They need to be close to hand and easy to use.

As an example, if I was just learning to keybind as an Arms Warrior, I might bind Mortal Strike to 4 and Overpower to 5, and start learning to hit "4" when I want to use Mortal Strike and "5" when I want to use Overpower (you can, of course, use any keys you feel comfortable with- 1-6 are merely the keys we recommend starting with). Once I mastered those, I might add Rend to 3 and Colossus Smash to 6, and then proceed to master those the same way I mastered the first two. And it goes on.

This process of learning to keybind generally ends once you have successfully bound every ability / trinket / consumable that you could possibly need to use (or until you have bound enough of them that the ones you haven't bound don't interrupt your play at all).

-- Common Keybinding Practices --

There are many different schools of thought on the most efficient logic behind binding keys, however, the three most common (and the three easiest for those new to keybinding to understand) are listed below.

Note that the below statements on keybinding are meant as general overviews of the logic behind each approach, and are neither intended to be complete nor intended to serve as the most efficient manner in which to bind keys.

The Double- or Triple-Dipper Approach

This approach makes use of one (usually rather short) row of keys that are double- or triple-bound to use various abilities depending on which key or combination of keys is pressed.

For example, we'll take keys 1-6 on the keyboard:

The first level of keybinds (unmodified, 1-6 without any other keys) would be the most used and most needed abilities in your rotation; as an Arms Warrior, this might look like: 1=Charge, 2=Rend, 3=Slam, 4=Mortal Strike, 5=Oveprower, and 6=Colossus Smash. Notice that the abilities are generally bound in order of use during a rotation from first (Charge) to last (Overpower), but not necessarily (Colossus Smash appearing last in the row, for instance).

The second level will add a modifier layer to the row of keys (for example, we'll use Shft+). The second level of keybinds will be abilities that are not quite as important as those bound to the first level, but still relatively important and often (but not always) directly related to the abilities bound in the first level. For example, the second level of binds might look something like this: Shft+1=Heroic Leap, Shft+2=Thunder Clap, Shft+3=Heroic Strike, Shft+4=Sunder Armor, Shft+5=Bladestorm, and Shft+6=Execute. As you can see, we have largely filled out the rest of the Arms Warrior priority rotation, and many abilities that are related to each other or buff each other (Rend and Thunder Clap, Mortal Strike and Sunder Armor, Charge and Heroic Leap) are bound to the same key.

Sometimes, though not always, a third level will be added using a different modifier layer (for this example, we'll use Ctrl+). The third level is generally those abilities that need to be placed somewhere and bound but are not necessarily related to the main rotation. For example, our Arms Warrior might bind the following to the third level: Ctrl+1=Battle Shout, Ctrl+2=Commanding Shout, Ctrl+3=Demoralizing Shout, Ctrl+4= Pummel, Ctrl+5=Throwdown, Ctrl+6=[insert useable trinket / buff here].

The "I Have a Laptop, What Now?" Approach

I do not generally recommend this approach, as it can often cause havoc when switching between computers and hardware setups, but I've noticed that it is very common for players who have justified keyboards to use this approach (a justified keyboard is a keyboard that has no spaces or breaks between main keys- this places F1-F12, and often the Insert / Delete / Home / End keys as well, on a single, un-interrupted row above the numeral and operator keys).

This approach assigns the main abilities in the rotation to 1-6 or 7 and the secondary abilities to F1-F6 or F7, then makes use of a second level of binding to fill in special or extra abilities by also binding Shft+1 - Shft+6 or Shft+7.

Note: The keys you use do not have to be the keys I've listed in the guide- you can put your keybinds wherever you wish, as long as those keybinds are comfortable (see below).
Edited by Rynok on 2/14/2012 1:07 PM PST
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85 Human Warrior
3570
The "I Paid Way Too Much Money for My Mouse" Approach

Despite the title of this section, this approach does not necessarily require you to spend two hundred bucks on a mouse- it's simply favored more by people do. There are two ways to use this approach: mouse movement and keyboard movement.

Mouse Movement

This is the approach I myself favor, simply because it feels more comfortable to me. The idea is to use the mouse for all of your movement functions (look, turn, run, etc.) and to only use the keyboard for action buttons. If you're new to moving with the mouse, this approach can sometimes have an incredibly steep learning curve, but is often well worth it, as mouse turning is almost always faster than keyboard turning.

With mouse movement, you will keybind according to one of the above approaches, or perhaps a mix of the two.

Keyboard Movement

I know a great many players with Razer Nagas who swear that this approach is the only way to go, but I'll let the reader decide. The idea behind this approach is to move ALL action buttons over to the mouse (excepting modifiers, which due to WoW's API can't be moved), and reserve the keyboard only for movement and out of combat keybinds.

With this approach, you will follow the general logic of keybinding that states that your most important abilities need to be closest to your natural hand position and readily accessible.

-- Conclusion --

No matter which approach you decide to use, you should keep in mind the following things when keybinding your abilities:

  • Abilities should be close to hand. If you're having to reach half-way across the keyboard to proc important abilities, you should probably take a look at re-binding a few of them.
  • Related or regularly ordered abilities should be close to each other. If you commonly use Colossus Smash, Mortal Strike, and Overpower in a specific order, you might want to consider binding them to keys that you can easily hit in the order you would use the abilities. Also, related abilities, or abilities that buff or in some way affect each other, can be bound to the same key using modifiers (Shft+, Ctrl+) for easy remembrance.
  • You should be comfortable with your setup. While binding keys and using bound keys can take some getting used to, you should always feel comfortable and happy with your setup. If you're annoyed by something in your setup, change it- the less frustration you cause yourself, the easier it will be to enjoy the game.
  • Your setup should be safe and physically do-able. A good rule of thumb to observe is the keybinding "10-Second Rule:" if you cannot continuously hold a key for 10 seconds without strain or physical pain, you should avoid binding an ability to that key. Further, if you find yourself "playing the piano" often (having to lift or completely move your hands when reaching for keys), you should look into moving your keybinds closer to your natural hand position. Men and women will generally make use of different setups, as well, with women tending to have smaller hands and so making use of smaller, more closely organized setups. Men generally have much larger hands, and can more easily spread their setup out a little bit. As a final note here, older players who suffer from chronic pain such as arthritis or carpal tunnel should avoid at all costs spreading their setup out too much- the double-dipper approach mentioned above should be especially attractive to such players. A special thanks to Icedragon, from whom the idea for this section and the information contained herein was garnered.


As a general note, the Alt+ modifier is generally reserved for self-cast spells as the Blizzard default, but many players makes use of it for a third or fourth modifier layer or level of keybinding. Your use of modifiers and keys will depend entirely on your personal style of play and what feels comfortable to you.

I hope this guide has been helpful, and as always, comments, critiques, and suggestions are welcome and appreciated!
Edited by Rynok on 2/14/2012 1:07 PM PST
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20 Undead Rogue
1220
Sticky requested.
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After a quick initial scan, this looks like it would be a welcomed addition to the stickies. I'll read it more carefully when I have more time, but the first impression is good.

only problem I see right now is this, second post at the very top;
For those who have never made us of keybinding before in their lives,

I'm assuming that "us" is supposed to be "use." A minor offense, I know, but one that could cause confusion to some.

edit: requested sticky
Edited by Baloo on 10/12/2011 9:39 PM PDT
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60 Troll Hunter
11600
Very nicely written now I have a place to send questions about keybinding :) You put it much better than I could have.
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85 Human Warrior
3570
only problem I see right now is this, second post at the very top;
For those who have never made us of keybinding before in their lives,

I'm assuming that "us" is supposed to be "use." A minor offense, I know, but one that could cause confusion to some.


Fixed! Thanks for the catch.

I also made a few minor wording changes to ease readability.
Edited by Rynok on 10/13/2011 7:51 AM PDT
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85 Night Elf Druid
8240
You might want to add in a piece regarding safety when deciding what keybinds to use. Binding keys that don't fit with your hand size or finger reach can lead to straining, cramps, and other painful conditions. The last thing you want is to develop carpal tunnel or get a shooting pain in your tendons in the middle of playing! :(

If you cannot press and hold a key for 10 seconds without straining, don't use that keybind. Older folks with arthritis will have to tailor their keybinds to fit their mobility. Men and women will also have different setups because women generally have smaller hands. Most of my binds are doubled-up and clustered because I'm a woman. A guy with larger paws can probably spread his keys out more without having to use a set of macros.
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85 Human Warrior
3570
You might want to add in a piece regarding safety when deciding what keybinds to use. Binding keys that don't fit with your hand size or finger reach can lead to straining, cramps, and other painful conditions. The last thing you want is to develop carpal tunnel or get a shooting pain in your tendons in the middle of playing! :(

If you cannot press and hold a key for 10 seconds without straining, don't use that keybind. Older folks with arthritis will have to tailor their keybinds to fit their mobility. Men and women will also have different setups because women generally have smaller hands. Most of my binds are doubled-up and clustered because I'm a woman. A guy with larger paws can probably spread his keys out more without having to use a set of macros.


Being added. Thanks!
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85 Night Elf Druid
8240
Very nicely done! Added it to the hopefully-soon-to-be-stickied Guide Listing
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85 Human Warrior
3570
10/14/2011 09:38 AMPosted by Icedragon
Very nicely done! Added it to the hopefully-soon-to-be-stickied Guide Listing


Thank you for that, too. :)
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60 Troll Hunter
11600
Abilities should be close to hand. If you're having to reach half-way across the keyboard to proc important abilities, you should probably take a loot at re-binding a few of them.


Small typo here. Should be look I imagine :)
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85 Human Warrior
3570
10/14/2011 09:59 AMPosted by Jilixx
Abilities should be close to hand. If you're having to reach half-way across the keyboard to proc important abilities, you should probably take a loot at re-binding a few of them.


Small typo here. Should be look I imagine :)


Fixed :)
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90 Night Elf Warrior
10340
Nice job on the guide. Voted for sticky.
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85 Night Elf Druid
4515
This should help me get used to keybinds!

A little over a year into WoW and I still haven't even attempted it...

Voted for sticky as well :)
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90 Undead Hunter
3505
i posted this elsewhere, on another forum. i thought i would try this and see if any of you might be able to help me out. i'm confused! :)

i'm looking for some help with keybindings. i've managed to figure out what categories of bars correspond with the appropriate action bar/multi-action bar. the naming of these categories seems a little odd, but regardless, i figured out what was what... EXCEPT for ACTION BAR 2. i cannot seem to find what keybindings are associated with action bar 2 only.

i've tested and tampered, and i cannot seem to assign keybindings for anything on action bar 2.does anyone have an idea what i am doing wrong? it just seems odd that there is ONE bar that doesn't seem to have a section for binding keys.

any help would be much appreciated! thank you! :)
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85 Human Paladin
11570
Raevun are you sure you're looking at action bar 2 and not 3 or 4 or 5?

I mean you have one default, and then you scroll through the rest unless you enable bottom right, bottom left, right, right 2. correct? well there's still one more that you have to 'use the arrow' under the default action bar.

I think this is 'action bar 2" and that what you think is ab2 in fact is ab 3.

can you post a screenshot of you UI and where your AB2 is?

I ont know how wow pulls action bars out of the scroll list and onto screen. is it predetermined? is it in order of what you enable? I can almost guarantee that's your problem. what you think action bar 2 is...in fact is not '2'.
Edited by Robokapp on 1/5/2012 12:31 AM PST
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85 Human Warrior
3710
Updated to correct a few minor inaccuracies and to be a bit more readable.
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44 Human Rogue
590
How do you make keybinds manually through interface for letters w / a /s / d with out messing up your movement, and other keybinds that happen to be the same key used for something else for example: V is used to see target's health.
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90 Troll Druid
6265
Very nicely done. I have feared attempting keybinding again after a complete mess the first time but will atempt again. Again, thanks for your time in writing the thread.
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