Skyrim doesn’t really teach you how to fully leverage the shortcut key system, and as I managed to figure it out via trial-and-error I thought I might share it with all of you. It sort of defies intuition.
I use a Razor Mouse (the kind with the 12 buttons at your thumb) but I think this would still be useful even if you’re restricted to the keyboard like a normal person.
First, you are probably aware that you can tag equip-able items (weapons and apparel, mind you) , spells, and powers as Favorites, such that they will appear on the Favorites Quick Menu when you hit Q. This will stop the action and present you with a little menu at the bottom left of the screen, showing your favorites. When this menu is up, hover the mouse cursor over options in it…you can equip (or unequip) by right or left clicking on an item (the default is left click/right hand and right click/left hand…it’s not as weird as it sounds). You can of course scroll through with the mouse wheel. You probably know these parts.
You can also assign hot keys here in the Quick Menu: highlight an ability with the mouse cursor then hit a number key to assign it as a hot key. The number will appear next to it.
Things I have on my hotkeys for my assassin (Dark Brotherhood member):
- Damage Health Poisons: way more convenient than going into a sub menu to poison each arrow I fire. I hit the button, click Yes, and fire; rinse repeat.
- Two bows: my normal, non-magical bow and whatever my magical bow is currently.
- My mainhand dagger.
- My magic dagger for when I really need a lot of damage.
- A torch.
When I hit the shortcut key for either of my bows, whatever weapons I have currently equipped (typically a dagger/sword combo) swap over to the bow. If I hit that same hot key again, I swap back to those previously equipped weapons. This is I think my favorite part of hot keying. Even if my weapons are lowered (so I can move faster and/or not garner attention from guards) I hear tell-tale clinks or rustling depending on whether I just equipped my melee or ranged weapon(s) respectively.
This is (sadly) not without a few minor bugs. The most notable of which is the duplicate item bug: I’ve found that when I pick up or drop an item with a name identical (or very similar) to an item I have hotkeyed, there are various conflicts that can arise. In some cases, the hot key binding vanishes (is no longer bound). In other cases, hitting the hotkey will pull up a version of the weapon that you don’t want (flaming elven dagger vs. normal elven dagger). Ironically I’ve seen the same kind of thing trying to put various weapons onto wall mounts in my houses. (For instance, I needed to cast my flaming elven dagger on the ground so that a weapon mount would take my original elven dagger which I used to sow so much death.)
Anyway, these aren’t so bad as they sound. I also hot key healing potions at times…but just as often I still jump into the deep menus to gulp them down as typically I drink more than one at a time and will take the opportunity to buff up with something else (+armor skill or something).
The system is a bit more robust than it first appears and is poorly presented (unlike virtually everything else in the game). Still, once you get it down, things go much more smoothly and, personally, it enhances the game experience for me.