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Windows applications for displaying keystrokes in real-time

Reading Time: 4 min

Tags:  Windows Applications

Applications, which detect and display keystrokes in real-time, can be very useful for those who do screencasts or screen recordings. Here is a quick look at three such applications.

  1. NohBoard
  2. Carnac
  3. QiPress


License: Free, under GPL2 license
Github Page:

NohBoard is a keyboard visualization software. It displays a full keyboard on the screen and shows animations on key presses. The first time you launch NohBoard, you will see only a blank window. It will start showing the keyboard only after you have loaded a keyboard layout.  Load Keyboard option is available from the right-click context menu.

NohBoard on first start

Layout us_intlmousemove worked perfectly for me.

selecting keyboard layout
NohBoard Demo

There are many layouts meant for gamers as well; here is a sample.

NohBoard gamer's layout demo

Many of the keyboard layouts visualizes mouse actions as well. If none of the keyboard layouts which ship with NohBoard work for you, it is possible to create your own layout. You may also be able to find user created keyboard layouts on the internet.

Modify Keyboard Style

To modify the keyboard-style, choose start editing from the right-click context menu. This would put you in edit mode.

NohBoard Entering edit-mode

Now right click again, you will see that your context menu now has more options. Choose keyboard style.

Nohboard context menu after entering edit-mode

In the Keyboard Style window, double click on whichever color/colors you want to change

Changing keyboard style

Choose Save Style ➾ save as

Saving Style

Click stop editing from the context menu. Here is the result, after some customizations.

NohBoard layout after customizations

Modify Keyboard Layout

The most advanced feature of NohBoard is its ability to customize the keyboard layout. To do this right-click ➾ start editing. As mentioned earlier this makes more options available to you. You can drag the edge of the window to resize it.

NohBoard Resize

You can add a new element.

NohBoard adding new element

In order to modify the properties of an element, you need to right-click on the element while you are in edit mode.

right clicking on NohBoard without entering edit-mode, this is the wrong way Right-Clicking on NohBoard after entering edit-mode, this is the right way

As you can see in the picture, right-clicking on an element while you are not in edit-mode will not give you the options necessary to edit it. This is one thing you need to remember when trying to configure NohBoard. Many options like the one in this example, are available only in edit-mode. So the steps usually needed are: right-click and select Start Editing to enter edit mode, right click again to select the options you want, save changes to the style or definition as the case may be, and then select stop editing to exit the edit mode.


License: Free, under Microsoft Public Licence
Github Page:
Download Link:

Carnac displays the keys which you press in one or more tiny windows.

Carnac Demo animation

By default, the windows appear starting from the top-left corner. To change this go to the general tab of Carnac window, click on the corner you want and then specify an offset

Carnac changing window position

There is an appearance tab in there as well, which is easy to miss. Since I find Carnac’s default appearance to be quite good, I decided to stick with it. In order to pause Carnac press Ctrl+Alt+P, to resume press Ctrl+Alt+P again.  Carnac has some nice display touches as well, like if you press the backspace multiple times, it will show something like back x 5, instead of multiple backspaces.

Carnac demo picture

One problem, which I found with Carnac, is that it does not display windows key if it is pressed alone.


License: Free lite version and paid pro version

QiPress have a feature-limited version, which is free for personal use and a pro version, which is non-free. Here is how the pro version looks.

QiPress demo animation

QiPress visualizes both key presses and mouse clicks. The pro version comes with a large number of features, and almost every aspect of the program is configurable. As for the free version, the mouse-click display is a big plus, but otherwise, it is severely limited.   Let us look at some of the main features of the pro version.

Visual mouse feature displays a small mouse animation; it visualizes mouse actions like click and drag really well.

Visual mouse feature demo animation

You can use cursor halo option to put a halo around the cursor or to turn the cursor into a kind of spotlight.

Cursor Halo demo animation
Cursor spotlight demo animation

You can use the scribble tool to scribble on any part of the screen.

Scribble tool demo animation