Steam Hotkeys: Music Player, In-Game Overlay, and More!

Hotkeys are the most useful time-saver in the computing world. This is no different for Steam, as there are many hotkeys you can use to save time and effort!

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In an era where time is king, anything people can do to save time during professional or leisure activities are of high value. Whether it is cutting down on the time it takes to produce a creative work or to get you into your leisure activities faster, both are beneficial for the user. This article may not be of service to improving your turn-around time in the workplace, but it will be useful for getting you in-game faster, improving your quality of life while in-game, or even just showing off to your friends all of the cool hotkeys you know (weird flex, but okay).

If you are looking to increase your knowledge on some niche Steam aspects, you have come to the right place. Just to note, most hotkeys in this article are for Windows operating systems. To look up the mac counter-part, simply Google the same shortcut and put ‘mac equivalent’ afterwards. I’ll be sticking with Windows syntax for simplicity’s sake. Within this article, I’ll be covering a variety of subtopics within the following areas:

  • In-Game Overlay
  • Music Player
  • General Hotkey Tips

In-Game Overlay

Steam In-Game Overlay hotkeys
Steam’s in-game overlay is a super useful function to have in your toolbelt. It improves the in-game experience, interactability with friends, and general functionality of Steam! Image courtesy of

What is the in-game overlay?

The in-game overlay provided by Steam is exactly what it sounds like, an overlay to be used whilst playing a Steam game. This overlay allows you to access chats with friends, the Steam store, and even an entire web browser. This is especially useful for fullscreen games as it allows you to still browse the web without having to exit the game you are playing. Some Steam users even use this built in web browser as their main browser. This is especially useful for streamers who do not want to have to exit their game or switch scenes to show the viewers what they are looking at on the web.

Another useful aspect to the in-game overlay is its ability to allow users to avoid having to use Alt + Tab to switch between applications. Many games that are fullscreen will minimize the CPU/ram usage of background tasks in order to allocate as much power to the game as possible. In doing this, it makes the process of switching to those other applications more tedious and sometimes even results in computers freezing or crashing. By using the in-game overlay, users can avoid this catastrophe by using the overlay’s built-in web browser.

What is the hotkey for the in-game overlay?

Accessing the in-game overlay is super easy. By default, the in-game overlay hotkey is bound to Shift + Tab. This is a useful default hotkey as it allows the user to quickly press both keys with their left hand (assuming the user is using a right-handed keyboard). However, there are a number of reasons a user may want to change that hotkey, and the process of doing so is easy!

How can I change that hotkey?

To change the hotkey, go to Steam -> Settings -> In-Game. Within this setting, you should see the Overlay Shortcut Keys setting in the middle of the page. A simple click in the box and you are able to change it to whatever you would like. If your overlay is not working, make sure you have the Enable the Steam Overlay while in-game option checked. Without it, the overlay will never work no matter what you have the hotkey binded to.

There are a number of reasons users may want to change this hotkey, mostly revolving around user preferences. However, there is one reason that any first-person shooter player should know. In CS:GO, for example, players will often find themselves holding the shift key to stealthily walk around the map without making noise. If someone is doing this and they decide to press tab to check the scoreboard, uh-oh, the overlay pops up and now they are dead. To avoid this frustrating outcome, make sure you change the overlay hotkey if that is a problem you expect to encounter during your gaming sessions.

Music Player

Steam Music Player hotkeys
Steam’s music player is a built-in audio player to the in-game overlay mentioned above. This is super useful for controller users or for those who despise having to Alt + Tab to change songs! Image courtesy of

What is the music player?

Okay, okay, maybe the picture is slightly misleading as the music player is no longer ‘new.’ In fact, it came out all the way back in 2014. That does not detract from the usefulness of this music player, however. Steam’s music player is a simple tool that allows users to upload local music from their computer or from soundtracks of games they own to be listened to whilst playing a game. To add music, go to the Music tab within Steam’s settings. You can then either press add to manually find music files or scan now to have Steam automatically scan your device for music files. You may find out that there are already a number of songs in your Steam music library. These are likely soundtracks from games you have in your library, as many games will automatically input their soundtracks directly to the music library for your listening pleasure!

As mentioned earlier, many games require the user to play them in fullscreen, or at the very least are more enjoyable to play in fullscreen. This, in tandem with the Alt + Tab problem mentioned above, means that being able to play music within Steam’s universe is super useful in comparison to using, for instance, Spotify’s web player. It helps to avoid unnecessary crashes and freezes that may interrupt your gaming experience. 

Is there a hotkey for the music player?

Unfortunately, there is no true hotkey for the music player itself. However, the music player's main functionality is through Steam’s in-game overlay. This means that the hotkeys mentioned in the previous section are all applicable for accessing the music player. To access the music player from the in-game overlay, simply press your set hotkey to open up the overlay. From here, press the Music tab at the bottom of the screen that is between Web Browser and Settings. This will open up the music player. Once you have that open, you can play, pause, skip, and all that good stuff for whatever songs you have added to your Steam music library.

Are there any hotkeys associated with the music player?

For mouse and keyboard users, sadly no. All of the music player's functionality comes from manually opening the in-game overlay and then interacting with the music player itself. However, this is a completely different story for Steam controller/’Big Picture Mode’ users. For those who are unaware, big picture mode is essentially the console version of Steam for users who choose to use a controller rather than the typical keyboard and mouse combo.

For Steam controller (specifically the Steam controller, not just any controller) users, here are a number of useful music player hotkeys (hotbuttons?):

Guide + Joystick Click -> Play/Pause Music

Guide + Joystick Right -> Next Music Track

Guide + Joystick Left -> Previous Music Track

Guide + Joystick Up -> Music Volume Up

Guide + Joystick Down  -> Music Volume Down

Unfortunately, if you are using big picture mode with another controller (like an Xbox controller, for example) these shortcuts will not work (to my knowledge). While these are of no use to the typical keyboard user or console controller user, it may be of some assistance to Steam controller users!

General Hotkey Tips

Useful hotkeys for gamers

Alt + Tab - Starting out with a classic, Alt + Tab allows the users to switch between applications with ease. This is useful for everyday computing, but also useful when playing games. If you need to change a song or use some other application, simply switch between them without having to close your game. Be warned, some fullscreen games do not like when you press Alt + Tab so be careful!

F12 - This is a specific hotkey for screenshotting while playing a Steam game. F12 is the default hotkey, but can be changed using the same methods mentioned earlier in the article. For a more in-depth guide on screenshotting while playing a game, check out this article. (LINK TO OTHER STEAM TIPS AND TRICKS ARTICLE). 

Windows Key + Shift + S - This hotkey opens up the snip and sketch tool which allows the user to drag their cursor over a given area and copy that area onto the clipboard. This is useful for grabbing a quick image during gameplay to share with friends. I often find myself using this to quickly show my friends something that is happening in the game. Simply snip the given area you want to share and paste it directly into Discord (or whatever communications application you are using).

Alt + Z (Nvidia Users) - This hotkey will open up the GeForce Experience in-game overlay. There are too many features within this overlay to hit in a single blurb, but it is generally useful for capturing gameplay, viewing your frame rate, capturing screenshots, and much more. In fact, GeForce Experience’s Shadowplay function is exactly what ESG uses to record gameplay utilized in our YouTube game reviews! (LINK TO YOUTUBE CHANNEL)

Useful hotkeys for trouble-shooting

Alt + F4 - The classic troll. Many newer gamers have probably faced the experience of asking in a game’s chat function how to do something and getting a response of ‘Alt + F4.’ Unfortunately, pressing these two keys simultaneously will force close whatever application you currently have open. This is useful for closing applications you are either done using or that are not responding. It is not useful, however, for whatever tip you were looking for in the game’s chat. It is a classic troll, a rite of passage if you will, that all gamers must experience at some point.

Control + Shift + Escape - This hotkey will open up the task manager built into Windows. The task manager is extremely useful for force closing applications that are not responding and will not let you Alt + Tab out. There are a number of other useful features for the task manager like monitoring background processes, viewing CPU/ram usage, and even seeing power consumption. It is definitely a hotkey any gamer (or even just computer users in general) should be able to use at a moment’s notice. 

Windows Key + Tab - This final hotkey allows you to view all of the applications open on your current desktop. It also allows you to open up a separate desktop which essentially emulates another computer. This is super useful for viewing what may be slowing down your computer. It can be used in combination with the task manager to close games. If the entire desktop is not responding, open up the task manager using the above hotkey. After that, drag the task manager application to a separate desktop and click into that desktop. Now you can use task manager to force close any application that may have caused the desktop to freeze. I have used this workaround hundreds of times while playing buggy games and it is something every gamer should know how to do!

gamer using steam hotkeys on a backlit gaming keyboard
By now, you should have improved your arsenal of hotkeys to use while playing a game. Now you can save precious time with confusing functions by simply using the hotkeys mentioned above!

Perfect efficiency is a concept desired by most but achieved by none. You may not master every hotkey that you can use while computing, but learning the basic ones will help improve your gaming experiences a ton. Most of these are even generally useful when doing everyday tasks on a computer (especially Alt + Tab). Instead of messing around with confusing user interfaces, simply press some key combinations and get back to doing what you love: gaming!

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