DOSBox Keys and Functions

Updated for DOSBox 0.74

DOSBox has a number of specialised function keys that can be used to quickly adjust the program features at any time during its operation. Either when in a DOS command prompt, when running a full screen program or playing a full screen game. I will list all the function key combinations and their usage.

Full Screen Mode

Like any Windows application you can switch DOSBox between Windowed and full screen mode by using the ALT-ENTER key combination.


DOSBox can be paused at any time by pressing ALT-Pause. Once paused, you can resume your activity by repeating the same combination.

Rescan / Update Directory Cache

In the previous tutorial I spoke about the need of using the rescan prompt command. This is needed whenever a drive, folder or file used by DOSBox was changed externally, such as by Windows Computer. Instead of typing rescan at prompt you can also use the CTRL-F4 key combination to update the cache on all your DOSBox mounted drives and images.

Movie Recording *

DOSBox has the ability to record directly to a movie file. By default the movie file will be stored in the capture sub-directory within the DOSBox program directory. within the Users AppData, Local, DOSBox directory. There is a shortcut to this listed as Capture folder Screenshots & Recordings which is in the Extras sub-folder in the DOSBox menu item within Windows start menu.

To initiate recording you press the CTRL-ALT-F5 combination. To stop recording, you press the same combination again.

When engaged DOSBox will create an AVI movie, including any audio using the ZMBV (Zip Motion Blocks Video) codec. It will be named based on the active DOS program’s file name that is currently active. While the movie recording is designed mainly for recording games and demos, you can also use it to record DOS prompt activity.

To successfully record a DOSBox movie you must first make sure you have installed the ZMBV codec to your computer. Again, Vista users should run the codec install shortcut using the ‘Run as Administrator’ option.

DOSBox 0.74 Screenshots & Recordings

Screenshot Capture *

You can save a screenshot of DOSBox’s content at anytime by using the CTRL-F5 combination. All captures will be stored in the default DOSBox captures directory. This can be found through a shortcut listed as Capture folder Extras, Screenshots & Recordings within the DOSBox Windows start menu.

Audio Recording *

CTRL-F6 will engage audio recording for DOSBox. You can initiate this at any time, even when there is no audio output from DOSBox. All audio will be recorded and saved as a standard WAV file and stored in the default Capture folder Extras, Screenshots & Recordings DOSBox menu item. The WAV audio format is uncompressed and widely supported. So you can easily use any audio converter program to compress and convert the audio into any format you wish, including MP3.

If you are looking for an audio converter, most popular CD-DVD burning packages include some form of audio conversion tool.

In Roxio Creator you can use the Sound Editor’s export function, while Nero has the included WaveEditor program. The free and open sourced Audacity would be another popular choice.

Quit, Exit or Kill

At anytime in full screen or windowed mode you can terminate the DOSBox application by using the CTRL-F9 combination.

Speed Adjustment

By default DOSBox will automatically detect and adjust its emulated speed to the DOS program it is running. Occasionally it gets this timing measurement wrong so DOSBox gives you the option to manually tweak the speed the speed settings.

CTRL-F11 will slow down the emulation
CTRL-F12 will speed up the emulation

ALT-F12 will remove all speed restrictions imposed by the emulation

Restoring your Mouse

Occasionally you will run a DOS program that has inbuilt mouse support. Many newer adventure games fall into this category. If a program supports the mouse, DOSBox automatically locks your mouse into its program window for exclusive usage. If you wish to restore the mouse back to general Windows usage press CTRL-F10.

* Note, Windows Vista users will need to run DOSBox using the ‘Run as administrator’ if you wish to record or capture. You can find this option by right clicking the DOSBox program shortcut in Windows start menu.

24 thoughts on “DOSBox Keys and Functions

  1. Some keyboards (of the newer variety) as well as nearly ALL laptop keyboards have different keycodes than older qwerty keyboards. I have noticed myself that many programs on dosbox can have issues if it asks for a specific shift or Ctrl key (left or right), as well as the ~ key. There is a way to fix this in Dosbox, but for the life of me I cannot remember the setting.
    Instead of digging through the manual, which will read like stereo instructions (such an outdated notion now, eh?) if you are like me, simply do a search on google. (that’s how I found the answer)

    I believe that my question was “getting ~ to work in dosbox”, or “~ wont work in dosbox”, possibly even “how to use ~ in dosbox” you can also type “tilde” instead of ~.

    This is how I found the answer (within just a minute or two). It has to do with how DosBox lists your keyboard. There are many types of keyboards, most for different languages, but there are a few english ones, and you will need to switch to one of those. (I am on a laptop and I assure you, this fixed all of my keys.)

    I apologize for the long post. I am going to add section 7 of the Dosbox manual here, since it contains the information you are seeking. I will attempt to use the “spoiler Code” to cut down on the size of this post. If it works (I have never posted here, and I don’t know if the BBCode works, nor do I know if I will be able to edit it afterwards…) then you will see the Chapter Title. Click on it to expand it so that you can see the information in it. If the spoiler code does not work, you will just see the whole thing with a BBCode tag around the heading.

    [spoiler=8. Keyboard Layout:]

    To switch to a different keyboard layout, either the entry “keyboardlayout” in the [dos] section of the DOSBox configuration file can be used, or the internal DOSBox program (Section 4: Internal Programs) Both accept DOS conforming language codes (see below), but only by using a custom codepage can be specified.

    The default keyboardlayout=auto currently works under windows only. The language is chosen according to the OS language, but the keyboard layout is not detected.

    Layout switching
    DOSBox supports a number of keyboard layouts and codepages by default, in this case just the layout identifier needs to be specified (like keyboardlayout=PL214 in the DOSBox configuration file, or using “keyb PL214” at the DOSBox command prompt). The list of all layouts built into DOSBox is here:

    Some keyboard layouts (for example layout GK319 codepage 869 and layout RU441 codepage 808) have support for dual layouts that can be accessed by pressing LeftALT+RrightSHIFT for one layout and LeftALT+LeftSHIFT for the other. Some keyboard layouts (for example layout LT456 codepage 771) have support for three layouts, third can be accessed by pressing LeftALT+LeftCTRL

    Supported external files
    The FreeDOS .kl files are supported (FreeDOS keyb2 keyboard layoutfiles) as well as the FreeDOS keyboard.sys/keybrd2.sys/keybrd3.sys libraries which consist of all available .kl files. See for precompiled keyboard layouts if the DOSBox-integrated layouts don’t work for some reason, or if updated or new layouts become available.

    Both .CPI (MS-DOS and compatible codepage files) and .CPX (FreeDOS UPX-compressed codepage files) can be used. Some codepages are compiled into DOSBox, so it is mostly not needed to care about external codepage files. If you need a different (or custom) codepage file, copy it into the directory of the DOSBox so it is accessible for DOSBox. If you place all ten ega.cpx files (from FreeDOS) in DOSBox folder, an appropriate codepagefile for the requested layout/codepage is chosen automatically.

    Additional layouts can be added by copying the corresponding .kl file into the directory of the DOSBox configuration file and using the first part of the filename as language code.

    Example: For the file UZ.KL (keyboard layout for Uzbekistan) specify “keyboardlayout=uz” in the DOSBox configuration file.
    The integration of keyboard layout packages (like keybrd2.sys) works similar.

    Note that the keyboard layout allows foreign characters to be entered, but there is NO support for them in filenames. Try to avoid them both inside DOSBox as well as in files on your host operating system that are accessible by DOSBox.[/spoiler]

    Well, whether that worked or not, I just wanted to add that you will have a much easier time getting this setting fixed if you use a front-end for dosbox. (Ignore this if you know what a front-end is.**A Front-End is a “shell” program that lets you interface with another program in a usually more efficient way.**)
    The front-end I use is D-Fend Reloaded. It has a drop down menu in its game properties tab which you can use to select your keyboard. (And it’s extremely helpful in every other way. You can set it up for each game, to add cheats, manuals and hintbooks, extra game files, every setting in dosbox can be set for each game, and will be saved and remembered so all you have to do is click the game in the list to start playing.)

    P.S. : It’s not just newer keyboards that seem to have the problem, it is also HP(Hewlett Packard) keyboards that seem to use a different layout than the one recognized by dos. The right setting will restore your non-functional keys. However, if this still does not work for you, then there is one SURE-FIRE method of fixing the problem, but as the saying goes, “It’s like going around your arse to get to your elbow.” Basically you can use a keymapping program to give your non working keys a different keybinding, which will then be recognized by Dosbox, but that ONLY works if you are needing the key for a control in a game. It still will not work for typing in commands, because you are basically changing the key (for example, Left Shift) to something else that Dosbox will recognize with your current keyboard layout. (like NUMPAD 5, from the extra number keys on the right of most full sized keyboards)
    That causes the dosbox program to recognize the NUMPAD 5 key every time the Left Shift key is pressed. This can cause issues later on as that key might do something else, and really, the most simple way (don’t be intimidated!) is to change the layout of your keyboard as described above in section eight of the DosBox manual. If you cannot determine what layout you need, then trial and error will show you the way in less than 3 minutes. Just try one setting, go into the DosBox prompt, see if you can type those keys.
    If you cannot, then exit DosBox, select another setting, preferably the next down the list just to be sure you don’t miss one, (only the english ones!) and then repeat the process. It really shouldn’t take that long.

    I fixed my problem in this way, no problem. I hope it helps, and if all else fails, just do a search for the right setting, maybe add your model of keyboard/laptop to the search string, and you should find what you seek.

    Good luck, and Happy Gaming!!!

    -Volyren Nightsong (Volyren…….(a)………gmail…………com)

    [just replace the (a) with @ and remove the extra dots…..obscure your email addy like this to avoid getting tons of spam. This way the spambots that search everything for email addresses won’t recognize it as a valid target]

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