GetKeyState function

Retrieves the status of the specified virtual key. The status specifies whether the key is up, down, or toggled (on, off—alternating each time the key is pressed).


SHORT GetKeyState(
  int nVirtKey



Type: int

A virtual key. If the desired virtual key is a letter or digit (A through Z, a through z, or 0 through 9), nVirtKey must be set to the ASCII value of that character. For other keys, it must be a virtual-key code.

If a non-English keyboard layout is used, virtual keys with values in the range ASCII A through Z and 0 through 9 are used to specify most of the character keys. For example, for the German keyboard layout, the virtual key of value ASCII O (0x4F) refers to the "o" key, whereas VK_OEM_1 refers to the "o with umlaut" key.

Return Value


The return value specifies the status of the specified virtual key, as follows:

  • If the high-order bit is 1, the key is down; otherwise, it is up.
  • If the low-order bit is 1, the key is toggled. A key, such as the CAPS LOCK key, is toggled if it is turned on. The key is off and untoggled if the low-order bit is 0. A toggle key's indicator light (if any) on the keyboard will be on when the key is toggled, and off when the key is untoggled.


The key status returned from this function changes as a thread reads key messages from its message queue. The status does not reflect the interrupt-level state associated with the hardware. Use the GetAsyncKeyState function to retrieve that information.

An application calls GetKeyState in response to a keyboard-input message. This function retrieves the state of the key when the input message was generated.

To retrieve state information for all the virtual keys, use the GetKeyboardState function.

An application can use the virtual key code constants VK_SHIFT, VK_CONTROL, and VK_MENU as values for the nVirtKey parameter. This gives the status of the SHIFT, CTRL, or ALT keys without distinguishing between left and right. An application can also use the following virtual-key code constants as values for nVirtKey to distinguish between the left and right instances of those keys:

VK_LSHIFT VK_RSHIFT VK_LCONTROL VK_RCONTROL VK_LMENU VK_RMENU These left- and right-distinguishing constants are available to an application only through the GetKeyboardState, SetKeyboardState, GetAsyncKeyState, GetKeyState, and MapVirtualKey functions.


For an example, see Displaying Keyboard Input.


Minimum supported client Windows 2000 Professional [desktop apps only]
Minimum supported server Windows 2000 Server [desktop apps only]
Target Platform Windows
Header winuser.h (include Windows.h)
Library User32.lib
DLL User32.dll

See Also




Keyboard Input