As a ROM-Launcher, skeletonKey provides a robust interface for retroArch, MAME, snes9x, mednafen and an extensible environment for the granular controls needed to automate hundreds of emulators
As a configuration tool, skeletonKey can deploy a ROM-library that meets the expectations of users who desire a means to maintain the integrity of settings and assets indipendently of a frontend or emulator.
The settings tab is for the location for your systems, emulators, playlists and other environment-options.
Auto-Load Per-Game Settings
SkeletonKey will automatically load any per-game settings previously created and create settings for the currently selected title upon launch if none are detected.
Systems follow the no-intro naming nomenclature wherever possible. Jackets and frontends deployed by skeletonKey can be populated with ROMs categorically stored beneath the systems directory.
By default, all emulators will be installed to the Emulator Directory. Upon assigning a directory to the Emulators Directory, skeletonKey will search subdirectories for previously installed known emulators not
currently identified or manually assigned.
SkeletonKey can try to rename folders in the Systems Directory to the recognized nomenclature supported by skeletonKey (no-intro)
Enabling this will allow SkeletonKeY to list only recognized folder-names in the Systems Directory. It is recommended to enable this option.
By default, the temp/cache directory is set to windows temp folder "%temp%".
The history file contains a list of the ROMs launched by skeletonKey. Additionally the history file and playlists created by skeletonKey store the emulator or core assigned to it.
The history file and playlists can be read by retroArch and can share these interchangeably.
skeletonKeY can use retroArch's history file to record its' own launched ROMs. Users who do not wish to alter retroArch's history file should disable this option.
The main tab is responsive and will populate options for the currently selected supported emulator. Any existing settings for the currently selected ROM are loaded.
The Launch menu items persist across emulator settings populated in the Main tab. These items are at the top of the window and are necessary to browse directories, navigate playlists and launch a ROM.
The Global-Launch-Menu includes:
a System List dropdown for directories & toggle for playlists
a ROM selector button
an EMU dropdown menu
the editable selection menu containing items in the currently selected playlist or directory
a "Mini-Mode" toggle button
the "C" configure button
a split LAUNCH >> button
The folder/playlist toggle will toggle this dropdown between playlist files and the current system libraries. System Lists contain any folders found in the Systems ROOT directory and any systems which have been
appended by the user .This can be filtered to display only detected and created systems.
Changing the system will automatically populate the ROM List with detected ROMs, load the emulator/core-associated preferences and then populate the tab with options if available.
Right-Click on this dropdown to configure it.
The switches toggle will expose options & arguments fields for emulators. These are pre-packed with many options and arguments, however spaces should be observed when plugging in your own switches.
The ROM currently in ROM-List will be launched by the emulator/core in the EMU-List.
A quick-launch selection set of all assigned presets and known compatible presets will appear in a dropdown menu
This menu can also be accessed via right-clicking on the LAUNCH button.
The editable dropdown menu contains a list of all ROMs in the current system/playlist dropdown menu.
If the auto-load setting is enabled, whenever a new ROM is selected, the configuration files for that ROM will have values populate the tab.
A new configuration will be generated in the ROMs' configuration folder if one is not found.
The EMU list is a core/emulator dropdown which contains a list of all cores, all nicknames for system-associations, and all emuators. Changing the core/emulator dropdown will dynamically populate the Main
tab with options for the emulator/core (if supported) and any load existing settings the title may have.
Right-Clicking on this menu enables assignment and configuration.
RetroArch, MAME, Snes9x and Mednafen are currently supported.
[C] Configure Button
Brings forth the options for the currently selected emulator or core. Right-click menu items include per-game overrides.
Emulator Configuration Options
These options are dynamically loaded for each emulator. Settings changed by the user at run-time should load and populate the GUI after lauching.
Drag & Drop a ROM into the Main tab and with the Auto-Launch option enabled, skeletonKey will detect the ROM and launch it using the system's associated emulator, or bring forth the menu if undetected/Auto-Launch is disabled.
The "find" button can be found in the lower right hand corner of the tab and will expand the search fields. skeletonKey can search for ROMs in your "Systems" directories or playlists.
Selecting a title will repopulate the System-List & make it active in the ROM list.
A right-click menu allows for a single ROM to be launched by any installed emulator or it's directory opened by windows explorer. Additionally, multiple files can be selected and added to the playlist editor.
SkeletonKey can be used to quickly install emulators, frontends, retroArch and utilities. The Install Tab is also used to associate skeletonKey's systems with emulators and retroArch cores when using skeletonKey as a launcher.
Installing RetroArch & cores
RetroArch and components can be installed separately or as a single package (stable). The "RetroArch" list item includes all components needed by retroArch. The most recent nightly build as well as the stable
version are available. A core-upate button will check for cores with updates to upgrade en-masse.
RetroArch is tightly integrated into skeletonKey with an exhaustive set of options and exclusive features for netplay. By default the most compatible core is selected as the skeletonkey's primary association
for most of retroarch's supported systems. The GUI interface for retroArch is dynamic, responding after any changes made during gameplay.
RetroArch's "core_assets_directory" should be assigned to the [Systems ROOT] folder.
The playlist_directory and content_history_path (history file) should also be shared with skeletonKey.
Installing BIOS Files
Drag & Drop BIOS files or a BIOS pack (.7z .zip .rar) to automatically install them to their proper places in supported emulators directories.
SkeletonKey can install hundreds of emulators. Supported emulators can be configured indipendently (for per-game settings too!!!) as they are launched by skeletonKey and as emulators assigned to ROM-Jackets. Each emulator
can be assigned via drag and drop.
Systems / ROM Directories
Selecting "Systems" from the dropdown menu will allow users to define directories containing ROMs. Users may append multiple ROM directories for a single system for over 400 recognized systems. Drag and drop is
supported for multiple selected systems and folders.
The Associations section of the Install tab can be used to change the association of a system to a core, an emulator or nickname.
Systems are defined in part by file-extensions exclusive to the system. Because an emulator may have multiple system-assocations, a unique "system identifier" nickname can be created to define exclusive
Skeletonkey can detect and assign emulators or a designated retroArch core to a system/s, however it may be desireable to create and configure systems and associations manually. A unique system-identifier or
"nickname" can be created to create custom systems and associated emulator-presets.
Associating an emulator to a system creates a unique set of preferences for the emulator and assigns this set a nickname which can also be assigned to other systems. A system may have multiple emulators associated
which populate the quick-launch/right-click buttons in the global-menu. Right clicking on the System and emu/core dropdowns will bring up menus to quickly configure or associate systems with emulators and
The default association defines which emulator/core will automatically populate options in the main tab, and how skeletonKey will automatically launch ROMs (through drag'n drop etc) categorically, however the
right-click menu of the [C] button in the global-menu will allow any individual ROM to override this default.
Options, arguments, quotes, ROM-paths and the extension can be adjusted to suit an emulator's needs.
Spaces are observed for options, arguments and command-lines.
< character must be escaped or it will be converted to a space.
[CUSTMOPT] & [CUSTMARG] are special tags assigned to MAME and other emulators which allow skeletonKey to detect and automate the passing
of overriding-options and arguments at runtime via the "switches" checkbox in the Global-Launch-Menu (this is generally reserved for MAME and other multi-system emulators which use
zip-contents to determine command-line parameters.)
!!!!Enabling the "switches" override will deactivate preset options such as auto-system and ROM-type detection!!!!
Many MAME systems and several supported emulators options and arguments are available as presets for custom options & arguments.
SkeletonKey can retain emulator settings for each game (configuration files, save-states, battery-saves/nvram) under supported emulators. Any changes that are made during gameplay will be saved.
SkeletonKey copies and moves these configuration files back and forth between the emulator's folder and the per-game configuration folder before and after the emulator runs.
Configuration files are stored inside a folder of the ROM's name. A folder for each system can be located in the skeletonKey installation folder under the "cfg" directory. EG:
Windows drivers and software needed by some hardware
Many emulators require these runtimes
Required by many emulators.
This installs the XBox 360 Joystick drivers from Microsoft. These are needed for Windows Vista and 7.
SCP Wrapper for Dualshock Joysticks
The SCP Wrapper is a driver for bluetooth Sony Dualshock joysticks.
This is the most reliable and easiest way for DS3/4 users to use their joysticks in Windows 7/8x-10.
DS4Windows is a Sony DualShock 4 driver for windows. It is installed however the configuration of this driver is left to the user.
This is a robust, command-line driven, preset-supporting display manager This tool works well with RoM-Jacket launchers.
This tool emulates a physical disc-drive. Configuration is left to the user.
This tool emulates a physical disc-drive.
Configuration is left to the user.
Configuration is left to the user. Not fully integrated.
Daemon Tools: Consider alternatives.
For systems windowsXP->windows 8.x, skeletonKey can automatically install this program
through the command-line which will NOT install the included toolbar or any additional
software. Windows 10 users who need Daemon Tools should
download and install it separately.
The Daemon Tools program may be needed by the SSF Sega Saturn emulator, the UNZ FM-Towns
emulator and any emulator which cannot directly read cd/dvd image files.
Mounting disc images with Daemon Tools is desireable
for users who wish to switch disks reliably or have disc-images in formats unreadable by an
Open the Daemon Tools program.
If you do not have a SCSI drive in the list, add a SCSI drive.
Joystick options are dynamic and respond to the currently selected supported input-remap system and emulator.
RetroArch, MAME, Snes9x and Mednafen are currently supported through directinput and xinput.
Features such as rewind/fast-forward and save-state saving/loading are assigned to keyboard shortcuts
and button-combinations to trigger these keyboard-shortcuts are preset for many emulators..
RoM-Jacket libraries require a keyboard-remapper for a seamless HTPC gaming frontend experience.
Xpadder is a very reliable and enhanced keyboard remapper. Presets are ubiquitous and abundant and skeletonKey has hundreds for many emulators ready to go for xinput devices.
Antimicro is open source, extremely versitile and the preferred keyboard remapper.
Frontends may require a unique joystick profile to properly function. This profile is loaded when returning from a game.
The emulator's default assigned keys are used wherever possible. Functional hotkeys are assigned to triggered button sequences. (eg: holding the back-button while holding down a trigger
will enable the joystick's hotkey buttons
Causes an empty profile to be created for each game so changes made to the keymapper are saved for the currently running title.
If a return profile is enabled .)*
This is the default option for skeletonKey and creates a profile with only Emulator functionality.
Functional hotkeys are assigned to triggered button sequences. (eg: holding the back-button while holding down L trigger will enable the joystick's hotkey buttons
Each frontend has a proprietary playlist format, however skeletonkey can convert retroArch to/from emulationStation playlists.
Drag and Drop ROMs to dynamically add files to playlists.
SkeletonKey can create and edit gamelist.xml files which can be to used cull ROM directories and display custom playlists. The existing es_systems.cfg will be loaded and inherited systems' directories will become available.
Several options exist to populate gamelist.xml files with artwork and ROM metadata.
Like emulationStation's es_systems.cfg, emulationStation gamelists are xml files which contain standard metadata tags. Absolute paths to assets such as images and video files are accepted, however relative
paths are also accepted, making the entire frontend portable across platforms (*nix/apple/windows). Assets can be arranged & named uniquely, however skeletonKey propagates assets to an emulationStation
deployment which follows a local-layout.
The playlist database is a cache containing all files in all playlists with their corresponding crc32 value.
The DAT:=:Repo tab contains a DAT sorting tool.
SkeletonKey has databases for current No-Intro, Redump, TOSEC and MAME/MESS ROMs. Drag & Drop is supported.
DAT Repo Options
Users may drag and drop files and folders to this tab which will be parsed and matched against the hash databases added on the left side. Identified ROMs are placed in the Systems Folder in the machine's
subdirectory. If no corresponding supported system is identified, the name of the DAT is used. MAME/MESS systems are supported, however MAME Arcade ROMs should not be sorted and are not currently
The Frontends tab contains configuration options for many different cabinet and couch-gaming frontends.
Typically, a frontend will have an emluator assigned to a list of extensions for ROMs in a given directory. ROM-Jackets and Mirrored-Links are integrated.
The right-click menu may be useful for users wishing to scrape artwork and create playlists.
Asset-Management is a primary component of skeletonKey, prioritizing a title-local storage-system (ROM-Jackets) to deploy artwork.
SkeletonKey has a repository of photographic icons, full-HD images and large logos for hundreds of console, computer, arcade and hand-held systems. Game-assets and metadata such as box-art, banners, backgrounds, and videos
are sourced from a multitude of databases to deploy several frontends.
Selecting "Systems" in the Media interface will enable icons, logos, backdrops, videos and other media to be downloaded for selected systems. Alternatively, sets of these items
can be downloaded. Themes for these items can be selected using the "Artwork Theme" dropdown.
Selecting "Jackets" in the Media interface will enable items to be downloaded for the selected ROM-Jackets.
Selecting "ROMs" in the Media interface will enable ROM-paths to be defined for supported systems.
Mirrored Links are Windows shortcuts for ROM-Jacket launchers.
Leveraging Windows shortcuts allows for easy customization of frontends. As these files can be moved, copied and deleted without affecting launchers or ROM-Jackets, creating custom playlists is as easy as navigating Windows
a browsable List View for retroArch's netplay lobbies, settings and options populates the netplay tab.
In the Main tab, settings such as delay-frames, port number and file-server port can be adjusted.
In the Netplay Tab, refreshing the hosts will populate the lobby with currently hosted ROMs.
When connecting to a client, skeletonKey will search for the matching ROM within playlists or directories.
In the Main tab, uncheck the "Pause In Background" & in the Frontends tab, select "XMB" in the main dropdown menu and uncheck "Pause In Menu" option to help maintain a synced connection
while adjusting settings.
Using the relay-server option may enable netplay between users who otherwise cannot host.
SkeletonKey hosts with the file-server option enabled wll appear with the port number in brackets prefixed to their username.
This [tag] is automatically detected by skeletonKey clients which will enable the "Recieve ROM" option to download the file from the host to play automatically.
RoM-Jackets are folders named with the title of the ROM or ROMs, any individual settings they may have for emulators, artwork, assets and a launcher to maintain files indipendently from other titles for any given system
Subdirectories for common emulator files such as save-states, battery/memory-saves, screenshots, manuals, and videos are created for each jacket.
It is advantageous to create RoM-Jackets for libraries where:
Many emulators may be used for a single system
ROMs require an emulator to deviate from conventional settings
Settings must be maintained between sessions
Data, assets or other reference material is localized to a title.
Each jacket's batch-script-launcher copies its emulator-configuration files to the emulator directory prior to launching and any changes made to the emulator during gameplay are copied back to the jacket
after exiting the emulator.
For those interested in developing for the RoM-Jacket spec, a few principles should be observed:
Content and artwork such as box-art, fan-art, logos, xml/nfo information, videos and other data not exclusive to any frontend or emulator should reside in the root of the jacket.
Titles which contain many files and folders (DOS Titles) should be placed inside a subdirectory of the jacket.
Launchers should be executable natively by the operating system, make no changes to the system environment and any augmenting behavior beyond the emulator should be disabled unless specifically detected
(ie: the launcher should require no user interaction irrespective of any errors the script may encounter).
When a system is loaded into the Jacket tab, only the ROMs and Jackets contained within the Systems List directory will populate and can be filtered into the list on the left side of the tab. Settings in the Jacket tab
can be saved for each system, however (in the main menu tab) Each system has a default emulator associated with it which will populate with previously slected options or a configuraiton which is designed to be compatible
with a very low-spec PC.
This will consolidate ROMs containing the same base-name, grouping each ROMs regional counterparts and multi-disc ROMs together into a single jacket. The
base-name is the ROM's filename without any text in parenthesis or brackets.
eg: region, disk-number, rom-revision, & any other superflous information is pruned to the game title.
System - Name/ ├── Game Title/ │ └── Game Title(USA)[version].rom │ └── Game Title (JAPAN)[v-2].rom │ └── Game Title (Disk B).rom │ └── Game Title (1 of 2)].rom │ └── Game Title (PAL).rom
Effectively, this will help eliminate the need to scroll through many different versions of games in a library and will help wrangle multi-disc games. This is the preferred method of folder-generation
for users wishing to tame their library and generate friendly-names for their frontend. Launchers created for each consolidated jacket will be named with the base-name and the first alphabetical
or [!] ROM will be launched by default.
This will simply jacketize each ROM using the name of the file without the extension.
System - Name/ ├── Game Title (USA)[v-1]/ │ └── Game Title (USA)[v-1].rom ├── Game Title (USA)[v-1.01]/ │ └── Game Title (USA)[v-1.01].rom ├── Game Title (USA)[v-1.11]/ │ └── Game Title (USA)[v-1.11].rom ├── Game Title (EUR)[b]/ │ └── Game Title (EUR)[b].rom
The abundance of releases a title may have seen throughout the world is multiplied by versions the developer released and again multiplied by ROM-dumps. Subsequently, many ROM-collections and
system-libraries are simply too large and unwieldy for practical purposes. In the interest of bringing forth functional libraries it may be desireable to consolidate each title without
regard for region or version.
Several sub-directories to house assets are automatically created for each jacket. Custom subdirectories can also be created.
Extracting Compressed Archives
Compressed Archives may be found within a system's directory and can be extracted into a jacket:
Before: Each archive is extracted prior to any jacket is created. Extracted files are not jacketized.
After: Each archive is jacketized and then extracted into the jacket.
After archives are extracted they can be stored in skeletonKey's tmp directory, deleted, or kept in the jacket.
The default settings for each emulator are designed for low-powered specification settings, however many consoles offer a variety of settings which you may change when configuring a console individually.
Unless explicitly specified at creation-time, the launcher will launch the first alphabetically named ROM in the Jacket.
Drag'n'drop and the command-line may also be used to specify/override the default ROM
Each ROM retains all unique emulator configuration files.
A Per-Exe option will deploy supported emulators to each ROM-Jacket. This may be desirable for libraries which depend on a wide variability of emulator versions and this is ideal for users who prefer an isolated environment
for each ROM.
All settings, quick-saves, save-files & snapshots for the emulator are saved in the ROM-directory.
The ROM's configuration for the emulator is copied to the proper location upon execution of the launcher.
It should be noted that skeletonKey's Launcher settings have their own set of per-game settings which operate indipendently from RoM-Jackets (even when using the
same ROM file).
Some consoles use the same emulator and these consoles should use either Per-Game or Global settings (not both).
All games using the assigned emulator have configurations and settings governed and maintained by the emulator.
↕ Global Details
All settings, quick-saves, save-files & snapshots for the emulator are saved in locations set by the emulator in its default state and any changes made to a game's settings in the console's set
will be respected by all games using the global option.
This method may be preferrable for users deploying an emulator for each jacket or who wish homogenize a libraries' settings.
The Absolute option enables selecting a file via a file dialog box to be run.
The Local option enables any file (including a file not currently available via a dialog box) to be designated.
Applications can be designated to run both before the emulator is launched and after the emulator exits. An option exists to allow the launcher to wait for the command to complete until proceeding,
or continue to execute immedietlely after it is launched.
Command line options can be set for any command. Additionally, keywords can be entered which will be parsed by the launcher at runtime. These include:
[ROMPATH]: This will designate the directory path of the ROM. [ROMF]: This will designate the ROM filename. [ROM]: This will designate the name of the ROM file without the extention. (useful for MAME) [EMUL]: This will designate the directory path of the emulator. [EMUZ]: This will designate the emulator execuatble.
Paradigm: Adding pre/post commands is intuitive, however it is possible to add a command inbetween commands after a set has already been assigned. To do this, select the command which will
preceed your new command and then press the add-command button (+).
Similar to "Pre-Command / Post-Command" these are commands which run before the emulator launches and after the emulator exits, however these commands execute before the "Pre-Commands
/ Post-Commands" respectively. You may enter any windows batch-script commands in these fields and likewise, keywords will be parsed.
Each supported system has one or more emulators preconfigured for them. The default emulator will automatically be assigned with compatible settings, however any program can be assigned to any system.
Launchers are simply batch files that run an emulator with the ROM using the command-line interface.
A supported frontend can use RoM-Jacket's BatchScriptLauncher program to control the frontend and execute the launcher.
Emulator Config Files
These fields pre-populate with the currently selected emulator's preset commands. These commands are designed to maintain the Jacket's assets and will typically copy files back and forth between
the Jacket and the emulator's directory.
The BSL can override settings defined by ROM-Jacket launchers and provides a convenient way to enable custom tools to accomodate new HTPC frontends. The BSL will execute the ROM-Jacket launcher while assisting the visibility
and state of other assets.
BSL.exe is used as the "emulator" where ".bat" or ".lnk" is the extension for any ROM-Jacket library.
Creating an executable is a feature unique to skeletonKey where files such as ROMs, an emulator and special configuration files are compiled into a portable executable. Choosing more than one ROM will cause the executable
to bring up a selection list which should be navigatable via player 1's joystick or a keyboard.
These executables may be suitable for predefined hardware configurations, netplay clients and other deployments.
Selecting an emulator preset will download the emulator and extract it to the
Add ROMs to your executable by dragging and dropping ROM files to the list on the left. Alternatively, you may use the "Add" button which will allow you to select them via skeletonKey's file-browser. ROM
files are copied to the ...skeletonKey\executable\roms directory.
Enabling the keymapper will download and extract antimicro into the
3 profiles (Player1.amgp, Player2.amgp & Select.amgp) are included in the
Select.amgp is loaded before the emulator to enable ROM selection with the directional pad if more than one ROM is included.
All files found in the...skeletonKey\executable directory will be included in the executable.
Skeletonkey can be run from a thumbdrive or other portable drive. Many users may desire to transfer an existing skeletonKey installation to a portable drive and the portable utility should facilitate the conifiguration
Migration options for the portable utility include localization of items to the drive for playlists and simple search & replace. Retroarch and skeletonKey's other supported emulators' per-game settings
are updated to reflect the new portable skeletonKey location.
Typically, a skeletonkey installation is copied to a removable drive. The PortableUtil.exe file should then be run from the portable device when first starting skeletonKey on a new computer or if the
drive letter of the portable device has changed.
A GUI deployment tool is available for users who wish to publish a skeletonKey. SKey-Deploy.exe can be used to build, maintain and deploy a github source-code versioning project, website and binaries from almost any windows
computer with internet access. You must have a github account and create a token.
Forking skeletonkey is made simple using the Skey-Deploy executable. All the required tools such as Git& NSIS can be quickly downloaded and setup automatically to create a devlopment environment.
All the tools used to develop skeletonKey are open-source and developers interested in forking the project should read the guidelines and restrictions outlined in the Readme.md file included with the
-clearrj will reset the ROM-Jacket system-setup preferences and queue -clearcfg will reset the per-game settings for all skeletonkey
launcher presets :: (not ROM-Jackets) -clearset will reset the skeletonkey program settings -clearra will reset global retroarch settings -clearexe will reset emulator executable settings -clearscrape will delete scraped art
and assets adding a !q to the end of your clear command will override and assume yes on all deletion queries. eg -clearra!q
The Skey-Deploy utility accepts the following:
-reset command to reset the while keeping credentials for github. -gituser=
USERNAME your git username (must be the first argument).
PASSWORD your git password (must be the 2nd argument).
TOKEN-STRING your git authentication token (must be the 3rd argument).
Similar to the portable utility, this allows you to propagate settings from one file throughout an entire console's library.
If a launcher is selected (.bat) Skeletonkey can propagate the file throughout a console's library and update or replace all other launchers.
Any file can be propagated (eg: an xpadder profile) and subdirectories are supported.
This menu allows you to backup your save files and save-states into a cloud. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox will be automatically detected.
This is ideal for users who want to share saves or play from multiple computers.
Question: Android, Linux & MacOS?
Answer: eh... It works under wine, but pretty much windows only.
Question: How do I get games?
Answer: Developers of skeletonKeY are working ahk they possibly can to enable and facilitate the ease of access to integrated repositories
Question: I'm having trouble with a feature. It's a bug?