Being a computer user for many years, I’ve been using a keyboard since before mice became a necessary computer accessory. As PCs (and Macs) have become a integral part of nearly every household, the reliance on using a mouse to get around your computer and get things done is almost a given. My only issue with this is when it comes to using your computer a lot, every second counts. As such, I find the keyboard to be a great tool for things other than typing emails, website URLs, and documents. With keyboard shortcuts, you can get a lot done on your computer with minimal mouse interaction.
For any multi-key shortcut, you’ll use these like you would the “Shift” key when typing capital letters. For example, “Ctrl” + “P” means you hold down the “Ctrl” key on your keyboard while pressing the “P” key as well. By the way, in almost any program, that’ll bring up your “print” dialog, where you can fire off your document to your printer. Like the aforementioned shortcut, some of the more famous keyboard shortcuts work across all programs. While my making mention of these might be simplistic for some readers, I still encounter people every day that aren’t aware of these simple yet effective gems. For example, when you work hard at typing a document, being able to quickly cut, copy, and paste sections of text is essential. After highlighting your text (with your mouse, of course), use the “Ctrl” key along with these keys for the desired effect: “Ctrl” + “C” will copy the selected text;” Ctrl” + “X” cuts the selected text, and “Ctrl” + “V” will paste your copied or cut selected text into the new location, dictated by where your cursor is placed. Using cut and paste can also help greatly when trying to retype long website addresses from another document that isn’t a hyperlink already. Another important one is “Ctrl” + “Z”, which allows you to undo the last action your performed. Some programs support multiple undos, so you can use that shortcut repeatedly to undo many things. If you go too far back, use “Ctrl” + “Y” for step forward. A few others to mention when working in a word processor are “Ctrl” + “B” for bold text, “Ctrl” + “I” for italics, and “Ctrl” + “U” to underline whatever text you have selected.
What if I’ve just copied some text from a website and I want to paste it into a document I’m working on? Usually, you’d use your mouse to click on the program down in your taskbar, but did you know you can switch between your open programs easily by using “Alt” + “Tab”? “Alt” + “F4” will close your program, though you may get prompted to save your work. Instead of clicking “Yes” or “Save”, use the “Enter” key to select it. What if you don’t want to save and would rather “Cancel”? You can cycle through those choices you usually have to click by using the “Tab” key, or go backwards using “Shift” + “Tab”. Those same keystrokes work great when filling out a form online to move from one field to the next. Need to open another program? “Ctrl” + “Esc” will open the Windows Start menu, and you can use your arrow keys to select a program from the list.
There are a lot more of these shortcuts to discuss, especially with the release of Windows 7, which has added some really cool ones. What if you have a Mac? Almost all of these shortcuts will work if you substitute your “Command” key for the “Ctrl” key on your Mac keyboard. Give these a try and if you like the convenience of using your keyboard, join me next issue for “Shortcuts 102”, my follow-up class in using your keyboard to get around on your computer.