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Technology / Business technology

Windows keyboard shortcuts: The keys to PC efficiency

If you spend a scarily large percentage of your waking hours in front of a computer, these Windows keyboard shortcuts will help make you more efficient.

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I should say upfront that I’m a Microsoft nerd and these shortcuts are specifically tailored to PC users. If you have tips to add for Macs, I’d be grateful if you’d include them in the comments section below. (For the most part when using a Mac I’ve found that substituting Option for Ctrl has gotten me by!)

The thing I love most about Windows keyboard shortcuts is cutting down on time spent swapping my hands between the keyboard and mouse and back again. Here are some of my favourite shortcuts.

Navigating between programs and files

Swapping between open programs in Windows is easy with the Alt+Tab shortcut (when writing about shortcuts, the convention is to use a plus sign and no spaces to signify that two keys are held down simultaneously). For those looking for something a bit more flash using Windows Vista or Windows 7, try the Windows key+Tab to see it all in 3D.

And you can quickly peruse your files using the Windows key+E, which opens Windows Explorer.

"The PrtScn (Print Screen) button at the top of your keyboard (generally just to the left of your Pause key) takes a snapshot of your current screen and copies it to your clipboard, ready to be pasted into an email or document."

Word processing and emails

For word processing and typing emails, the most common and useful shortcuts are Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V (cut, copy and paste respectively).

The Ctrl+P (print) and Ctrl+S (save) commands are also handy, but Ctrl+L (left justify text), Ctrl+R (right justify text) and Ctrl+E (centre text) are a couple of my favourites for formatting documents.

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Filling in forms and spreadsheets

Rather than click in each new field when filling in web forms or editing spreadsheets, you can move to the next field with the Tab key, and move backwards using Shift+Tab.

Dealing with IT issues

The all-time most useful Windows keyboard shortcuts for support techs are those you can do yourself to give the techs the information they need to help you. Computer information is a great one: hit the Windows key and the Pause or Pause/Break key toward the top right of your keyboard and see a window pop up with all your computer particulars.

Reading error messages, information screens or funny looking reports to a waiting support tech over the phone is fraught with frustration, so sending a screen shot is often a great help. The PrtScn (Print Screen) button at the top of your keyboard (generally just to the left of your Pause key) takes a snapshot of your current screen and copies it to your clipboard, ready to be pasted into an email or document. You can also take screenshots of individual windows or dialog boxes, which is extremely handy for creating procedure documents. To do this, hold down the Alt key+Print Screen, and you will capture only the active window.

Your favourite program

Many programs have their own shortcuts and it’s well worth your while learning those that apply to your favourite program. One that I use often is “Control Y, Alt D, Tab Tab” which brings up Card Enquiries in MYOB, and to be honest, I’m not sure I can get there using a mouse anymore!

There are dozens more Windows keyboard shortcuts, so please add your favourites below. And as I mentioned earlier, if you have any especially for Mac users, I’ll be interested to learn about them.

Heather Cox

has worked with asp for over 5 years wtih roles in technical support and marketing. She enjoys problem solving and helping people achieve mobility and productivity through technology, and is an Associate of the Australian Computer Society.

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