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Keyboard Shortcuts

Q.I am looking for short cuts when I use the computer. I see many people using ctrl plus a letter key. Could you give us some hints? Thank you - A faithful reader

A. One of the best things about Windows and Windows programs is that there are often many ways you can accomplish a task. Some are geared for novices and others may be faster (but not as intuitive) for experts.

This can also be very confusing. When a friend does one thing and you do something else to accomplish the task it is easy to get lost.

Often the shortcuts will depend on a particular operating system (Windows XP, ME, 98, 95, Mac System X, etc.) or a particular program (Word, WordPerfect, Quicken, etc.)

They can also be dependent on the keyboard you may have - some of the older keyboards don't have the Windows key for example. Obviously, a Macintosh won't have that key either.

We can look at some of the most common configurations and give you some useful shortcuts. Just be aware that all of these may not work for you, depending on your system.

The Windows Key has the Microsoft Windows picture on it. It is usually located between your CTRL & ALT keys at the left of the bottom row of the keyboard. Often there is another Windows Key to the right of the spacebar. They do the same thing.

The Alt (for Alternate) and CTRL (for Control) keys are also used for all kinds of shortcuts.

Pressing the Windows Key is like clicking on Start - try it. You can also accomplish this by holding down the Cntrl key and pressing the Escape key at the same time.

If you hold down the Windows key and press M you will quickly minimizes all windows that you may have open. This is a quick and easy way to get to your desktop without closing your programs.

If you hold down the Windows key and press E you will open Windows Explorer

If you hold down the Windows key and press F you will open the Find (or Search Results) dialog box

Holding down the Windows key and pressing R is the same as clicking Start and then Run.

If you hold down the Windows key and press the Break Key (often combined with Pause in the upper rows of keyboard) you will open the System Properties window which lets you check your hardware settings.

Hold down the ALT key and press the tab key to cycle through open programs. This is a fast way to get from program to program. Just release the keys when you get to the program you want to switch to.

Most Windows programs will use the following editing shortcuts:

  • Hold down CTRL and X to Cut the highlighted items.
  • Hold down CTRL and C to Copy the highlighted items to the clipboard.
  • Hold down CTRL and V to Paste the items from the clipboard to the current highlighted spot.
  • Hold down CTRL and Z to Undo the last thing you did (like pasting, cutting, deleting, etc).

Here's a great tip. When you are in a program that you use a lot, look carefully at the items in the pull down menu and you may see some useful shortcuts.

For example, In Microsoft Word if you click on File you will see a menu of items of options such as New, Open, Close, Save and so on. Many of these have a keyboard shortcut listed to the right of the command.

  • File - New can be replaced by Cntrl and N
  • File - Open can be replaced by Cntrl and O
  • File - Save can be replaced by Cntrl and S and so on.
I routinely press Cntrl and S to quickly save my work just in case something should happen to the power or computer. You can find a lot of shortcuts just by looking at these menus.

Here are a few more:

Normally pressing the F1 key will bring up some kind of help menu or function

When you put a CD in the CD drive but don't want it to automatically start, hold the shift key down as you put it in.

When looking at files (like in Explorer) you can hold down Alt and press the Enter key to view the properties.

Press the F2 key to rename the file.

There are lots more but this should get you started. Let me know if you have any favorites.

Answered by Tech Expert Dan Hanson

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