Remember when you last worked without a mouse? Remember when the only way to navigate your computer was tap-tap-tapping on your keyboard?
If you weren’t in the working world a few decades ago, when white out was a thing and diligent administrators (then known as secretaries) were taking notes in an odd written language called “shorthand”, you may be scratching your head in consternation. Was there life before your mouse?
Somewhere between Ye Olden Days and now, the keyboard was our newest technology, and we used keyboard shortcuts to speed up our process, improve our work, and increase our sanity. After all, shortcut is defined as “an accelerated way of doing or achieving something.” You know you want it.
If you’re like me, your fingers are on the keyboard more often than not. Many common tasks can be quicker if you don't have to reach for a mouse. And if you find yourself in an efficiency jam - like when your mouse stops working, or if copying something “the way you always do” just doesn’t seem to be working - here are a few tips to make your life that much easier.
There’s more than one way to skin a...mouse.**
There are so many more shortcuts that could have made this list. Since we’re going for maximum impact here, this is a list of my personal favourites (for PC), ones I use at least everyday - if not several times a day.
Top of the List
Undo - my all time favourite: Ctrl +Z
And its cousin Redo: Ctrl +Y (for those times when you’ve hit Ctrl + Z once too often and oops, you didn’t mean to get rid of that!)
A mouse works great most of the time, but is not always precise enough or quick enough. Also, if you find yourself without your mouse and you're not a touch-pad aficionado, you’ll appreciate these:
Select All (ie., everything on the page): Ctrl + A (used oh so often with its pal “Copy”)
Select one character at a time: Shift + Right arrow. Use the Left arrow to select backwards
Select to the end of the line: Shift + End
Select one entire line at a time: Shift + Ctrl + Down arrow (repeat to select many lines)
Select to the end of the document: Shift + Ctrl + End
While most everyone knows these, they just can’t be left out:
Copy the selected text: Ctrl + C
Cut (remove) the selected text: Ctrl + X
Paste the copied or cut text: Ctrl + V
To cycle through your open programs: Alt + Tab. You hold the “Alt” key down and tap “Tab” to move the section from app to app. Let go of “Alt” when you’re on the one you want.
Go to the top of your document/spreadsheet/website: Ctrl + Home
Go to the bottom of your document/spreadsheet/website: Ctrl + End
Move one word at a time: Ctrl + Right or Left arrows
Go to your Desktop (minimize everything): Windows Key + M
Peek at your Desktop: Windows Key + , (that being a comma)
Spacebar in a website: will scroll up a page. Shift + Spacebar will scroll down a page. Spacebar also pauses video.
Working in Applications
Find (or search for) a word or phrase in most applications (Outlook being a notable exception): Ctrl + F. If more than one instance is found, use F3 to skip to the next.
Find + Replace: Ctrl + H
Save. Save often! Ctrl + S. You won’t regret it and it takes a millisecond.
Refresh / Reload: F5. This is a somewhat universal Refresh command, used by many programs
Open anything in Windows: Windows key... then type what you're looking for.
In a spreadsheet, add a new line of text within a cell: Alt + Enter
Rename a file or folder: F2
Close a document: Ctrl + W
Close an application: Alt + F4
My Ultra Secret Sanity Shortcut
Because I use 3 monitors (my notebook and two 22” widescreens), sometimes I have a program (not mentioning any names, Acrobat) that likes to open on my notebook but up off the top of the screen so I can’t see its title bar or menu to move it, maximize it, or anything. This also happens with some popups too: the taskbar says it’s open, but it’s invisible. In effect, they are “off screen”, but how can you move them if you can see them?
- Press the offending app’s button on the taskbar so it becomes your “active” program.
- Press Alt + Spacebar (at the same time) to bring up the Shortcut menu for the active app (see image).
- If the app just needs to be maximized so you can see all of it, press “X”.
- If the app’s window is completely off screen, press “M” (for move). Then a bit of trial and error ensues as you use the keyboard arrows to move the invisible window somewhere that you can see it. Start in one direction for a few seconds. If you don’t see anything, go back in the same direction, and then keep going to see if appears. Then try left, then right.
All set? Considering keeping this set of shortcuts near you at all times to step up your productivity game, using them until they become habit, or for those moments when your mouse just… stops.
**No mammals were harmed in the creation of this article. A few electronic mouses (mice?) may have been slammed against desks from time to time…