Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Keyboard Shortcuts for Everyday Use

Keyboard shortcuts can make our computers easier to use and navigate.  Back before mice connected to our computers and laptops via USB, keyboard connections were even more vital than they are now.  In those days if your mouse stopped working you had to reboot the computer to get the mouse back.  To be able to reboot your computer you had to know which keyboard shortcuts to use to get to the start menu so you could reboot.  This process could be extremely tedious depending upon what you were working on at the time.

Now, with the invention of USB, a disconnected mouse is not much of an issue.  USB is different because it actively looks for new connections through its ports all the time.  Older connections, like PS2 and serial, only read their ports during the boot up process.  If you tried to plug something into one of those ports while the computer was running you would likely lock up the entire computer.  USB's ability to constantly monitor ports is what allows us to plug in peripheral equipment like printers, mice, and keyboards into USB ports on a running computer and have the computer identify the item and make it accessible.  Many years ago this was not possible without turning the computer off, plugging in the peripheral, then turning the computer on again which was a much more tedious process.

However, even though we can swap keyboards and mice more easily, keyboard shortcuts can still prove to be useful.  To note, these shortcuts are for Windows-based systems and do not necessarily work inside specialty software like Quickbooks, or Adobe Photoshop, which often have their own unique keyboard shortcuts.  In the list below the + symbolizes pressing multiple buttons at a time.

  • Ctrl + C = copy a selected area
    • Useful when you have typed something out and need to duplicate it many times, or to move a selection of text, etc.
  • Ctrl + X = cut a selected area
    • Useful to remove a selected text and move it to a new location when you do not need the selected text in both locations.
  • Ctrl + V = paste a selected area
    • Useful to move data to a certain area without having to click and drag.  This is most useful when moving between documents or when there is a large section between the to and from location of your selection.
  • Ctrl + Z = undo the last action
    • Useful to undo a paste that was placed in the wrong location, or formatting that did not turn out the way you meant for it to, or even if you accidentally typed over a formula in Excel.  NOTE:  The undo process will not work if you have already saved your file as that commits the change.
  • Ctrl + S = save a file
    • Useful for quickly saving a file you have modified using the file's original name and location.  This shortcut is handy because it encourages you to save often because it is so easy to use which could prevent data loss if a computer or program locks up and you had not been saving your changes.
  • Ctrl + P = print
    • Useful to quickly bring up the print menu.
  • Ctrl + u = underline a selected set of text
  • Ctrl + b = bold a selected set of text
  • Ctrl + i = italicize a selected set of text
  • Ctrl + a = selects the entire selection in the current file
    • Useful when you want to apply a certain type of formatting to an entire document like line spacing, font, and margins.
  • Tab
    • Useful to move to the next box in a form.
  • Shift + Tab = opposite of tab used alone
    • Useful for moving to the previous box in a form.
  • Alt + Tab = Move between open windows
    • Useful if you have two files of any type open to quickly switch between them.  This will always switch you between the last two active windows.  If you press and hold, all open windows will appear as small icons and allow you to continue hitting tab with the Alt key pressed to select the window you wish to switch to.
  • Windows key + D = desktop
    • Useful to get to your desktop by quickly minimizing all open windows.
  • Windows key + L = lock the display
    • Discussed at length in "The Most Important Keyboard Shortcut you Might Not Know About" post.
Certainly there are more keyboard shortcuts than those in this list.  However, these are some of the easy to use and commonly needed functions.  Hopefully at least a few of these can be incorporated in your everyday usage and prove to increase your efficiency.

Good luck and happy shortcutting!

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