Nov 29, 2011

Reimage Tips & Tricks: Keyboard shortcuts for Windows

In an effort to make life easier for the average Windows PC user, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to provide keyboard shortcuts. Whether you know them as keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys, they have been around for as long as I have used a PC (and I’m reserving the right to keep that information a secret), and in recent years, more and more apps and programs are providing users not only with keyboard shortcuts to speed up and simplify their workflow, but are enabling users to customize and create their own shortcuts.

A keyboard shortcut is essentially a physical action that activates an application or process. Instead of wandering endlessly through menus and folders to start an app, the user merely presses a key or holds a number of keys simultaneously on the keyboard.

The most familiar keyboard shortcuts are probably “copy” (Ctrl + C) and “paste” (Ctrl + V), but there are so many more that you might find helpful.

The following is a list of my personal top 10 keyboard shortcuts for Windows

(To learn how to customize your own keyboard shortcuts, see below.)

  1. Windows key
  2. and R opens the “Run” command.

  3. Windows key and E opens a Windows Explorer window at the highest root level (i.e. “My Computer”, or “Computer”).
  4. Alt and F4 closes the top most (or “in focus”) open window. Use Alt + Tab key to navigate between open programs/windows.
  5. Windows key and D instantly returns you to the desktop. A similar shortcut is Windows key and M, it minimizes all open windows to the toolbar.  However, if you just want a quick peak at your desktop (to see if that file you just saved ended up there) hit Windows key and spacebar.
  6. Windows key and Shift and “Left”/“Rightarrow. If like me, you use 2 screens at your desk, then this shortcut is invaluable. Holding both the Windows and Shift keys while pressing the Left/Right arrow moves the current open (top most) window to the right/left screen, respectively.
  7. Windows key and 1,2,3,…9 (Win 7 only) is another of my favorites. It enables you to open an app that is pinned to your Windows 7 task bar; each number corresponds with the apps as they appear from left to right on the task bar).
  8. Windows key and +/- (plus/minus keys) zooms in/out of whatever is on the screen. When you press the Windows key and the + (plus) key, the Windows zoom app is activated and a small magnifying glass appears. While this app is running, pressing the Windows key together with the +/- (plus or minus keys) will zoom in/out of the window currently open. Clicking on the magnifying glass opens the app’s control panel. Use the control panel to close the app by clicking the x (close) button.
  9. Ctrl + Shift + N to create a new, untitled, folder in the Explorer window, currently open.
  10. Windows key + L to log out or switch users. This is especially good if you want leave your desk and need to lock your PC in an instant (like if you are in a hurry to get to the bathroom and you’re worried your boss may not be too keen to find out that you’ve been spending way too much time on that dating site).
  11. Only if you are absolutely sure that you want to delete a file or folder, use Shift + Delete to save you time, and skip the recycle bin, when you send your unwanted data, straight into the unknown abyss (that final resting place for all deleted files, odd socks and misplaced underwear). You will still get an alert from Windows asking if you are sure you want to delete the file, but after that there is no turning back.

How to Create or Change a Shortcut Key (to launch an application/program):

  • First make sure that you are logged on to your PC as “administrator” or that you are at least logged in to a user account that has “administrator permissions”.
  • Go to the Start menu and hover over the application of your choice, then right-click to open the options menu. Select Properties.
  • In the Shortcut tab, click on the Shortcut key field to enable it.
  • Hold the Ctrl, or Alt button and an additional key of your choice. The shortcut key field is automatically filled to include “Ctrl + Alt +” followed by the key of your choice.
  • Click Apply. Your shortcut key has now been created.
  • To activate your application, hold the Ctrl and Alt keys and press your selected key. The app will now run.

Stay tuned for more Windows PC Tips & Tricks from Reimage.

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