Way of the Keyboard Warrior – Part 1

For somewhat of a more practical post I’m going to cover off keyboard shortcuts today. We all use them to differing degrees. But beyond the usual copy-paste commands most people use, there’s a huge number of other shortcuts which can greatly improve your productivity (that’s good right?).

We all know that having the right tools for a job can make a huge difference. But we also know that having the right tools is not enough, you have to be adept at using them. Photoshop is no better than MS Paint if you don’t know how to use it.

The biggest benefit of keyboard shortcuts is speed. You can usually complete more commands with less time. I think some of you will be surprised at what’s possible.

Obviously having generally good typing skills is helpful (50+ words per minute is a good start). If you’re not able to hit the keys fast enough, a mouse may be faster for you. However with practice you too can be a keyboard warrior!

A few points before we begin:

  1. I’m not going to cover any of the most common ones, like copy-paste etc.
  2. This list is far from exhaustive, but rather a list of the ones I use frequently.
  3. Some shortcuts are available only on some OS’s. I’m running Windows 10.

General Windows Shortcuts

ALT + Enter
This opens the properties dialog box of a file or folder. But it also works in other applications, usually as a shortcut to ‘properties’ of the selected object.

ALT + Left/Right/Up arrow keys
In Explorer these combinations can be used for navigation. Left goes back to the previous folder, Right goes forward and Up goes up a folder level. The ‘Delete’ key also goes up a level.

ALT + Print Screen
Instead of taking a print screen of the entire screen, this key combo takes a capture of only the application in focus.

Shift + Delete
Skips the Recycle Bin and deletes a file or folder permanently.

This toggles between your desktop and back to your applications in focus. When you toggle to the desktop, it changes the focus to a desktop icon.

Opens Windows Explorer.

Locks your PC.

Opens the windows run dialog box. You can open folders, programs or even the control panel from here (try typing ‘notepad’, ‘winword’, ‘outlook’ and ‘control panel’).

The aero version of ALT + TAB’ing.

WIN + 1,2,3,4,5…

This is one I use all the time, it allows you to navigate between your taskbar applications. You can see in the screenshot my taskbar applications from left to right are; Chrome, Firefox, Outlook, OneNote and Explorer. ‘WIN + 1’ selects Chrome, 2 selects Firefox and so on. If the application isn’t open, it will launch that application. When Windows first boots up, I hold down ‘WIN’ then press ‘1 +2 + 3 + 4’ quickly, which launches all of them for me.

CTRL + Space
Toggles between selecting and de-selecting a file/folder/icon.

Outlook Shortcuts

CTRL + 1,2,3…
‘CTRL + 1’ takes you to your folder list, 2 takes you to your calendar, 3 for contacts and so on.

Gives you the option to go to a folder. I use this primarily to go back to my inbox, by hitting ‘CTRL + Y + I + Enter’. The ‘I’ selects the inbox from the list of available options, but you can pick any.

ALT + N + A + S + Enter
While this key combination looks long, I don’t think it’s cumbersome once you use it a few times. This basically inserts your signature into a new email. I’ll cover this in more detail in Part 2.

Create new email.

Resolves and completes a partially typed email address or contact name in the ‘To’ field.

CTRL + Enter
Sends your email.

Text Navigation & Editing (Word, Notepad etc.)

Once you learn the following shortcuts for editing text, you will wonder how you ever managed without them. They allow you to do things much faster with less frustration (ever missed your target with your clicks?).

Selects all the text in a document.

Changes text to bold.

Changes text to italics.

Hold Shift + Left/Right/Up/Down Arrows
Holding the ‘Shift’ key highlights text. You can then use the arrow keys to highlight text in any direction from your current focus. However the real power of the Shift key comes from combining it with the next three shortcuts mentioned.

CTRL + Left/Right Arrows (+Hold Shift)
Moves one word from to the left/right. Holding the Shift key highlights as you go.

Home & End (+ Hold Shift)
Whilst neither of these are key combinations, they are none the less shortcuts. ‘Home’ takes you to the start of your current sentence and ‘End’ takes you to the end. Holding Shift highlights the text from your current position to either the start or end of your sentence.

CTRL + Home\End (+Hold Shift)
Instead of taking you to the start and end of a sentence, these take you to the start and end of the entire document respectively. Holding Shift highlights the text from your current position to either the start or end of your document.

Browser Shortcuts (mainly Firefox & Chrome)

Of the four categories of shortcuts covered here, the text editing and browser ones are probably the best ones to learn. They give the best return on your learning investment and cover off some very common workloads (writing and browsing!).

Find text on a webpage.

Bring the focus to the search/address bar. Definitely learn this one.

Opens a new windows.

Opens a new tab.

Closes current tab.

CTRL + Shift + T
Re-opens the last closed tab. This one is an absolute lifesaver, its one that I use regularly .If you keep pressing it, it will continue to open previously closed tabs in the order that you closed them.

CTRL + 1,2,3…9
This navigates between your open tabs. ‘CTRL + 1’ takes you to your first tab, 2 through to 8 take you to their respectively numbered tab. ‘CTRL + 9’ takes you to the last tab, irrespective of how many tabs you have open.

CTRL + Enter
Completes a URL address in the address bar. For example, if you simple type ‘google’ then hit ‘CTRL + Enter’, it will convert that to ‘www.google.com’.

In Part 2…

I will cover off some more general navigation shortcuts. Then we will dive into some actual practice scenarios where you can see this stuff in real world scenarios.

I’ll also post up some times ranges for completing the scenarios to give you an idea of how well your skills stack up!

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