Hotkeys – Keyboard Shortcuts for Everyone

Hotkeys Aren’t Just for Geeks

There was a time not so long ago that I considered keyboard shortcuts, or hotkeys, to be the sole domain of I.T. folks – used only by the System Administrators of this world. With increased exposure to these nifty time-savers, I’ve grown quite fond of hotkeys, and they really do come in handy. When you’re using software which requires heavy typing (programming, documentation, authoring, etc.), grabbing for that mouse just to click a menu item becomes bothersome. There are three types of shortcut combinations I commonly use, Ctrl+ (control), Alt+ (alternate) and Win+ (Windows) shortcuts. Sorry Mac users, I’m currently using Windows exclusively, so some topics may be specific to the Windows environment.

CTRL+Key Shortcuts

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the most common Ctrl shorcuts – copy/cut/paste – which are now ubiquitous across software applications on most operating systems. These common shortcuts save you the hassle of right-clicking with your mouse and selecting “Copy” from your Windows shortcut menu. Instead, just hold Ctrl and press the corresponding key to activate the shortcut – here are some common examples:

  • Ctrl+C (Copy)
  • Ctrl+X (Cut)
  • Ctrl+V (Paste)
  • Ctrl+A (Select all)
  • Ctrl+S (Save)
  • Ctrl+Z (Undo)
  • Ctrl+P (Print)
  • Ctrl+Home (Move to first character in document)
  • Ctrl+End (Move to last character in document)
  • Ctrl+Alt+Delete (Display Windows Security dialog, with access to Log Off, Task Manager, etc.)

Alt+Key Shortcuts

The Alt key provides access to the File menu of an application, and some other interface functions that come in handy in a Windows environment. Activate the File menu in your application by pressing the Alt key – you should see the File menu highlight. Then simply use your arrow keys to move left/right or up/down and hit Enter to activate or select a menu item.

Tip: I find the the alt key shortcuts invaluable when I’m working in DreamWeaver, and need to constantly switch back and forth between open documents. Rather than using the mouse to click the tabs to move between documents, I hit Alt+W (or Alt followed by W) to access the Window menu, then 1 (or any other document number) to go to the appropriate document.

Here are some other Alt shortcuts for Windows:

  • Alt+Tab (Switch between the open items)
  • Alt+F4 (Close the active item, or quit the active program)
  • Alt+Esc (Cycle through items in order they were opened)
  • Alt+LeftArrow (In many browsers, this triggers history Backward)
  • Alt+RightArrow (In many browsers, this triggers history Forward)

Windows+Key Shortcuts

The Microsoft natural keyboard shortcuts provide quick access to many of the most common tasks in Windows. Hold Win (the Windows logo key located between the Ctrl and Alt keys) and press the appropriate shortcut key to activate:

  • Win (just the logo key by itself opens the Start menu)
  • Win+L (Lock the keyboard) my favorite!
  • Win+F1 (Display Windows Help)
  • Win+D (Display the desktop)
  • Win+E (Open My Computer)
  • Win+F (Search for a file or a folder)
  • Win+R (Open the Run dialog box)

Just the Beginning…

Please note that the above is NOT meant to be an exhaustive list of available keyboard shortcuts. This article is intended to whet your appetite! Please consult the Help or file menu for your favorite software applications, and you’re sure to find many more shortcuts like these that can save you time and clicks.

For a more comprehensive manifest of Windows shortcuts, check out this keyboard shortcut list from Microsoft.

As for me, I will continue to add to my arsenal of keyboard shortcuts. Armed with these shortcuts and my trusty mouse, there is no code through which I dare not trudge.

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