18 keyboard shortcuts you really should know (and probably don't)

We recently ran an item noting a surprising blind spot among computer users — 90 percent of them don't know how to use the "Find" function.

That little trick — hitting Control-F or Command-F — lets you search a document or Web page for a word or term, and can save you a lot of time if you know it. But it was unknown to nine out of 10 people, in a sample size of thousands, Dan Russell, a search anthropologist with Google, told The Atlantic.

We figured that if so many people were unfamiliar with that trick, they might also need to be enlightened about other time- and work-saving shortcuts. So we asked out intrepid readers to offer their favorites. So here are 18 ways to improve your computing experience, and possibly make your work day go better.

If some of these seem obvious to you, remember: It's only obvious if you know it. And as Russell's research suggests, plenty of people could be in the dark on these handy tips.

Many of the comments were submitted anonymously, but where readers gave a name, we’ve added it to their comments. Thanks to all for their contributions.

(1) F2 to rename the file highlighted in Windows Explorer.

(2) F12 instead of File / Save As in MS Office apps

(3) Alt+F4 closes the active window in the same way left-clicking the X in the upper right-hand corner of the window does. Handy for closing a bunch of windows quickly. Dialog boxes ("Do you want to save your work?") must still be answered, but it can still save time.

(4) Alt-F then x then Space (or Enter) will exit most text editors and save your changes. Multiple keystrokes, but still quicker than clicking. Another one, though not as useful as it used to be — in Internet Explorer type just the core domain name you want and press (5) Ctrl-Enter. That will prepend "http://www." and append ".com" — Different James

(6) Shift+F5 in PowerPoint to launch the slide show from the current slide instead of slide 1 ...if you really must use PowerPoint at all.

Hit the (7) start task bar icon and 'm'. This will minimize all your windows and take you out to the desktop instantly. — Bill

Well, if they don't know Find, then they probably don't know Replace — (8) Ctrl H - to find and replace all instances of a word, letter, number, punctuation mark, etc. Or (9) Shift+F7 for the Thesaurus.

(10) Ctrl-Alt-PrntScreen. Copies the current window or screen to the clipboard, which then can be pasted into word documents, Paint, etc., as an image. Paste in Paint, then crop, manipulate, move sections around to get rid of all the extra stuff such as ads, empty space, pop-ups to make a nice small image with the info you want. — Russ

I use keyboard shortcuts all the time including the find. My favorites are (11) Win-L to lock my PC when I walk away or (12) Win-D to minimize all to the desktop. — DZDC

My favorite is (13) Control-Z (undo, or "never mind"). I use it more than any other except (14) Control-C (copy). — Henry, Washington D.C.

(15) Control-S: This is a very time saving option for me if I am editing a document and don't want to have to change to the mouse and go through the menus. Control-S saves the document. — James

(16) Control-X: Many times a person wants to move a word or phrase and they copy, paste, and then delete. Control-X cuts it out and the you paste it where you want it and you don't have to go back to delete. This of course can be done with the mouse as well, by highlighting the word or phrase and then "grabbing" it and moving it to where you want. — James

I had that same experience years ago (before tabbed browsers) when someone showed me how to hold the (17) shift key down while clicking a link, which opens the page in a new window. I couldn't believe it, I felt I had been liberated :) — lewis shepherd, DC

(18) Easiest one of all — usually saves me a LOT of work — one button, usually marked with a circle broken by a short little vertical line at the 12 o'clock position. — Cowboy Joe


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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