The Power of Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are generally used to speedup common software operations for your computer.   Some common keyboard shortcuts include “Ctrl-A” for ‘Select All’, “Ctrl-C” for ‘Copy’, “Ctrl-X” for ‘Cut’, and  “Ctrl-V” for ‘Paste”.

By using a few keystrokes to perform a task on your computer you can save considerable time.   But, most of us don’t use the keyboard shortcuts; we switch, from the keyboard to the mouse to perform a task, a process that interrupts your workflow and takes time.  You can shave minutes off all off your tasks and hours off your day by using keyboard shortcuts.

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So why don’t most of us use the available keyboards shortcuts to speed up our work and save hours of our valuable time? The most common reason for our resistance is our notion that using one keyboard shortcut would not save us much time.   But once you learn to use a number of keyboard shortcuts, the time you save will add up significantly, thus boosting your productivity.  It’s not difficult to learn a number of these shortcuts, as some of them are intuitive.  Also, once you start using these shortcuts, they become easier to remember and use over the need to reach over and grab the mouse.

The wonderful thing about keyboard shortcuts is that they are uniform across apps. On Macs, usually the Command Key is used in combination with other keys for shortcuts. On Windows, an equivalent of the “Command” key is the “Ctrl” key.

Below is listing and description of some very useful shortcuts.  The more you use them, the more you will boost your productivity.

Keyboard shortcuts for your Mac

1. Switch between Apps - "Command + Tab"

Hold Command and Tab Key together

Typically, we use several applications at once on our computers. When you want to quickly switch between applications on your Mac, you can use “Command+Tab” (pressing the “Command” and “Tab” key simultaneously). 

While holding down “Cmd” key,

  • Press Tab multiple times to scroll right
  • Press Tilde(~) or Shift-Tab to scroll left
  • Press Left or Right arrow keys to scroll left or right through the app

2. Quitting an app on Mac: Command-Q

Hold down Command and Q to quit an application

The Apple computer does not let you exit an application by simply clicking on the red X button. For example, even if you were to close a window by clicking on X button, the application is still open and alive.



Close a Mac Window or Program: Command-W.

Press down on Command and W keys to close a windowYou can close a window in which you are currently active by using the shortcut Command-W.  Clicking on the Option key with Command-W closes all the windows in the currently active app. For example, if you are in a Chrome browser will close all of the windows you have opened in the Chrome browser.



Open a Window or re-open a closed tab on Chrome: Command-T & Command+Shift+T

Hold down Command and T keys to open a new browser windowYou can open a new Chrome browser window by using Command-T. And Command+Shift+T opens the last tab that you closed with the exact page you had opened in it. For example, if you were browsing the WSJ page, it will take you back to the same WSJ page you were reading.














Hide a Window: Command+H

Press command and H to hide a window



Let’s say you want to hide a window that you are currently active when someone walks over to you for a completely different task you are collaborating on. You can hide it quickly by using the keyboard shortcut Command+H.







Find anything on your computer: Command+F

From a file on your computer to a word or phrase within a doc or excel to a word on a page on your browser, the magic shortcut to find is Command+F. On a browser window, this translates to finding a phrase or word match on the current content displayed on the page. For example, if you are reading a news article and trying to locate a mention of “weight-loss”, simply run “Command+F” and enter “weight-loss” on the search bar to find the next occurrence.







Keyboard shortcuts for Windows

On Windows, the Window Key is the most important key. You can press on the Window key to start searching on any application you are trying to find. Just as we use the “Command” tab on Macs, on Windows the equivalent key is “Ctrl”.

Switch between applications and tabs

On Windows, you use “Alt+Tab” to switch between applications easily. Usually, when we are working on several applications at once, the windows for these applications get buried under each other. Using “Alt + Tab”, you can easily switch between applications on Windows.

Quitting an app on Windows: Alt+F4

Press Alt and F4 to quit an app

To quit an application, you can use the short cut “Alt+F4”. Press the Alt and F4 key simultaneously. You can find the Alt key on lowest row and the f4 key on the top row of your keyboard.










Delete file permanently: Delete+Shift

Press delete and shift to permanently delete a fileUsually people use the ‘Delete’ key to delete any item in their file explorer.  This will place the deleted item in the “Recycle Bin” so it is still eating up your disk space until you empty your “Recycle Bin”.A quick way to completely get rid of the files is to use “Delete + Shift”, i.e , pressing Delete and Shift key simultaneously permanently deletes the file in question. Unlike Cutting, deleting an item does not save the content.









Copy, Cut and Paste:  Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V

Press control and C to copyPress control and X to cut










Press Ctrl and V



You can copy, cut and paste with the commands Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V on windows. Copy makes a copy of the content whereas “Cut” cuts it from the location. When you want to move content from one location to another, you would Copy or Cut the content from the start point and position your mouse at the end point and paste it with Ctrl-V. This can also be used in the File Explorer to move folders or files from one location to another.








Other Ctrl Key Shortcuts (Windows)

Although Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, and Ctrl-X are the most basic uses for the Ctrl key, there are many other interesting shortcuts that are available with the Ctrl key.

Ctrl-Esc – Opens up the Start menu that can be navigated using the arrow keys.

Press control and escape to open the Start menu













Ctrl-Alt-Delete – Displays a menu that allows the user to Logout, Shut Down, Lock, or Switch User.

Press control, alt, and delete to logout, shut down, lock, and switch user.













Ctrl+(Any number from 1-9) – Allows you to move to the nth tab that you have selected. The variable n represents which number you selected.

Press Ctrl and any number (from 1 – 9) to switch between tabs








Ctrl-Shift-Esc – Opens the Task Manager window

Alt Shortcuts for Windows

The Alt key is next to the Ctrl key.

Alt + F4 – Closes the current window

Press Alt and F4 to close the current window













Alt + Esc – Allows you to cycle through windows in the order that you have opened them.

Press Alt and Esc













Alt + Tab – Switches from open apps













Alt + Shift – Allows you to move back through options

Function Keys

On Windows and more recent Macs, Function Keys provide great shortcuts. The function keys are at the top of the keyboard and serve as really easy to use shortcuts. A program can not only use the function keys on their own but also use it in conjunction with other keys.

F1 Key – Function Key F1 displays help for any program that you are currently navigating. Pressing the “Windows key” with F1 opens the Windows help and support center.

F2 Key – Function Key F2 renames a highlighted icon, name or folder. Also,Alt+Ctrl+F2 opens document window in Microsoft Word. Simply Ctrl+F2 pulls up the “Print Preview” window on Word.

F3 Key – Opens a search feature in any program you are open in. For example, even on the windows desktop, it opens a search bar to search through your files.

When you are in a Word document, pressing the F3 Key also change the case from uppercase to lower case or make every word start with a capital.

F4 Key – On Windows 10, he F4 Key in combination with the Windows Key + Ctrl Key closes the current virtual desktop

F5 Key – F5 key is very important key for modern browser windows. F5 key will make the browser window refresh its content.  Ctrl + F5 will do a hard reload of the browser content. In Word, F5 key opens the find, replace and go to window.

F6 Key – The F6 Key moves the cursor to the address most browsers. When you use Ctrl + Shift + F6  within MS Word, Word cycles through to a different open Word Document. F6 also lowers the speaker volume.

F7 Key – F7 is used to invoke Spell Check and Grammar Check in Microsoft Word. It is also used to increase speaker volume. Pressing the Shift Key and F7 simultaneously runs a thesaurus check.

F8 Key – The F8 Key is used as a shortcut to go the Windows Start menu. It is also used to access the Windows Safe mode

F9 Key – The F9 Key is used for multiple function. F9 key is used to refresh a document in Microsoft Word, send and receive email in Outlook, reducing laptop screen brightness on some laptops.

On Macs with operating system version 10.3 and later, the F9 key is used to display a thumbnail for each window in the workspace.  The Mission control on the Mac is used to show what is currently running on the Mac. Using the Fn and F9 key simultaneously opens the ‘Mission Control’ on the Apple computer.

F10 Key  - The F10 Key activates the menu bar of an open application. It increases the brightness on a few laptops. Shift+F10 is the same as right-clicking an icon or file. On Macs, it allows you to quickly see all the open windows of a program.

F11 Key – For browsers, the F11 Key allows you to expand and contract from a full screen mode. On certain Dell computers, the F11 shortcut allows you to access the hidden recovery partition. On Macs with operating system 10.4 and later, it hides all the open windows so you can view the desktop.

F12 Key – The F12 key can be used for many shortcuts within the Word document. Pressing all Ctrl, Shift and F12 together prints a document in Microsoft Word.

Using Ctrl key with F12 opens a document in Word while the Shift Key with F12 saves the document.  For programmers, F12 is a useful key to open up a Firebug window on your browser for debugging your program. 

On a Mac with operating system 10.4 or later, F12 hides or shows the dashboard.

There are no function keys beyond F12 on Windows Keyboards, the latest Macs have keys F13-F15 on the top panel and F16-F19 above the numbers.

The shortcuts mentioned so far are for general tasks like copy and paste that span across applications. In the sections below, I will summarize keyboard shortcuts there are specific for commonly used apps such as browsers, Microsoft Word and Excel and other programs.

Windows Key

The Windows Key is the key with a Windows icon on it. This key is located at the bottom left of your keyboard and is unavailable for Macs.

Windows + E – Windows + E  opens the “File Explorer” program that allows the user to navigate through the files stored on their computer.

Windows + R –  Windows + R opens the “Run” configuration which allows you to run an installed program by typing the file’s name

Windows + D –  Windows + D minimizes all currently running windows

Windows + P – Windows + P allows you to change the screen display. For Windows 10 it opens up the “Project” menu which allows you to adjust the screen settings for multiple screens.

Windows + L – Windows + L locks your computer without having to navigate through the Ctrl + Alt + Delete menu.

Windows + Tab – Windows + Tab displays all open windows making it easier to see how many windows of a certain program are currently running.

Windows File Explorer shortcuts

These shortcuts can be used for the Windows File Explorer (Windows + E).

F2 – F2 renames the selected objects. You have to type in the name and hit Enter once completed.

Shift + Delete – Shift + Delete permanently deletes selected files without placing them in the Recycling Bin.  Be careful when using this shortcut as there is no way to revive deleted items using this shortcut.

Alt + Enter – Alt + Enter opens up the properties section for the items you have selected. If you have selected multiple items and use this shortcut, it will only display the properties of the first item you selected.

All the basic Ctrl shortcuts work in File Explorer.

Whether you are playing a game or using an office application, there are generic shortcuts that work across applications.  From a personal standpoint, I am more efficient and saved hundreds of hours using Keyboard shortcuts.

Hands on a Keyboard