Blue backlit computer keyboard

What are Keyboard Shortcuts?

  • Adam Douglas

A computer keyboard which has been modelled after a typewriter is an essential input device when working with almost any electronic device today. Even in cases where a physical keyboard is not present there is almost always a virtual keyboard available. The fact is a keyboard is universal in taking input in almost all applications and cannot be replaced. With this said, we can however improve upon our keyboard skills to be more effective in our time and make working with various software applications more enjoyable by incorporating the use of keyboard shortcuts.

What is a Keyboard Shortcut?

In computing a keyboard shortcut or also known as a hotkey or a key binding is done by pressing one or more keys to preform a specific action. The actions can be built into a given application, operating system or added in by using another application or scripting language.

Why Should I Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Depending on the circumstances using one hand on the keyboard to do shortcuts and the other on the mouse can provide quick actions. However, using a keyboard alone can accomplish even more once perfected.

Here are a few reasons as to why keyboard shortcuts are so valuable to use and memorize.

  • Allows for completing actions faster
  • Reduces stress due to keeping your hands on the keyboard instead of jumping back and forth between keyboard and mouse
  • Makes some tasks easier to perform
  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Repetitive tasks become more productive and accurate

How To Use Keyboard Shortcuts

A keyboard shortcut is achieved by pressing one or more key combinations at the same time. Let’s be clear this doesn’t mean you have to press both CTRL and C key on the board exactly at the same time. Press and hold down the CTRL key and then press the C key on the keyboard, now lift your fingers off the keys.

What Are Modifier Keys?

A special key on a computer keyboard that temporarily modifies the normal behaviour of a key when pressed together. Using a modifier key by itself typically doesn’t trigger any action at all.

Common Modifier Keys

  • ⎇ Alt (alternate), ⌥ Option on Apple keyboards
  • ^ Ctrl (control)
  • ⇧ Shift
  • ⊞ Windows (Windows logo), found on Windows keyboards
  • ❖ Super, found on Linux or Unix keyboards
  • ⌘ Command, found on Apple keyboards
  • Fn (function), commonly on laptop keyboards

What are Function keys?

Function keys are special keys that are labelled as F1 through F12. One may have more depending on the keyboard. These type of keys are not considered a modifier key, because it doesn’t alter the behaviour of another key. The function keys are used directly, meaning you just have the press the key by itself to perform an action. It’s common that some of these keys are already configured by the operating system to adjust the brightness of the monitor, adjust the audio volume or play/pause music. Though these keys can have special uses within a specific application.

How To Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Most software applications today indicate the keyboard shortcut by an underline within the menu system. Some may list the keyboard shortcut beside the a menu item. In recent years applications started to list the keyboard shortcuts within the settings or preferences which often provides a nice search to locate the shortcut you are looking for quickly and easily. Commonly the main menu items in an application are accessed using the Alt followed by the underlined character.

Good software applications usually provide a list of default keyboard shortcuts. If by chance your application doesn’t have this, there are many websites that have cheat sheets or keyboard reference documents or images one can freely download and memorize.

Common Keyboard Shortcuts

Action Shortcut
Close Tab/Child CTRL+W
Close Window ALT+F4
Copy Text CTRL+C
Cut Text CTRL+X
Highlight Text Shift+Arrows
Lock Screen Super+L
Lock Screen Windows key+L
Open File CTRL+O
Overview Super
Overview Windows
Paste Text CTRL+V
Print CTRL+P
Select All CTRL+A
Switch Application ALT+Tab
Switch Application Windows+Tab

This is post 21 of 100, and is round 2 of the 100 Days To Offload challenge.

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