Keyboard use in Windows

© Paul Cooijmans — certified computer programmer
certified web designer, C.C.N.A.

Keyboard or mouse?

Although working in Windows using the mouse is easy in the sense that one does not need to memorize commands or shortcuts, it can be both speeded up and made more ergonomic by learning to perform the most common operations with the keyboard rather than the mouse.

The desktop

At any time, the desktop can be made to appear with Windowskey-d (d for desktop).

When the desktop has focus, icons can be selected with the arrow keys, or with the letter keys corresponding to the icons' first letter. When there are more icons beginning with the same letter, one can iterate through those by pressing the corresponding letter key repeatedly.

A selected icon can be activated by pushing Enter.

Windows — the operating system — can be shut down with Alt-F4 (confirm with Enter after selecting the desired option with the arrow keys). Note that on some keyboards only the left Alt key will perform the operations in this article involving the Alt key. On such keyboards, the right Alt key, combined with any one of a number of regular keys, produces an array of special characters.


Windows in general

The Windows key opens the Start menu, after which arrow keys can be used to select the desired option. The panel on the right of the Start menu can be reached with the Tab key.

Windows key-i opens the Settings application.

Windows key-Pause/Break opens the classical System information window.

Alt-Spacebar opens the system menu of the active window, after which one can maximize or minimize the window or go to "previous size" by pressing the letter key corresponding to the underlined letter of the desired option.

The regular menus of an active window can be accessed by pressing F10 or (left) Alt, after which arrow keys can be used to go through the menus (letter keys corresponding to the underlined letters of menu options also work). Once the menu opens, options can be chosen with arrow or letter keys. In general, when letter keys can be used, the arrow keys will also work to go through the options. Possible keyboard shortcuts are given behind the options.

A local (context) menu for the current selection, cursor position, or active window can be evoked by pressing the key with a depiction of a menu, located to the left of the right Ctrl key (on my keyboard).

With Alt-Tab one can switch between the windows one has open. Push Tab repeatedly while holding Alt.

Alt-F4 closes the active window, and eventually the operating system itself.

Alt-Enter shows the properties of the selected object.

Ctrl-Tab iterates through the tabs of a dialogue window.

Internet browser

Alt-d activates the address bar, after which one can type a U.R.L.

F5 reloads the current page.
Ctrl-F5 reloads all included files of the page.

Backspace or Alt-Arrow left goes to the previous page.

Arrow keys — Slow up and down scrolling
PageUp, PageDown — Fast scrolling
Home, End — To top and bottom of page

Tab iterates through the hyper references on a page.
Enter activates (follows) a selected hyper reference.
Shift-Tab iterates backward through the hyper references on a page.

General editing and text browsing

Home — Cursor to beginning of line
End — To end of line
Ctrl-Home — To beginning of document
Ctrl-End — To end of document
PageUp — One screen up
PageDown — One screen down

Ctrl-a — Select all
Ctrl-Shift-Home — Select from cursor to beginning of document
Ctrl-Shift-End — Select from cursor to end of document

Ctrl-z — Undo last action
Ctrl-f — Find in document
Ctrl-r or Ctrl-h — Replace
Ctrl-s — Save
Ctrl-Shift-s or Ctrl-Alt-s — Save as
Ctrl-p — Print
Ctrl-n — New document
Ctrl-o — Open a file
Ctrl-w — Close the present document

Ctrl-c — Copy
Ctrl-x — Cut
Ctrl-v — Paste

Ctrl-i — Italic
Ctrl-b — Bold
Ctrl-u — Underline

File explorer

Windowskey-e evokes the explorer.

Selection of files and folders: the same as on desktop.

Ctrl-a — select all

Select several consecutive files or folders: Select the first, hold Shift down, and mouse-click on the last. Or: hold Shift down while pushing an Arrow key.

Select non-consecutive items: Hold Ctrl down and mouse-click on the desired items.

Backspace goes one level up.

General accessibility

Ctrl-+ enlarges text and images for better legibility (push as often as needed).
Ctrl-- makes text and images smaller (push as often as needed).

Esc sometimes returns one to a previous or normal state, goes for instance from a whole-screen mode to normal mode.