Windows Key Keyboard Shortcuts

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I find that my computing experience is greatly enhanced by knowing a few really good keyboard shortcuts. I think everyone should know a lot of these basic commands, as it speeds up your work, and makes life just that much easier when you don’t have to reach for the mouse, and can keep your hands on the keyboard. They may seem simple, almost basic computer knowledge, but I’m always surprised how overlooked some of these simple gems are.

Between these keyboard shortcuts and a program called Launchy (a command-line application launcher, much like Quicksilver for OS X), which I also suggest, I find I’m far quicker to get from point A to point B and rarely have to use the start menu or have icons on my desktop.

  • Windows Key Yes, everyone knows how much hitting the Windows key in the middle of your full-screen game can ruin your day, but outside of playing games, it can be very useful for more than just pulling up the Start menu. Commands such as:

    • Win + D minimizing all of your windows and displaying the desktop. This can be great if you have a lot of stuff up, and just want to get it all out of the way. Hitting Win + D again will bring up your windows just as they were before you hid them all.
    • Win + R Opens the “Run…” dialog box. Great to get to the command line or calculator quickly (typing in cmd or calc, respectively) without having to go through the Start menu. It’s also good for relaunching explorer if it bugs out for some reason. Other good ones to know are msconfig and services.msc, which are great for tweaking both system settings and running services.
    • Win + E Opens up the Explorer for “My Computer” Get to files nice and quick, especially with my next tip.
  • Use your keyboard to navigate folders What? Your keyboard works to navigate folders? Holy file browsing, Batman! Give it a try. Open up your C:\ drive and hit “P” it will immediately jump to the files starting with “P” and if you keep typing, it will keep refining. “Pro” will usually highlight “Program Files.” Hit enter to open the folder, and then off you go typing the next folder you want.
  • Tab and Shift + Tab Tab will move you automatically to the next field within the in-focus window. What does that mean? Well, say you’re composing an e-mail. Type in the To: line as “Chris@Pirillo.com” then instead of clicking on the subject line, you can just hit “Tab” until it highlights the subject line. Type in your subject, hit Tab again, and you’re in the body of the e-mail. This works great in conjunction with Win + E, as by default, Windows selects the file tree on the left, and to navigate with the keyboard, you want to have the main field selected which is on the right. Alternatively, Shift + Tab moves you to the previous field. Say you’re in that same e-mail, but you want change the subject. Hitting Shift + Tab while in the body of the e-mail will pull your cursor back up to the subject line, and select all the text in the field.
  • Alt + Tab While in a window, Alt+Tab will switch between windows on the taskbar. Holding down Alt, and repeatedly hitting Tab, lets you select which window you want (it gives you a little pop-up on screen). Letting go of alt pulls the window up.
  • Alt + F4 Closes a window. Plain and simple. It’s the keyboard’s way of hitting the X in the upper right.
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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • Jason

    I too love keyboard shortcuts. I use the 3 windows key shortcuts you mentioned several times a day as well as win+F and win+pause/break But there aren’t enough for me! I’ve taken to using the program HoeKey lately so I can add others like win+G for opening Google in firefox or win+N for notepad++ …it’s endless…

    On another front, there are users at work who do everything they can to use the mouse for everything and are almost phobic about touching the keyboard…

    Great article Chris!