“Windows” key: Open the Start menu

Welcome to the Windows Keyboard Shortcut of the Day blog! (You can read more about this blog if you like.)

We’ll start things off with the “Windows” key. Most computer keyboards built since 1995 have this key, usually down between the Alt and Ctrl keys, to the left of the Spacebar. On most keyboards, it looks like this:

Public domain image of the white four-segment Windows key icon shown on a black key.  From SXC via Wikipedia; artist or photographer unknown; creation date unknown.

Pressing this key (by itself) opens the Start menu. Pressing it again switches off the Start menu.

Once the Start menu is open, you can use the arrow keys to select a menu item. Pressing the Enter key launches the selected menu item.

What if you don’t have a Windows key on your keyboard? Just press Ctrl+Esc instead.

14 thoughts on ““Windows” key: Open the Start menu”

  1. Hopefully, you’ll cover all of the awesome WinKey-“something” shortcuts.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t use Win-E (File Explorer), Win-R (Run prompt) and Win-F (Find/Search). Got co-workers who walk up from outta the blue and talking about what’s on your screen? Win-M will minimize every window on your screen. Here’s the cool part: Win-Shift-M will bring back whatever was up before.

    There’s a bunch of those hotkeys, so that’s a week’s worth of posts right there.

    Vista has some nifty specific ones, too. That cool “wow-factor” task switcher that always makes people go “ooOOOOooo…”? Win-Tab.

    Hope I’m not giving away too much right off the bat, but as a non-mouser, I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who knows how to switch tabs on a window without reaching for the mouse.

  2. Hi Gecko , yup, those are on the list! (Except for the Windows key+Shift+M — that one’s new to me, and very cool. I use Windows key+D as a toggle, which is similar.)

    I definitely have to check out Vista at some point.

    Switching tabs (in Firefox and Excel) is something we’ll be covering in a few weeks as well.

  3. Interestingly, a friend of mine just bought a new Lenovo (IBM) laptop and it doesn’t have a Win Key – IBM must think they are special. But after years of using Win + E for explorer, I found it very difficult to use this laptop.

  4. Jodie, I feel your pain. In a couple of weeks I’ll post details on how to create custom shortcut keys so that you can assign your own keystroke to start the Explorer.

  5. We have a third party product that runs under the web browser. When running in MS IE we have conflicting keyboard shortcut keys. The product wants to use F1 and F3 but when these keys are pressed the Windows functions appear as well as the command is passed to the product. Is there a way to disable the Windows function keys while this product is running in the web browser?

  6. K, I turned off that windows key in XP. Now I have Vista, and want to turn it off there. How? It is not in that keyboard in control panel. I saw some say they wanted to try Vista. I like 2 things about Vista. Aero the clear borders with the way it shows the program running when switch with ctr – tab, and the part where ye rename items. So far the only thing I am not a fan of is that what there was in XP, most everything is changed. Such as add remove is now program features.

  7. I love this tip!! :)

    I’d spent my time constantly minimizing the pages I’d got open- but not now!

    Many thanks
    John

  8. So its kinda like the apple key on Macs? I always wondered what it was used for. Real handy tips, thanks guys.

  9. I love Cntl+Esc replacing the IBM non-windows start key but how can we usethe Windows start key+key shortcuts like Start+E for explorer? Cntl+Esc+E doesn’t work.

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