Opening Menus with the Alt key, using menus with the keyboard

Quick, press the Alt key by itself. Chances are you now see the “File” menu become selected. Now you can use the left and right arrow keys to move from menu to menu, and the up and down arrow keys to open a menu and select different menu items.

Once you’ve mastered that, here’s the next step: You can press Alt plus an underlined letter in the name of the menu to open the menu. For example, the File menu has the letter F underlined, so pressing Alt+F opens the File menu.

Menus do vary from program to program, but almost every application has the File, Edit, and Help menus. Here are some of the most common menus and the key that usually opens that menu:

  • Alt+F: Open the File menu
  • Alt+E: Open the Edit menu
  • Alt+V: Open the View menu (if there is one)
  • Alt+I: Open the Insert menu (if there is one)
  • Alt+O: Open the Format menu (if there is one) — F is already used for File, so the next letter, o, is used.
  • Alt+T: Open the Tools menu (if there is one)
  • Alt+W: Open the Windows menu (if there is one)
  • Alt+H: Open the Help menu

For other menus, just look at which letter is underlined. For example, in Excel, Alt+D opens its Data menu:

[Image: List of menus from Microsoft Excel showing underlined letters that can be used as shortcuts with the Alt key to open the menu]

Once a menu is opened, you can choose menu commands by pressing the underlined letter of the command you want (just the letter by itself, no Alt key).

For example, in Microsoft Word, once the File menu is opened, you can press the c key to “Close” the current document, or the a key to use the “Save As” command:

[Image: Microsoft Word with an open File menu, showing shortcut keys to select several menu commands]

Tip: If a menu item has a “…” after it, then a dialog box will open. If not, then the menu command will be carried out immediately, usually with feedback only if something goes wrong.

One thought on “Opening Menus with the Alt key, using menus with the keyboard”

  1. It appears in windows programs that in the (sub-)menu there are two items with the same letter underlined. How to skip the first en select the second ?

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