Category Archives: Applications

Shift+F1: What is this?

Major applications support Shift+F1 to let you know what a particular part of the screen is about. Hit Shift+F1 and your point turns into an arrow with a question mark (presuming your application supports this feature). Then click on something you want to know about, and some contextual help will appear.

Ctrl+K: Hyperlink

In a lot of applications (Excel, PowerPoint, Word and many more), Ctrl+K lets you insert a hyperlink. Now, links may not be so useful in a printed document, but for online documents, try it out.

Start by moving your cursor to the location where you want a hyperlink to appear. Then press Ctrl+K and the “Insert Hyperlink” dialog box appears. Now, enter a complete URL (such as in the Address input (where your cursor will be by default). If you had no text selected beforehand, then press Alt+T to get to the “Text to display” box and enter in the anchor text (such as “TiVo”). Press Enter, and the text appears as a link.
You can also use a network address to link your document to another one on a hard drive (by entering a URL such as \\my-server\mydirectory\).

Ctrl+[, Ctrl+]: Increase, decrease font size in Word, Outlook & PowerPoint

If you have selected text and want to change its point size, you can easily do so with a simple keystroke: Ctrl+[ (the square bracket key next to the letter P on most keyboards) will lower the selected text by 1 point. Tap it a few times to see the effect. Similarly, Ctrl+] increases the text size.

You can also use Ctrl+< and Ctrl+> — but while that may be easier to remember, you have to use the Shift key, so I prefer the square brackets. Also, that keystroke doesn’t work in Outlook.

(If you need to, you can review how to select text with the keyboard.)

Excel doesn’t allow any of these keystrokes. Excel is a bit of a fuddy-duddy that way, refusing to play along.

Ctrl+L: Left justify, Ctrl+R: Right justify, Ctrl+E: Center, Ctrl+J: Justify

If you’re using Word, Outlook or PowerPoint, you can change the justification of a paragraph using the following four keystrokes:

  • Ctrl+L: Left justify the current paragraph, but keep the right margin ragged
  • Ctrl+R: Right justify the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl+E: Center the current paragraph (since Ctrl+C is already taken with Copy, they had to use the second letter.)
  • Ctrl+J: Left justify the current paragraph, but keep the right margin justified

What does “justification” mean? Nothing to do with justice. I’m not sure why justification is called what it is. But that’s what it’s called; for more, check out wikipedia’s entry on justification.

This is left (Ctrl+L).

This is centered (Ctrl+E).

This is right (Ctrl+R).

This paragraph is fully justified, which means the right margin is in a straight line. The rest of this paragraph is just nonsense text. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

This paragraph is left-justified, which means the right margin is uneven, or “ragged.” The rest of this paragraph is just nonsense text. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum

Quite a few other applications alllow the use of these four keystrokes as well. But not Excel.

Alt+Prnt Scrn: Copy Screenshot of Current Window to Clipboard

Most people know that if you press the “Print Screen” button on your keyboard (which may be labelled “Prnt Scrn”) you’ll capture a screenshot of everything on your screen.

However, you may not know that if you press Alt+Prnt Scrn, you get a copy of only the currently selected window. You won’t get the taskbar or any other windows on your display. Then you can run a program (such as Microsoft Word or the Paint application included with Windows) and press Ctrl+V to paste in the screen shot.

Ctrl+H: Replace

In most applications, hitting Ctrl+H will let you do a “Find and Replace” search.

For example, in Microsoft Word: Press Ctrl+H, enter some text to search for, press Tab, enter some text to be replaced, then press Alt+A to use the “Replace All” button to replace all of the text in the document.

Ctrl+W: Close Window

In a lot of applications, Ctrl+W will close the current window (and in the case of an application like Microsoft Word, prompt you to save the current document if it hasn’t been saved already).

Let’s see an example and put together some of the Firefox tips from this week. Suppose you’re reading a Web page and suddenly need to check a different site (for example, you’re browsing a vacation site and want to check the weather). Press Ctrl+T to open a new tab, type in the site name such as “weatherunderground,” press Ctrl+Enter to complete the URL name and load the page, find the information you need, then press Ctrl+W to close the new tab.

Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down: Change tabs

If a program or dialog box has tabs (different divided sections or pages with a label at the top), chances are that Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down will change tabs.

Try this out with Firefox and Excel to start off.

In Firefox, remember from yesterday that you can create a new tab with Ctrl+T. Now use Ctrl+Page Up to rotate through the pages (or Ctrl+Page Down to rotate the other way).

In Excel, you’ll start out with three sheets (Sheet1, Sheet2, Sheet3) when you start a new document. Ctrl+Page Down will move from Sheet1 to Sheet2 and Sheet2 to Sheet3. Ctrl+Page Up will move from Sheet3 to Sheet2 or Sheet2 to Sheet1.

For dialog boxes, if Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down don’t change tabs for you, try Ctrl+Left Arrow and Ctrl+Right Arrow, or Ctrl+Up Arrow and Ctrl+Down Arrow. Unfortunately, applications aren’t always as consistent as we’d like.

Ctrl+Z: Undo

It’s up to the individual application, but if an application allows you to Undo, you can generally do so with the Ctrl+Z key. Try undoing some actions with Ctrl+Z.

Check the Edit menu (Alt+E) to see if Undo is listed, and what the keyboard shortcut is that’s listed next to the Edit | Undo command.

(If your application doesn’t support Undo, you’re probably out of luck, but you can try the Esc key.)

Alt+Spacebar, N: Minimize an application

If you click on the icon in the upper left of an application (at the beginning of the title bar), a little menu opens, which is called the System menu:

[Image: Application system menu]

The keyboard method of opening this menu is Alt+Spacebar. Then you can press N to Minimize the application, or X to Maximize, or any of the other underlined letters.

So, to minimize any application: Press Alt+Spacebar then N.

Dialog box navigation via keyboard

When a Windows application asks you a question, such as how many pages to print, it does so via a dialog box, which is a window that pops up and has an OK button and a Cancel button and one or more fields.

You can use the keyboard to handle dialog boxes and not bother with the mouse for 99% of dialog box tasks.

  • The Esc key is always the same as clicking on Cancel — it gets rid of the dialog box without taking any action.
  • The Enter key is the same as clicking on the default button. The default button has a thicker border around it than any other button. Usually the default button is the OK button, so pressing Enter is usually the same thing as clicking Ok.
  • Use the Tab key to move from field to field. (Or press Shift+Tab to move back a field.)
  • Press Alt plus the underlined letter from the field name to jump to a particular field.
  • Pressing Spacebar while on a highlighted field that’s a checkbox will check or uncheck that field.
  • If the dialog box has more than one tab (with different questions on each tab), usually pressing Ctrl+Tab will change tabs.

Ctrl+N: New Document

For most applications that support working with more than one document at once, Ctrl+N starts a new document, without having to answer questions about what kind of new document you want. Try it in Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.

Be careful when using Microsoft Outlook, because Ctrl+N has a different meaning depending on what section of Outlook you’re in. For example, in Calendar mode, Ctrl+N creates a new appointment, while in Mail mode, Ctrl+N creates a new e-mail message.

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.

Copy and Paste without a mouse, putting it all together

Last week we learned how to navigate using the keyboard. At the beginning of this week, we learned about the Shift key, combined with the navigation keys, to select text. We learned how to use Alt+Tab to switch back and forth between applications. And we covered Ctrl+C to copy, Ctrl+X to cut, and Ctrl+V to paste.

So, let’s put all of that together. Suppose you want to copy some text from a Notepad document into an e-mail. Here’s what to do:

  1. Hold down the Alt key, and press Tab until Notepad is selected, then let go of the Alt key.
  2. Use the arrow keys or other navigation keys to move to the beginning or end of the text you want to select.
  3. Use Shift key and navigation keys to move to the other side of the text; notice how it highlights as you go as long as you’re holding down the Shift key.
  4. Once the text is highlighted, press Ctrl+C. Nothing to seems to happen, but behind the scenes, the text you selected has now been copied to the clipboard.
  5. Now press Alt the key again and hold it down while you hit the Tab key until the e-mail is selected.
  6. Move your cursor using the arrow keys to the point where you want the text to appear.
  7. Press Ctrl+V. The text appears.

You’ve just copied and pasted text between two different applications without using the mouse. Congratulations!

Ctrl+V: Paste

We previously mentioned Cut (Ctrl+X) and Copy (Ctrl+C), commands which take selected text and move or copy the selected text into the clipboard.

Once you’ve put something on the clipboard, you can paste it at the cursor location with Ctrl+V. You can press this multiple times, and each time a new copy is inserted. (If you have selected text when you paste, then the selected text is replaced with whatever is being pasted.)

(You can also use Shift+Delete to cut and Shift+Insert to paste in most applications, but be careful since Shift+Delete has a different behavior when working with files that we’ll discuss later.)

Alt+Tab: Switch Applications

Press Alt+Tab. If you have more than one window open, pressing Alt+Tab switches to the most recent window you used. Pressing it again swtiches back. Try it a few times.

Now, try holding down the Alt key and don’t let go. Then press Tab (but don’t let go of the Alt key). A special window will appear.

[Image: Switching applications example from Windows XP]

While holding down the Alt key, keep pressing Tab. You’ll cycle through a list of open windows and applications. As soon as you have selected the application you want to use, let go of the Alt key, and you’ll immediately switch to that application.

(If, while holding down the Alt key, you press Shift+Tab, you’ll cycle backwards through the list.)

Note: There’s another keyboard shortcut for switching applications, Alt+Esc, which switches through Windows in the order you opened them, but it’s not nearly so useful, so forget about that one and use Alt+Tab instead.

Ctrl+S: Save

Most applications let you press Ctrl+S to save the current document.

If you have previously saved the document (or had opened an existing document), then Ctrl+S uses the same filename as before. No news is good news — if you don’t get an error message, you can assume your save worked fine.

If you haven’t saved the document yet, you will be prompted for a filename automatically. Type in the filename and press Enter.

Ctrl+S is the equivalent to clicking on the File menu and then clicking on the Save command. Note that most programs will show you the Ctrl+S shortcut next to that Save menu command (see image below). Use those visual cues!

[Image: Notepad application with File menu open, showing the Save command with the listed keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+S]