Category Archives: custom

Semi-colons and passwords go together like red beans and rice

Many companies require you to use a secure password, and good secure passwords usually include some kind of punctuation (along with numbers, upper-case letters, and lower-case letters).

Meanwhile, pity the poor semi-colon (;). Here’s a key smackdab on the home row of your keyboard. Your right pinkie gets a workout with the P key and the Enter key and the Slash key (/), but rarely is called upon to hit the semi-colon, where it rests. (You may recall that the reason our keyboards are laid out like they are is because with old manual typewriters, you needed to actually slow down typists to prevent key jams; thus, the home row became home to many infrequently used keys. My first typing class, in 7th grade in 1979, was actually taught using manual typewriters.)

So, kill two birds with one stone: Spice up some of your secure passwords with a semi-colon or two. That satisfies the requirement of having punctuation in the password, while also being an easy key to type. Be sure to vary the semi-colon’s place in your secure password: the beginning and end may be easier to remember, but the middle is more secure.

One key to get to your favorite web site

We’ve covered custom keyboard shortcuts before, but today I’m going to focus on how to call up your favorite web site with just one keystroke. We’ll review some previously covered keyboard shortcuts along the way.

  1. Minimize everything and show the Desktop with Windows+D. The Desktop appears.
  2. Call up the shortcut menu with Shift+F10. A shortcut menu appears. (This won’t work if you have a desktop item selected. Another way to do this step is to just right-click on an empty part of the desktop.)
  3. Use the arrow keys and Enter to select the New command, or press the W key to select New (since the w is underlined, that’s the shortcut key). A sub-menu appears.
  4. Select “Shortcut” by using the down arrow and Enter. The Create Shortcut dialog box appears.
  5. Enter in the URL for your favorite web site. Include the http:// part, so for example, enter in if you want to visit Press Alt+N to click the Next button. The “Select a Title for the Program” screen appears.
  6. Type in a title for this shortcut (it doesn’t really matter what you type). For example, you could type “TiVo” if you entered Then press Enter to Finish. The shortcut appears on the desktop.
  7. Press the first letter of the title you just entered. You may have to hit that letter more than once if you have multiple items on your Desktop all named with the same first letter. Eventually your item is selected.
  8. Press Alt+Enter to get the Properties menu for this item.
  9. Press Tab to select the Shortcut Key text box. Enter in a keystroke you’d like to use to call up this item. For TiVo, for example, you might enter Ctrl+Alt+T. Your keystroke must use either Ctrl+Alt, Ctrl+Shift, or Shift+Alt.
  10. Press Enter to finish creating the shortcut to your favorite web site with your custom shortcut key.

Try it! Press your custom keystroke and notice how a web browser appears and your web page is loaded.

Now write down your new shortcut on a sticky note so you don’t forget and so you get in the habit of using it!

Note: If you create more than one shortcut with the same keystroke, the first shortcut created has priority.

Create your own custom shortcut for any application on your Start menu

Let’s suppose you really like the Calculator program. Instead of having to select it from the Start menu or click on some little icon each time you run it, wouldn’t it be useful to be able to use a keystroke and have it pop up automatically? And suppose you have a few other programs you want to be able to launch quickly, without having to open the Start menu. Today’s tip is for you.

You can create your own custom shortcut keystroke for any application on your Start menu. (You can also extend this tip to apply to Web pages, documents, and much more, but we’ll save that more advanced part for a different day.)

Before you start creating shortcuts, make sure you write them down and keep them saved. It’s also a good idea to make an overall plan for what specific keystroke you plan to use for each of your favorite programs, so you don’t try assigning the same keystroke to more than one program.

For our example, we’ll assign a shortcut for the Calculator. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start menu (with the Windows key or Ctrl-Esc).
  2. Using the arrow keys, find the Calculator program (in your Accessories menu) and select it (but don’t launch it). One way to get there is to hit P to open the Programs menu, then use the up and down arrow keys until the Accessories menu is open, then use the right arrow key to open the Accessories menu, then use the up and down arrow keys until the Calculator program is highlighted.
  3. Open the shortcut menu by either right-clicking on the Calculator menu item, or by pressing Shift+F10 when it’s selected. A shortcut menu appears, as shown here.
    [Image: Screenshot of Calculator Start menu options menu]
  4. Choose the Properties menu item (just press r, since it’s the underlined letter). The Properites dialog box appears.
  5. You’re interested in the “Shortcut key” menu. Press Alt+K to move down to that field, or hit Tab until it’s highlighted.
  6. Now press your shortcut key. I recommend Ctrl+Alt+C. You’re limited to only keystrokes that start with Ctrl+Shift, Alt+Shift, Ctrl+Alt, or Ctrl+Shift+Alt. Ctrl+Alt is easy to type, and “C” for calculator should be easy to remember. Hit the keystroke you want, verify it shows up in that field, then press Enter. The dialog box closes.
  7. Try pressing Ctrl+Alt+C (or whatever you selected) and verify that — like magic! — the Calculator appears.

There’s more we could do here, but give this a try.