Category Archives: Menus

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.

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.

Shift+F10 or Menu Key: Opens Shortcut Menu (same as right-clicking)

We’ll break up navigation tips with a more general purpose tip: How to use the keyboard to open a shortcut menu (also known as context menu) — the menu you get when you right-click somewhere.

The most general way to do this is press Shift+F10. (Remember, F10 is a function key, probably across the top of your keyboard.) Try it! Point your mouse somewhere and right-click. (You can press the Esc key to close the menu.) Then try pressing Shift+F10. (And again, Esc to close it.)

The other choice is to use a dedicated key. Chances are your keyboard has a “menu key,” which usually looks like this: [Image of shortcut menu key, taken from]

On most keyboards that have this key, it’s down by the Spacebar, to the right (near the Alt and Ctrl keys). On some keyboards, such as Dell laptops, it’s at the top center, near the power key.

If you have that key and it’s in a convenient location, spend today trying to practice using it to open shortcut menus for Windows and most applications you use. If you don’t have that key, practice Shift+F10 instead.