Gearing back up…

Well, I said “December” but here we are in January. Time flies when you’ve got a toddler and an infant and a full-time job!

While we won’t be daily for a while (thus making a lie of the “of the Day” portion of the title of this blog), we’ll start back in on some tips.

Good to be back!

Off for paternity leave!

We’ll be taking a break from daily tips for a while due to a paternity leave. In the meantime, please leave keyboard shortcut requests here.

What tasks do you handle all the time that are a pain with the mouse? What are your own best productivity tips involving the keyboard?

M: Mute conversation in Gmail

Here’s a keyboard shortcut for a Gmail function you can’t really access any other way than by enabling the keyboard.

If you get some mail that’s annoying but not spam and you don’t care to read any of the responses to that conversation, just press the “m” key. It then mutes the conversation so that it’s archived, AND, any future messages that arrive in that conversation are automatically archived, never sullying your inbox. Handy!

Y: Archive in Gmail

To move the current message conversation into the Archive, just press the “y” key.

If you’re in the “Starred” section, Y will un-star the message.

If you’re in a custom labeled section, Y will remove that label. (For example, if you have a label for “Personal” and you’ve clicked on that Personal label link, so all of the messages you’re viewing are tagged as “Personal,” then the Y will remove the Personal label from the current message, meaning it will also be removed from the current view.)

If you’re in the Spam or Sent or All Mail section, the Y key does nothing.

/: Search in Gmail

Fire up Gmail, and chances are you’re going to want to search for a particular message. The quickest way to do that is hit the / (slash key, down by the question mark) which jumps your cursor up into the search box. Type in your search phrase and press Enter. After a few seconds, you’ll see a list of messages with that phrase.

Now you can use J and K (as we discussed) to move up and down messages, and Enter to open a message. When you’re all done, don’t forget G, I to go back to the Inbox.

I’d like to thank Russell Bradley-Cook for urging me to spend some time on Gmail, and for pointing out that the J and K keys can be used even when you’re reading messages. Try it out!

We’ll spend some more time on Gmail next week.

J, K: Previous, next mail plus Enter: Read mail in Gmail

Once you’ve enabled keyboard shortcuts in gmail, one of the first things you’ll see is the “>” symbol appear next to the list of messages in your inbox. You can press the “j” key to move down a message, and the “k” key to move up a message. When you get a message you want to read, press Enter.

Why J and K? If you’re an old crusty computer user like me, you may recognize these as shortcuts from an ancient Unix editor called “vi.” I happen to know the lead user interface designer of Gmail — Kevin Fox. I asked him yesterday about the reasoning behind using these keys. Kevin is not a vi user, and he picked J and K because they were easy to type keys situated next to each other that didn’t have any other use. Originally he had proposed it backwards, with J for next and K for previous, based on the reasoning that most of the time you want to read the next message, so that should be the first key. But all the old vi users at Google convinced him to reverse it. He grudgingly did so, but only if the team promised to change it if they got complaints. They never received any complaints, so the keys have stayed.

Shift+C: Compose new mail in Gmail in a new window

Don’t bother with the regular “C” to compose; get in the habit of using Shift+C to compose a new mail in a new window, where it doesn’t interfere with your normal work.

From the regular Gmail screen, just hit Shift+C (after you’ve enabled keyboard shortcuts, per the previous post). A new window appears. Remember you can use the standard Alt+Tab to switch windows, or Ctrl+W to close the window (without saving or sending) if you change your mind about composing a new message.

Gmail! How to enable keyboard shortcuts

This week we’ll cover keyboard shortcuts for Gmail, the free online e-mail service from Google.

First things first: In order to use keyboard shortcuts with Gmail, you have to switch them on. (They’re off by default.) To enable keystrokes, follow these steps:

  1. In your favorite browser, log in to your gmail account.
  2. Click on “Settings” in the upper right (next to your e-mail address).
  3. In the default General tab, select the “Keyboard shortcuts on” radio button.
  4. Click the “Save Settings” button at the bottom of the page.

You can reference this list of keyboard shortcuts for reference, or stay tuned here.

Ctrl+Shift+Esc: Task Manager

Sometimes you just want to see the Task Manager, which gives you a list of which applications and processes are running, lets you run new programs, and lets you kill programs.

Credit for today’s tip goes to Jake, who left a comment earlier: Ctrl+Shift+Esc will instantly produce the Task Manager.

Ctrl+D: Font dialog box in Microsoft Word

We’ve covered a lot of Ctrl+D shortcuts previously (fill down in Excel, duplicate slide in PowerPoint, bookmark in IE and Firefox), so it’s understandable if you get a little confused about what Ctrl+D does in each application.

But, if you spend a lot of time in Microsoft Word, you might want to memorize this one and practice it today: Ctrl+D brings up the Font dialog box in Word, where you can change the font face, the font size, the font color, and a few other special formatting options. (Don’t forget you can press Ctrl+Tab to change the tabs in the dialog box to change character spacing and special effects.)

If you have selected text, pressing Ctrl+D will apply the font changes to whatever’s selected. Otherwise, if nothing’s selected, it’ll affect what you type next.

Ctrl+T: Create hanging indent in Word

In Word, sometimes you want to create what’s called a “hanging indent” (where the first line of a paragraph is at the usual spot on the left margin, but all the subsequent lines in that paragraph are moved in to the next tab stop).

Find a paragraph that’s more than one line long, hit Ctrl+T, and you can see how it looks for yourself. Press it several times if you want to indent the second and later lines to the next tab stop.

Ctrl+Shift+G: Group items in PowerPoint

Suppose you create a text box, and then an arrow, and move them together. Then suppose you need to move them a few times. It’s annoying to have to move each item separately, so you’ll usually want to “group” them into one object. Sure, you could find the menu commands to do that — but it’s much easier to select the two items you want, then press Ctrl+Shift+G.

Note: You can use Tab to select an object (just keep pressing Tab until the object you want is selected), but there’s no way that I know of to select multiple objects in PowerPoint via the keyboard.

Once an object is grouped, just use the arrow keys to move it around.

Shift+F3: Change Case in Word and PowerPoint

Select some text in Word or PowerPoint, then press Shift+F3. It’ll toggle between three possibilities for text capitalization:

  • Initial Letter Case
  • lower case

So, if you have selected some text like “siX MILlion Dollar mAn” each time you press Shift+F3 you’ll see it switch between “SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN” and “six million dollar man” and “Six Million Dollar Man”.

However! If you add some punctuation (like a period) at the end of what’s selected, instead of using Initial Letter Case, it’ll only capitalize the first letter of the sentence. So “I wiN!” will toggle between “I WIN!” and “i win!” and “I win!” (and not ever show “I Win!”).

Shift+Drag: Move File

Bonus tip today! This follows from the earlier tip about Ctrl+Shift+Drag to create a shortcut, as well as yesterday’s tip about Ctrl+Drag to copy a file.

Let’s be complete: Suppose you’re still using the mouse to drag a file icon somewhere. And let’s suppose you’re about to drag it to a folder for a different drive (such as your A: drive or a second hard drive like D:, or a network drive like U:). Normally Windows will make a copy when you drag a file between two different drives. But if you hold down the Shift key, it’ll move the file instead.

Note that when you have the Ctrl key held down (or are dragging the file to the same drive), the ghosted-out image of the file’s icon has a little “+” in it to show it’s about to be copied.

If you have either the Alt or Ctrl+Shift keys held down, the file’s icon has a little arrow to show it’s about to be created as a shortcut.

If you have the Shift key held down, the icon is normal to show it’s being moved.

(By the way, instead of remembering all this confusing stuff about Shift or Ctrl or Alt), another choice is to use the right mouse button when dragging instead of the left mouse button. Then when you let go of the button, you will get a shortcut menu asking you what to do with the file you’re dragging. You can use the arrow keys and Enter to select your menu choice instead of clicking on the choice you want.)

Next week we’ll talk about how to use keys with the Windows Explorer so that you never have to bother with dragging a file ever again.

Ctrl+Mouse Drag: Copy file

When you have to use a mouse and you drag a file into a folder, normally it gets moved (assuming you’re moving it on the same drive). If you hold down the Ctrl key while you drag the file, the file is copied instead. You’ll end up with one copy in the original location, and one copy in the new folder you dragged it to.

F2: Rename File

Previously, we saw that you can edit a cell in Excel using the F2 key.

We also have discussed dialog boxes and working with files using the Windows Explorer. In order to quickly rename a selected file, just press F2. It works a little like editing a cell in Excel.

Ctrl+U: View Source in Firefox

Maybe you’ll never need this one, but sometimes you want to see the actual HTML code used to create a web page.

In Firefox, go to the page you want to view and then press Ctrl+U. A new Window appears with the HTML code visible and colored appropriately.

(In Internet Explorer, you can press Alt+V to open the View menu, then press C to select the Source command. A Notepad window appears with the HTML code available for editing.)

Remember, Alt+F4 closes a window — use that when you’re done looking at the source HTML code.

Ctrl+B: Open Bookmarks pane in Firefox

Press Ctrl+B and a new pane appears on the left side of your Firefox browser: The Bookmarks pane. Your cursor will automatically appear in the search box. Type in a few letters, and only those pages you’ve bookmarked that include those letters are listed. Press Tab to jump down to the results, and then press Enter on the one you want to open. Press Ctrl+B again to toggle off the Bookmarks pane.

(Note that in Internet Explorer, Ctrl+B lets you organize your bookmarks.)

Ctrl+F, Enter: Repeat Find in Firefox

Following on from yesterday’s tip, you can repeat a find (looking further on the page for the text you want) in two different ways.

One easy way is press Ctrl+F to re-open the Find box at the bottom of the screen, then press Enter. Each time you press Enter, you’ll jump down to the next occurrence of the text you’re looking for. (Note that this also works in Internet Explorer.)

Another way is you can press Alt+N to search for the Next example (as long as the Find box is visible).

/: Find on page in Firefox

It’s time for another week of Firefox shortcuts.

Firefox is the open-source Web browser from Mozilla; learn more about it (and download it for free) here.

I previously reported that you can use Ctrl+F to Find text. Well, in Firefox, you can do it even faster — just hit the slash key (down on the lower right, next to the period and right Shift key).

Immediately your cursor will move to a Quick Find box at the bottom of the screen. Type in the text that you want to find on the current page in your browser, and you’ll automatically jump to the appropriate place and see that text highlighted.

Shift+Delete: Delete file without sending it to Trashcan

I mentioned this one back in this Explorer shortcut post, but it deserves being spelled out on its own: When you see a file in a directory folder (such as when opening or saving a file, or when using the Windows Explorer), you can delete a file normally by using the Delete key. It then goes to the Trashcan, where you can undelete it.

If you have a sensitive file or a big file that you don’t want taking up disk space, press Shift+Delete to delete it instead. It won’t appear in the Trashcan, it’s just gone with only one confirmation dialog box to confirm.

Change your mind? You can press Ctrl+Z to Undo the delete operation, but don’t wait too long.

Windows key+Ctrl+F: Find Computers on your network

If your computer is on a network (such as when you’re at work) and you want to find a computer based on its name, press the Windows key plus Ctrl plus the letter F, then type in the computer’s name and press Enter.

Once a list of computers is returned, you can press the Up and Down Arrow keys to select the computer you want to access, and then press Enter to see the list of shared folders and printers available on that computer.

Windows key+M: Minimize all Windows

We started covering the Windows key back when the blog first started on February 23. (Recall that the Windows key by itself will show the Start menu; combined with different keystrokes, you can perform other useful tasks.)

One of the most useful shortcuts we covered is Windows key+D to show the Desktop. Related to that is a similar keystroke: Windows key+M will minimize all of the open applications that can be minimzied, showing only dialog boxes. Try it out!

(If you want to minimize only the current window, try this minimize shortcut.)

Windows key+R: Run / Suspicious calls to “fix Windows”

The “Run” dialog box from the Windows Start menu is a handy way to open an application or document. Usually you would select it from the Start menu, but a shortcut is to press the Windows key and R.

Once you’ve got the Run dialog box open, you can type in the name of a program and then Enter. Here are some popular ones:

  • cmd: Command prompt for running DOS-style commands
  • notepad: The Notepad app
  • sol: Solitaire
  • winword: Microsoft Word
  • calc: the Calculator

You can also open directories by pressing Win+R, then typing the directory name (such as C:\TEMP) and pressing Enter.

More recent versions of Windows also let you type in a URL, such as, and it will open in a browser automatically.

EDIT FOR FEB, 2012: Megan asked in the comments how you know what to type. There is not an easy way, because there’s no definitive list. What happens is that Windows will look through a list of directories (known as your “path“) for an application (that is, a program file ending in .com or .exe) that matches the name you typed. If you view the properties of the shortcuts, you can find the program name. If you look in your Microsoft Office folder (such as C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14) you will see Applications, such as POWERPNT.EXE. So then you know what to type next time.

EDIT FOR JUNE, 2013: From the comments below, a lot of you are getting suspicious calls telling you to run various commands using the Win+R key. As a rule of thumb, even if the command is safe, NO ONE FROM A COMPANY CALLED “WINDOWS” WILL EVER CALL YOU ABOUT A VIRUS. Just hang up on them and ignore the call. Most likely the caller is a scam artist who will try to convince you that your computer has a virus or is otherwise doing bad things, and then magically they happen to know this information somehow, and also magically they happen to be able to sell you a solution. You should never trust people who cold-call you with such information. Instead, get someone you trust to check out your computer.

Good practices:

  1. Never trust anything that is being told to you over the phone/email from someone contacting you about your computer.
  2. Never run commands that you don’t know 100% what they do (especially if a stranger is telling you to run them).
  3. Never give your credit card over the phone to any stranger who called you.

EDIT FOR JAN 2015: It’s amazing to me how long this scam has been running and how many comments this post gets. I stand by the advice of just hanging up, or saying “please remove me from your list and don’t call me again” and then hang up.

Alt+Enter: Properties

In quite a few applications, you can press Alt+Enter to open a Properties dialog box (which displays information about the selected object).

For example, suppose you press the Windows key+E to open the Windows Explorer. As you navigate around, suppose you want to know more information about a folder or drive or file. Press Alt+Enter and you’ll get a Properties dialog box.

Ctrl+Delete: Delete to next word

Partnered with yesterday’s tip, you can delete an entire word from where the cursor is to right with Ctrl+Delete.

For example, if your cursor is like so (before “country’s”): “TiVo is the _country’s best DVR” and you press Ctrl+Delete, you’ll get “TiVo is the best DVR”.

If your cursor is in the middle of a word, such as “extra_ordinary” and you press Ctrl+Delete, you’ll be left with just “extra”.

Ctrl+Backspace: Delete to previous word

If you’re typing (in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and many other text entry programs) and you use the wrong word, a quick way to delete the entire word is Ctrl+Backspace.

You need to practice this one a few times to get used to it. It’s also an easy one to forget to use, but it’s worth making the effort to get the Ctrl+Backspace habit: If you type a long word and want to erase it instantly, it’s much faster to hit Ctrl+Backspace then the Backspace key by itself several times.

As an example, if you type, “I must remember to buy a new hippopotamus_” and your cursor is right after the word hippopotamus, the entire word hippopotamus is erased and your cursor is now positioned at the end of the sentence: “I must remember to buy a new_”. Then you can type “toaster” or whatever word you actually want to type.

If you’re in the middle of a word, it only deletes the portion that’s to the left of your cursor. So if you typed “Here comes the sun_king” and move your cursor (as indicated) between the “sun” and “king” portions, then press Ctrl+Backspace, what you’re left with is “Here comes the king.”

Windows key+U: Utility manager

This week we’ll cover a few more general Windows shortcuts.

Just to get this one out of the way: We’ve covered the Windows key previously. The Windows key plus the letter U runs the Windows Utility manager, which lets you control how three specific utilities work on your computer:

  • The Magnifier, which can enlarge sections of the screen (making them easier to see).
  • The Onscreen Keyboard, which lets you use a mouse or joystick to type keys instead of the regular keyboard.
  • The Narrator, which can read aloud text on screen.

Ctrl+D, Ctrl+R: Fill Down, Right in Excel

Everyone knows you can copy and paste cells in Excel, but a lot of times you want to do it quickly in a specific way. Turns out there are two simple keyboard shortcuts that let you copy cells quickly.

Move your cursor to a cell that you want to copy. Suppose you want to copy it down five times. Hit Shift+Down Arrow four times to select the four cells below your current one. Then press Ctrl+D. Whatever is in the first cell is copied to fill the remaining cells. (Whatever was in those cells is overwitten.)

You can do the same thing to the right with Shift+Right Arrow and Ctrl+R.

Ctrl+$: Apply Currency Formatting in Excel

In Excel, type a number into a cell (such as “54.1”) and press Enter. Then press Ctrl+Shift+4 (or another way to think of that is Ctrl+$). Instantly the currency format is applied to the selected cells, and your “54.1” becomes “$54.10”.

You have quite a few other options as well:

  • Ctrl+~ (Ctrl+Shift+`): General format
  • Ctrl+! (Ctrl+Shift+1): Number format (with two decimal places and the thousands separator)
  • Ctrl+@ (Ctrl+Shift+2): Time format
  • Ctrl+# (Ctrl+Shift+3): Date format
  • Ctrl+$ (Ctrl+Shift+4): Currency format
  • Ctrl+% (Ctrl+Shift+5): Percentage format
  • Ctrl+^ (Ctrl+Shift+6): Exponential format

Ctrl+0: Hide Columns in Excel (Ctrl+Shift+0 to Unhide Columns)

Similar to yesterday’s tip, you can press Ctrl+0 to hide the column where the cursor is located. Ctrl+A, Ctrl+Shift+0 unhides all the columns in the sheet.

Update on January 5, 2014:

This keyboard sequence is used for changing your language by Windows, preventing it from working in Excel. If you’re running an older version of Windows, see Guilherme’s comment below.

In Windows 7, try this to get this shortcut to work in Excel:

1. Run the Control Panel, and select Region and Language.
2. Select the “Advanced Key Settings” tab.
3. Select the “Between input languages” item, then press Alt+C to select the Change Key Sequence item.
4. Under “Switch Keyboard Layout” make sure that “Not Assigned” is selected, then select OK and OK.

That will fix ALL keyboard shortcut items that involve Ctrl+Shift.

Windows keystrokes and keyboard tricks and tips that you can use to save time