An Extensive Guide to Keyboard Shortcuts

In this day and age, it’s safe to assume that most of you know a thing or to about how to use a computer, one of those things being keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts, for the uninitiated, are really handy combinations of buttons, usually two or three, that perform certain functions that would otherwise take somewhat longer to do manually with just the mouse. For example, highlighting a piece of text and pressing Control (CTRL) + C copies the text to your clipboard, and subsequently pressing CTRL + V pastes that copied text to wherever you’re entering text.

Most people tend to know copy and paste, as well as a handful of other shortcuts, but beyond them are an abundance of shortcuts that can potentially save time and make your computer-using experience that much more convenient. In this article, I’ll go over some commonly known keyboard shortcuts and several most likely not very well known ones as well.

Most of these keyboard shortcuts will be primarily on Windows, although some can also apply on Mac as well, usually substituting CTRL with the Command button.

General shortcuts:

CTRL + C – As mentioned above copies any highlighted text to the clipboard.

CTRL + V – Also mentioned above, pastes any copied text into any active text field.

CTRL + X – Cuts any highlighted text; as the wording suggests, instead of just copying the text, it will “cut” it and remove it from the text field. Essentially rather than copying, the text will be moved to the clipboard instead.

CTRL + Z – Undo an action. An action can be just about anything; since this is a fairly universal shortcut, an action can be what you last typed in Microsoft Word, a line/shape drawn in Photoshop, or just any “thing” previously done in an application.

CTRL + Y – Redo an action. For example, if you changed your mind about undoing the last action, you can use this shortcut to bring that back.

CTRL + A – Selects all items/text in a document or window, i.e. highlights them.

CTRL + D – Deletes the selected file and moves it to the Recycle Bin.

CTRL + R – Refreshes the active window. Generally you’ll only use this in the context of Internet browsers. Can also be done with F5.

CTRL + Right Arrow – Moves the cursor to the beginning of the next word.

CTRL + Left Arrow – Moves the cursor to the beginning of the previous word.

CTRL + Down Arrow – Moves the cursor to the beginning of the next paragraph.

CTRL + Up Arrow – Moves the cursor to the beginning of the previous paragraph.

Alt + Tab – Displays all open applications and while holding down Alt, by pressing Tab, will cycle through which application to switch to from left to right.

CTRL + Alt + Tab – Displays all open applications. Using the arrow keys and Enter, you can switch to another application.

CTRL + Esc – Opens the Start Menu, can also be done with Windows Key.

Shift + Any arrow key, when editing text, selects text in the direction corresponding to the arrow key. Selects text character by character.

CTRL + Shift + Any arrow key – When editing text, selects a block of text, i.e. a word.

CTRL + Shift + Esc – Opens Task Manager directly.

Alt + F4 – Close the active item or exit the active application.

CTRL + F4 – In applications that are full screen and let you have multiple documents open, closes the active document, instead of the entire application.

Alt + Enter – Displays the properties for a selected file.

Alt + Left Arrow – Go back, usually in the context of Internet browsers.

Alt + Right Arrow – Go forward, same as above.

Shift + Delete – Deletes a selected file without moving it to the Recycle Bin first, i.e. deletes it permanently.

Windows Logo Key Shortcuts:
Windows logo key ⊞ + D – Displays and hides the desktop.

Windows logo key ⊞ + E – Opens File Explorer

Windows logo key ⊞ + I – Opens Windows Settings

Windows logo key ⊞ + L – Locks your PC or switches accounts.

Windows logo key ⊞ + M – Minimize all open windows/applications.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Shift + M – Restore minimized windows/applications on the desktop.

Windows logo key ⊞ + P – When connecting your computer to a projector or second monitor, opens up a menu to select how you want Windows to be displayed on the secondary display. You can select from PC screen only (uses only the computer’s screen), Duplicate (shows what is on your computer screen on the secondary display), Extend (Extends the desktop, allowing you to move applications/windows to the secondary display, and keep content on the primary screen off the secondary display), and Second Screen Only (Only the secondary display will be used).

Windows logo key ⊞ + R – Opens the Run Dialog Box. Typing and entering in the file names for applications will open the file/application, useful for troubleshooting scenarios.

Windows logo key ⊞ + T – Cycle through open applications on the taskbar; pressing Enter will switch to the selected application.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Comma (,) – Temporarily peeks at the desktop.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Pause Break – Displays System Properties window in Control Panel. You can find useful information here about your computer such as the version of Windows you are running, general info about the hardware of the computer, etc.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Tab – Opens Task view, which is similar to CTRL + Alt + Tab.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Up/Down – Maximizes or minimizes a window/application respectively.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Left/Right – Maximizes a window to the left or right side of the screen.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Shift + Left/Right – When you have more than one monitor, moves a window/application from one monitor to another.

Windows logo key ⊞ + Space bar – When you have more than one keyboard/input method installed (usually for typing in different languages), switches between installed input methods.

That just about covers most common keyboard shortcuts you can use on a Windows computer. The list goes on however, as there are so many more keyboard shortcuts and functions you can perform, which is even further expanded when taking into account that certain applications have their own keyboard shortcuts when those are in use.

You might end up never using half of the keyboard shortcuts on this list, much less of all keyboard shortcuts in general, favoring the good old fashioned way using the mouse and clicking, and that’s fine. The amount of time you save using a keyboard shortcut versus the clicking your way through things to perform a function is arguably negligible and most of the time is just a quality of life preference at the end of the day. But depending on how you use your computer and what kind of work you do on it, chances are picking up some of these keyboard shortcuts could save you a lot of frustration down the line.