Top 5 Windows Keyboard Shortcuts Everyone Should Know
“Hi Jared. I see people in my office using all sorts of cool Windows keyboard shortcuts and they look like wizards on the computer. What Windows keyboard shortcuts should I know to be more productive…and look as cool as they do?”
Perhaps the best thing to come to personal computing was the combination of the graphical user interface (GUI) and the mouse. Before we had the familiar window layout with a mouse and icons all computing was done on a blank screen with text commands. One would have to commit these commands to memory (or have a cheat sheet handy). Now, anyone can sit in front of a computer and “look around” in a way that was once impossible.
Despite the popularity of the mouse, the keyboard is still by far the best tool for controlling your computer. What makes the keyboard so great is that with a large array of keys (usually somewhere between 80 and 110 keys) a user can call up some keyboard combinations or commands almost instantly where the same commands would take moving the mouse around and a few click. Today I’ll share with you my top 5 Windows Keyboard shortcuts that I think everyone should know.
5. Ctrl + C, Ctrl + X, Ctrl + V (Copy, Cut, Paste)
Ok, this is technically three, but they all work in conjunction. Whether you are using Word, a web browser or just about any other program, these commands almost always work. With Control (Ctrl) + C any text you have highlighted will be copied to a virtual “clipboard” on your computer. It will stay in this invisible place holder until you reboot or copy something else. If you use Ctrl + X the text be “cut” meaning it will not only be copied to the clipboard, but it will also be removed from where it was. This is handy when you want to relocate the text, not just copy it elsewhere. When you use Ctrl + V the text in your clipboard will then be pasted wherever your cursor (that blinking vertical line) is placed. This same trick can be used with pictures and other elements on screen as well, depending on the programs involved.
4. Ctrl + Z (Undo)
Oops! I just deleted a whole heaping of something I was working on. I don’t see that backwards arrow thing that is supposed to bring it all back. Now what? Never fear, try the old standby Ctrl + Z. I cannot exaggerate how often I’ve used this command in my life. As with most commands, its ability to work depends on the program you are using, but this is rather universal and always worth trying if you need it. This will bring back accidentally deleted or changed text, changes you’ve made to a Power Point presentation or even edits to a movie you may be working on. It’s the quickest escape hatch you’ll ever find.
3. Ctrl + F (Find)
Have you ever been researching a topic and looking for a specific word or phrase on a large document or webpage? It can be a real bother to try to find it by scanning through as you scroll down endlessly. Next time, try Ctrl + F. This command pops up a box where you can type in what you are looking for. This works in most programs where you can read text, such as Word, Excel, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, Adobe Reader and more. You’ll be surprised how useful this is and wonder how you ever found anything before you used it.
2. Ctrl + Alt + Del (Task manager and/or other options)
This is known in the computing world as the “three-finger salute.” This combination was originally put into Windows in its very early days by a program to help him with debugging and trouble shooting (much to the chagrin of Steve Gates).
Over the years, this combination of keys has been used for various functions and was even an ill-advised requirement to log into Windows NT. Since the time of Windows XP and on, the Ctrl + Alt + Del combination has been used to call up a “Task Manager.” This window shows the running programs, usage of system hardware and options for logging out, locking the computer, shutting it off, and more. In the latest version of Windows, this command brings up a full screen menu with options for launching Task Manager or performing login functions (as well as some options hiding in the bottom right of the screen). If you have a program that is frozen and you can’t shut it down, use the “three-finger salute” and force the program to quit in the Task Manager. Ctrl + Alt + Del is also a handy place to log out of your computer since Windows 10 does not give you that option in the Start Menu by default.
1. Windows Logo + D (Display Desktop)
Do ever wish you could just push a button and have your office desk cleared of all the papers and clutter so you find exactly what you are looking for? I know I do. Luckily, you can do something like that on your computer display by going to the Windows Desktop. There used to be icons on the bottom of the screen that would do that, but Windows has taken them away. Simply press the Windows Logo Key + D to minimize all the open windows and give you a clear desktop in an instant. Repeat the command to bring all the windows back to the way there were. (Pro tip: You can do this with your mouse as well in Windows 7 and newer. Move your mouse to the bottom right corner of your screen and click.)
While we are talking about the Windows Logo Key, I recommend you get to know it a bit better. This is a simple one-key Windows keyboard shortcut. I think this is perhaps the most underrated key on the entire keyboard. I use mine nearly as much as most people use their Enter key. If you are using Windows Vista or newer, just press the Windows Logo key once and start typing what you are looking for. If you are looking for an app, some Excel file you’ve been working on or maybe a song on your hard drive, it will help you find it. Different versions of Windows will utilize this global search a bit differently (Windows 10 will include internet searches, for example). As an example, if you remember you had a PDF with “layout” in the file name, but don’t remember where you saved it, just click the Windows Logo then type “layout” with your keyboard. Your computer will immediately get to work looking for that file on your computer (and possibly on the internet) without you even having to reach for your mouse once.
For a more comprehensive list with other keyboard shortcuts, check out the official list from Microsoft here.
Are you using a Mac? Click here to see my list of the Top 5 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts.
These are my top 5 Windows keyboard shortcuts. What are yours? Feel free to comment or ask questions below!