Technology Insights: Keys, please.

There’s an app for almost everything these days. Inventions through technology have enabled us to do so many new things and improve the rate at which we do them. I can get the 10-day forecast pretty much any time I want. I can send a message to several friends simultaneously without ever needing to pick up a pen. I can heat up leftovers in the microwave in less than two minutes. I can send an email to someone anywhere on earth and it will arrive within seconds. Technology is amazing – truly amazing.

Sometimes, I think we aren’t leveraging technology as much as we should be. One observation that comes up, again and again, is the use of keyboard shortcuts to perform routine functions in software and systems that we use all the time. Why keyboard shortcuts? This quick-key-combo saves time and keeps you moving on the keyboard without having to consistently reach for the mouse to navigate around. Some keyboard combinations are commonly known (i.e., CTRL+C to Copy), while others that are not-so-well-known may become favorites and time-savers that you might enjoy, as well.

For almost every computer in the past several years, a keyboard key with the Microsoft Windows logo has been part of the keyboard. This is a magical key that can transport you to lands of unknown productivity and usefulness. Below, I’ve listed my top 5 Windows Key shortcuts to help you dig a little deeper.

[For the following commands, press and hold the Windows key (WK) and then press the next key, then release both keys to perform the action.]

1. Oh Snap! >> WK+<Arrow>

If you’re like most of use and have multiple windows running at the same time, this ‘Snap’ function allows you to move your windows left and right and lets you place programs side by side for comparison. Easily one of the best and little-known secrets about Windows. And, it’s been around since Windows 7. Press that Windows key and then arrow left or right to see.

2. Who’s on First? >> WK+<TAB>

This is especially cool on Windows 10. This combo brings up all of your open programs in a dashboard view, allowing you to see all of the open windows on your machine and then you can click the one you want to bring to the foreground. The benefit of using this combination instead of the ALT+Tab toggle is that you only need to run press this sequence once, then click on the open window of your choice with your mouse. No incessant “tab, tab, tabbing” to get to the one you want. Or press ESC key and go right back to where you were.

3. Where’s Waldo? >> WK+E

Need to browse for files? No need to grab your mouse and navigate to the File Explorer icon. Press WK+E to auto-launch it! That’s right…instant launch. Just click, click, BOOM! This might be, perhaps, one of my all-time favorites..

4. Dah-Do, run, run >> WK+R

Need to type a quick command? Get to a command prompt? Restart the computer? Open notepad? Shutdown? WK+R brings up a little run command-let (tech-term is ‘cmdlet’) which allows you to type a variety of commands. Here are a few of my favorites to type into the run prompt:

  • Notepad – When you type ‘notepad’ in the run prompt and press <ENTER>, the program opens up. (Notepad is a small text editor that would allow you to quickly jot down notes that you might use later and is also beneficial in stripping content down it plain text format.)
  • Control Panel – Frustrated in trying to locate the control panel on newer Windows platforms? Type “control panel” in the run prompt and see what comes up. You’re welcome.
  • Excel – Yep, you guessed it. ‘Excel’ will open the program, but know that this doesn’t work the same with opening other programs. There are some programs that won’t open through this command prompt. Play around with it and you’ll see.
  • CMD – Typing ‘cmd’ in the run prompt brings up a command line/prompt. Do this if your IT guy ever asks you to get to a command prompt and run a command
  • Shutdown – /r /f /t 0 – (No, not ROTFL.) This will forcefully reboot your PC in case something isn’t working right. This is helpful when you need a quick reboot but the mouse is broken or programs are hanging. This command is also helpful before calling your I.T. person to ask for help because something is stuck and we ask, “did you reboot?”

5. Safe and Secure >> WK+L

Policies and security go hand-in-hand, and during the workday when you need to step away from your computer, it is best to “lock it” before leaving. The quickest way to do this is simply by pressing WK+L – it locks your screen without logging you out! Then, when you come back to your desk, just type in your password to unlock it and get right back to work where you left off!

Well, maybe these are a little geekier than you really wanted to go, but if you take some time and learn a few keyboard shortcuts, it might just help to increase your productivity and enhance your computing experience. Taking the time to go just below the surface also pays off because it will make you look smart. Take it from me, keyboard shortcuts are the way to go!

About the Authors

Bryan M. Smith
Bryan M. Smith
Director of IT, Information Systems


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