Become the master of keyboard shortcuts

How much were you taught about computers in school? Depending on your age, the answer might be “a bit in high school”, “only in a college course”, or even “nothing at all”! Today, the use of computers is so widespread that kids start learning about Digital Technologies in their very first years at school.

We all use computers – chances are that you’re reading this on a desktop computer right now unless you happen to be on your phone or a tablet. The question is: are you using your computer efficiently, or are you relying heavily on left and right clicking with your mouse and hunting for menu options? You can save a lot of time by doing the same things with just a few taps of your keyboard and we’re about to show you how!

We’ve put together a guide of handy shortcuts you can take using your keyboard, from basic actions right through to setting up custom keyboard shortcuts to do just about anything! It might take some time to develop a habit of using them, but keep at it – before you know it, you’ll be tapping away like a pro.

Making a selection & clicks

To start off with, here’s a few tricks you may now have known about when looking at content in your web browser.

  • Instead of right-clicking a hyperlink like this one and selecting “Open in a new tab”, you can just click a link using the scroll wheel on your mouse to automatically open a it in a new browser tab.
  • Who needs to waste time finding the X on a tab? Click anywhere on a browser tab using your mouse’s scroll wheel to close the tab.
  • If you closed a tab by accident, use Ctrl + Shift + T on a Windows keyboard or Command () + Shift () + T on Mac to re-open it again.

Use Ctrl + N on Windows, Cmd + N on Mac to open a new browser window.

There’s no point learning how to quickly cut and paste with keyboard shortcuts without first knowing how to select the text and images you want to work with. The old ‘click and drag’ can get awkward at times, especially when the cursor seems to have a mind of its own or images get in the way. Instead, use mouse clicks!

  • Click twice quickly to select an entire word.
  • Click three times quickly to select an entire paragraph.

But wait, what if you need to select more than a single word or paragraph? To select more, it’s time to use your keyboard.

  • Click on text to place your mouse cursor, then press and hold Ctrl + Shift on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + Shift () on a Mac. You can now use the arrow keys on your keyboard to expand your selection – use the left and right arrow keys to go by word, or the up and down arrow keys to go by line.
  • Press Ctrl + A on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + A on a Mac to select everything on a page.

Working with keyboard shortcuts

Once you have a selection, you want to do stuff with it right? Here’s a list of some of the most popular keyboard shortcuts which you can use to copy, move and manipulate data quickly while you’re using a computer.

  • Press Ctrl + C on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + C on a Mac to copy a selection.
  • Press Ctrl + X on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + X on a Mac to cut a selection. Unlike copying, this will remove the text from its original location when you’re working in program such as Microsoft Word.
  • Press Ctrl + V on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + V on a Mac to paste a copied or cut selection.
  • Made a mistake? Press Ctrl + Z on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + Z on a Mac to undo an action.
  • If that ‘mistake’ wasn’t such a mistake after all, you can press Ctrl + Y on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + Shift () + Z on a Mac to redo an action.
  • Looking for something in particular? Press Ctrl + F on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + F on a Mac to open the Find tool. This will let type in a word and the computer will search for every instance where it’s used within a document or web page.
  • To turn highlighted text into a hyperlink that you can click to visit a web page, press Ctrl + K on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + K on a Mac. Enter the URL address for the web page you want to link to (we recommend copying and pasting it from your web browser using the keyboard shortcuts above!) and then hit the Enter key to finish.
  • Press Ctrl + P on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + P on a Mac to open the print options for a document.
  • And finally, press Ctrl + S on a Windows keyboard, or Command () + S on a Mac to save a file. It’s good to get into the habit of doing this often so you don’t accidentally lose your work!

See clearly

Struggling to read that miniscule text on the screen? Instead of leaning forward and squinting, which can be bad for your back and eyes, you can zoom in and out on what you’re seeing with these simple tricks:

  • Hold the Ctrl key on a Windows keyboard, or Command () on a Mac and scroll up on your mouse wheel or track pad to zoom in and make text larger.
  • Hold the Ctrl key on a Windows keyboard, or Command () on a Mac and scroll down on your mouse wheel or track pad to zoom out and make text smaller.

Keep it safe with a few taps

It’s good to get into the habit of locking your computer whenever you get up from the keyboard, especially if you’re working in an office environment or even on a family computer with different profiles for each user set up. When a computer or user profile is locked, it can’t be accessed without entering the right password. In the workplace, it’s a great way to keep data secure and at home, well, it can stop you getting pranked with a new desktop background image.

  • Press the Windows key () + L on a Windows keyboard, or Control (^) + Shift () + Power button on a Mac to lock your computer.

Keep in mind that locking your computer won’t help much if a password isn’t needed to unlock it. If you’re not sure how to set this up, check out this guide for Windows or this guide for Mac.

Creating custom keyboard shortcuts

If you want to know even more about the built-in keyboard shortcuts for Windows and Mac OS, check out these handy guides straight from the software developers:

If you’re getting really serious about using keyboard shortcuts and you want to do more than the default shortcuts let you do, there are third-party software applications that can help.

If you have a Windows computer, WinHotKey is a free software that can be used to create keyboard shortcuts to launch a program, open a specific document or folder, and more. For more advanced users, AutoHotKey is another free software which requires you to set up the scripts behind your keyboard shortcuts, so it has more flexibility but it is a little more complicated to use. How-To Geek has an informative guide on doing creating keyboard shortcuts using AutoHotKey here.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any free software available to do this on Mac OS, which may make the endeavour unappealing to casual users. For the truly dedicated, you may like to consider Keyboard Maestro or Alfred, which both cost around $50AUD or less depending on the type of software license you choose. That said, Mac OS X Tiger (10.4) and later versions of the operating system all include a utility named Automator. While it doesn’t have as much functionality as the third-party software, Automator can still be used to create keyboard shortcuts to open your favourite apps by following this guide.

Do you have a handy keyboard tip or two? Share them with us in the comments.