π

Essential Keyboard Shortcuts

Show Sidebar

Every computer user gets a more decent computer life by applying keyboard shortcuts to his or her daily work. This is absolutely nothing which should be used by so-called "geeks" or "nerds" only. Anybody should learn basic keyboard shortcuts to avoid inefficient mouse interaction which takes much longer when the fingers are on the keyboard already.

I personally do like to learn new keyboard shortcuts by placing so-called cheat sheets or reference cards beneath the monitor. When a shortcut is applied several times daily, you will notice that you don't need your cheat sheets any more after a couple of days.

The following tables summarize the most basic keyboard shortcuts from my perspective. They are of use for any computer user, for all usage levels from the occasional user up to the hard-core programmer. This should be taught in every school.

General

Here come the most basic ones which should not be new to any experienced computer user.

Press this key To do this
F1 Show a help screen
Ctrl + C Copy seletion/item
Ctrl + X Cut seletion/item
Ctrl + V Paste seletion/item
Alt + Tab Switch between windows
Ctrl + A Select all items
Ctrl + R (or F5) Refresh
Ctrl + Z Undo
F2 Rename selected item
Ctrl + Right Move the cursor: next word
Ctrl + Left Move the cursor: previous word
Ctrl + Down Move the cursor: next paragraph
Ctrl + Up Move the cursor: previous paragraph
TAB Jump to the next input field

Multi-Selection

Working with the mouse and keyboard combined, you get advanced selection possibilities: When you are selecting items in a list, like files in the file explorer, you can select multiple items with holding the Ctrl key and using the mouse button.

You can select a range of items by clicking the first item and then holding the Shift key while clicking the last item.

Of course, you can combine the two methods. Imagine you have selected a range of items with the method above. Then you are able to deselect single items of this selection by Ctrl-clicking those items.

Windows-Specific

Here is a short list of keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Windows. Many of them are available on other systems as well. The Win key is the key with the Windows logo which is placed on the left bottom side between the Ctrl and the space key.

Press this key To do this
Win + D Show/hide desktop
Win + L Lock computer
Win + E Open File Explorer
Win + M Minimize all windows
Win + Shift + M Restore minimized windows
Win Start menu: start typing for instant searching apps and files
Ctrl + Shift + Esc Open Task Manager

Since the most recent versions of Windows, even Microsoft provides virtual desktops which I really like. I use them so that I don't have to minimize, maximize, or search open windows. For me, I tend to use four virtual desktops: 1 for communication tools, 2 for web browsing, 3 and 4 for working tasks.

Press this key To do this
Win + Tab Open Task view
Win + Ctrl + D Add a virtual desktop
Win + Ctrl + Right Go to left virtual desktop
Win + Ctrl + Left Go to left virtual desktop
Win + Ctrl + F4 Close the current virtual desktop

With virtual desktops, you have to deal with different windows only per virtual desktop. Therefore, you only see your browser windows on virtual desktop 2. This way, you are avoiding being drowned in too many windows. For the same reason, I configure Windows so that it does not collate windows of the same application in the task bar.

Other operating systems are quite flexible in terms of virtual desktops and let you decide what keyboard shortcuts you are using for switching virtual desktops and so forth. Windows is quite restrictive and does not even let you move windows between virtual desktops.

For managing the windows on a (virtual) desktop, you can use the following commands:

Press this key To do this
Win + Up Maximize the window
Win + Down Hide/minimize window
Win + Left/Right Maximize window to the left/right side of the screen

Web Browsers

We do spend much time in web browsers like Firefox or Chrome. All browsers I am aware of are using common keyboard bindings such as the following:

Press this key To do this
Ctrl + T New tab
Ctrl + W Close tab (window)
Ctrl + L Go to and select address bar: start typing for new URL
Ctrl + Page Up/Down Next/previous tab
Ctrl + Click Open URL in new tab
Shift + Click Open URL in new window

I suggest using one browser window per task. For example when you are coding Python, keep all Python-related tabs in one browser window. Use different browser windows for social networking, news, and any other task you are doing.

Comment via email or via Disqus comments below: