15 Best Keyboard Shortcuts You're Not Using

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Every time you lift your hand off the keyboard and reach for your mouse or touchpad, you're wasting precious seconds. That's why I use keyboard shortcuts for everything on my PC. Not only are key combos faster to hit, but they're also more accurate than even the best mouse when it comes to precise actions like highlighting text or selecting cells in a spreadsheet.

When I talk to friends -- even my most tech-savvy colleagues -- I find that most use basic keyboard shortcuts such as CTRL+X to cut and CTRL+V to paste, but they don't know some of the most helpful hotkeys that their PCs have to offer. These are the 15 best PC keyboard shortcuts you're probably not using, but should be.

Windows Key + Arrow: Windows Snap

One of the best features of Windows 7, which also appears in Windows 8's desktop mode, is the ability to snap windows next to each other so you can split the screen evenly between applications. To perform this snap feature with the mouse, you need to drag a window all the way to the left or right side of the screen. Don't bother.

Hit Windows + Left Arrow to snap a window to the left side of the screen or Windows + Right Arrow to snap it to the right. If you have more than one screen, you can hit the key combo more than once to move a window from one screen to another and you can snap a different window to each monitor edge, allowing you to have four snapped windows on two displays (or six or a three-display setup). Hitting Windows + Up  Arrow maximizes a window while Window + Down Arrow minimizes it.

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Shift + Arrow: Highlight Text

With today's legion of jumpy, inaccurate clickpads, it often takes a few tries to select just the text you want. And using a finger on a touchscreen PC isn't much faster or easier.

To highlight text with your keyboard, simply hold down the Shift key as you move the cursor with the arrow keys. If you also hold down CTRL, you can highlight whole words rather than individual characters with each arrow press. Remember that you can also change text to bold (CTRL + B) or italics (CTRL + I) in most programs without using a mouse.

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Alt + F4: Close Any Windows App

In a recent Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft added a close button to the upper right corner of its Modern-style apps, because many users don't know how to kill them. However, there's always been a simple way to close any Windows program without touching the mouse. ALT + F4 will close all Modern and desktop programs. CTRL + W closes desktop applications only.

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Shift + F7: Thesaurus Lookup in Word

Every time I write an article, I find myself looking for synonyms to keep the text fresh. If I'm composing my article in Microsoft Word, I don't need to whip out a thesaurus or visit one online. I just highlight the word I want to look up then hit Shift + F7 and Word shows a comprehensive list of related terms in a panel on the right side of the screen.

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CTRL + SHIFT + T: Restore Closed Browser Tab

Sometimes you find yourself with way too many tabs open and you start closing them, hitting CTRL + W like wild just to clean up your messy desktop. Then you realize that you just closed the tab with an important Gmail from your boss open or the critical reference material you need to finish your report. Just hit CTRL + SHIFT + T in any of the major Windows web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer) to restore the last tab you closed. 

Windows Key + L: Lock Your PC

I used to work at a company where the head of IT would patrol the office, checking to see if any of us had walked away from our PCs without locking them. If he found an unlocked PC, he would open up Outlook on it and email and embarrassing message to the whole company from the offender's account. When you walk away from your computer at work or even at home, there's no reason not to lock it. All you need to do is hit Windows Key + L, no clicking required.

Windows Key + M: Minimize All Windows

No matter how advanced advanced Windows gets and how many library folders it has, we still find ourselves saving files onto the desktop. When you have plenty of windows open, it's impossible to see or click all the files and shortcuts you've dumped on top of your wallpaper. Hitting Windows Key + M minimizes all your windows so you can see everything that's on your desktop.

Shift + Space: Select Row in Excel

When you're editing a spreadsheet in Excel, Google Docs or any other major productivity suite, highlighting cells by moving the mouse around is quite a drag. By hitting Shift + Space, you can select an entire row in any of these programs. Once you select a row, you can delete it by hitting CTRL + Del. Select all the rows below or above by hitting CTRL + Shift + Up or Down Arrow.

More: 5 Microsoft Excel 2013 Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

ALT + Left Arrow: Back in Web Browser

Most of us probably hit the back button in our web browsers a dozen or more times a day. There's no need to lunge toward the arrow button every time you want to return to the previous page. Just hit ALT + Left Arrow instead. Hitting ALT + Right Arrow takes you forward.

More: Best Windows 8.1 Browser: Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Internet Explorer

CTRL + D: Bookmark a Webpage

If you like what you're reading in any of the three major browsers and want to bookmark it, there's no need to click a star icon or select an option from the Favorites menu. Hitting CTRL + D in Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer pops up a dialog box which lets you bookmark the current page, edit the name of the bookmark and even select a folder to store it in.

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CTRL + Shift + B / O: Show Bookmarks Menu

Once you've bookmarked your favorite sites in Chrome, finding those bookmarks isn't as easy as it should be. Hitting CTRL + Shift + O shows a full-screen bookmarks menu in Chrome only. Hitting CTRL + Shift + B reveals the bookmarks bar in Chrome, IE or Firefox.

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ALT + S / CTRL + Enter: Send an Email

If you want to fire off a lightning quick email, the last thing you should do is move your hands off of the keyboard. After you type your message, there's no need to waste precious time rolling your mouse pointer over to the send button and clicking. Hit ALT + S to send your email in Outlook or other desktop mail clients. Hit CTRL + Enter when using Gmail on the web.

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R / CTRL + R: Reply to an Email

It's not necessary to click a Reply button to start composing an email reply. In email clients such as Outlook, hitting CTRL + R initiates a reply. In web-based email services like Gmail and Outlook.com, you can simply hit the R key. However, in Gmail, you must first turn on keyboard shortcuts from the settings menu.

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CTRL + Shift + V: Paste as Plain Text in Chrome / Firefox

It happens from time to time. You're composing an email or editing an online document in your browser, and you decide to paste in a snippet of text from a web page. You highlight the text, copy it and paste it, only to see all kinds of wacky fonts and unwanted formatting in your document. If you're using Chrome or Firefox, there's an easy solution: hit CTRL + Shift + V and the contents of your clipboard will paste into your browser as plain text. 

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F2: Rename Files

There are so many reasons why you would need to rename a file. Perhaps it's a photo with a non-descript filename like SAM_0591.jpg. Whatever your reason, the fastest and easiest way to rename a file is to select it in Windows Explorer and fit the F2 key.

You can even use rename multiple files at the same time. Just highlight all the files you want to rename (Shift + click lets you highlight many files at once), hit F2, type the new name and press Enter. All the files will have the same new name plus a number in parens (ex: mydog (1).jpg).

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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1 comment
  • coop lien Says:

    Tips like the ones in this article are really appreciated. After all, the whole idea is to work quickly and efficiently,isn't it? At least, that's what I'm trying to do.


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