Helpdesk Challenge – a quick guide to keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a way of completing basic computer commands – such as copying and pasting document text – without having to resort to using a combination of mouse clicks, drop-down menus and toolbar buttons.

Shortcuts will often require you to press two or more keys at once, and will usually involve the use of the Alt, Ctrl, Shift or the Command Key in addition to another single letter key. A typical example is the Save command used in most Windows applications. To use it simply hold down the Ctrl key and then tap the S key at the same time.

The only real complication with shortcuts is that you’ll have to remember what combination of keys to hold down in order to accomplish each command. Thankfully our handy guide should give you a helpful reference to all of the most common keyboard shortcuts on Windows PCs, Macs and even common applications such as Skype.

Computing Helpdesk – all our PC, laptop and tablet tips in one place

Keyboard shortcuts – Microsoft Windows

Alt + Tab – Cycle through open programs. Hold Alt and continuously press Tab

Windows key + E – Start Windows Explorer

Windows key + L – Lock the computer

Windows key + D – Minimise all windows and return to the desktop, press again to restore to previous state

F11 – Turn full-screen view on or off

Keyboard shortcuts – Windows 8 specific

Windows key + start typing – Search your PC

Windows key + C – Open the charms menu

Windows key + O – Lock the screen orientation (portrait or landscape)

Windows key + Z – Show the commands available in the application

Windows key + Shift + full stop (.) – Snaps an application to the left

Keyboard shortcuts – Microsoft Office applications

Ctrl + N – New File

Ctrl + O – Open existing file

Ctrl + S – Save Changes

Ctrl + P – Print

Ctrl + Z / Ctrl + R – Undo, Redo

Ctrl +  X / Ctrl + C / Ctrl + V – Cut, Copy, Paste

Ctrl + A – Select All

Ctrl + B / Ctrl + I / Ctrl + U – Bold, Italic, Underlined

Keyboard shortcuts – Internet Explorer

Alt + Home key – Go to Home webpage

Alt + arrow right – Go to next webpage

Alt + arrow left – Go to previous webpage

Alt + D (or just F6) – Jump to address bar

Ctrl + T – Open new tab

Ctrl + Enter – Complete a .com address by adding http:// as a prefix and .com as a suffix

Ctrl + +(plus sign) or Ctrl + forward mouse scroll – Zoom in or increase text size

Ctrl + – (minus sign) or Ctrl + backwards mouse scroll – Zoom out or decrease text size

Keyboard shortcuts – Skype

Alt + Page Up – Answer Call

Ctrl + Alt + Page Up – Answer call with video

Alt + Page Down – Hang up

Ctrl + U – Show/Hide Offline Contacts

Keyboard shortcuts – Mac OS X

Command + Tab – Cycle through open programs. Hold Command and continuously press Tab

Shift + Command + A – Open the applications folder

Shift + Command + H – Open the home folder for logged-in user

Option + Command + M – Minimise all windows

Command + W – Close Window

Keyboard shortcuts – Safari (for Mac users)

Command + Home or Command + Shift + H – Go to Home webpage

Shift + Delete – Go to next webpage

Delete – Go to previous webpage

Command + click a link – open link in new window

Spacebar – Scroll screen down by a screenful

It’s worth bearing in mind that the above are far from the all the shortcuts available, and also that many will overlap between program to program on the same system. You can also find program-specific shortcuts by looking for underlined letters in the menu bars of the majority of applications.

If you have any favourite shortcuts to share, please do so in the comments section below.

More like this

Best Buy laptops – the latest laptops tested
Speed up a slow computer – our guide to boosting PC performance
Computer troubleshooting – expert advice for using a PC

25 replies

  1. How about the obvious ones of Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V and Ctrl-X?
    Copy, paste and cut respectively
    I can use them on Linux as well as Windows since I switch between the two

  2. The most useful key for me is PrtScr. In days of DOS this used to send a picture of your screen to a Line Printer . Nowadays it copies a picture of your screen to the clipboard. From there you can paste it into Paint and copy the part you are interested in (say a box of text in a pdf file) and paste that as a picture into a document.
    Speaking of DOS days, you can still use Ctrl-insert and Shift-Insert keys instead of Ctrl-V and Ctrl-C. And of course the most valuable of all is Ctrl-z = Undo last change. The one I want more than anything os a shortcut for minimising restoring windows

    1. Alt+Spacebar………….N to mimimise and x to maximise -works in Wdddindows and Linux.

      Windows+D will quickly minimise all windows in Winows OS – all versions.

  3. Oops! In Microsoft Office, Ctrl+Z and Ctrl +Y are shortcuts for Undo and Redo. Ctrl+R varies in different apps (RightPara in Word).

    A useful shortcut in Windows 7 is Windows Key + right arrow key, Enter for Shutdown.


  5. I used to work in an office where trying to get people to use shortcuts or indeed any other time-saving features of a computer was pointless – they didn’t want to know. One woman used to type the same letter every time it was required – she was worried that if she saved it, she would run out of computer space!!!!!

  6. And as a variation, there is also Alt + PrtSc, which does a screen dump but of the current Window only rather than the whole screen.

    1. And from Windows 7 onwards, in Accessories there is the “Snipping Tool” (pin it to your start menu or toolbar) which lets you select a rectangular or a manually selected area to the clipboard.

  7. The most timesaving thing for me would be a way of writing something like your email address by pressing 1 or 2 keys. I know you can do this with Word, but just think how much time you spend in a year typing the email address! any suggestions?

    1. pwpriory – download a programme called Auto Hot Key which will print your e mail (or anything else you specify). I have it set up for my e mail with Alt +K, since this combination doesn’t appear to do anything else. It will work anywhere – but most Browsers can also be set up to auto complete e mails.

    2. Most forms requiring your email address will respond to you typing the first character of it if you have downloaded the Google Toolbar and filled in your details on the Autofil form.

  8. Thanks to all. The Alt-Prtsc and Auto Hotkey and Alt-Spacebar… were fantastic time saving tips for me. Now if I could just remember how to save and restore a workspace (I once saw it somewhere) for any given arrangement of applications and windows my life would be complete. There might not be a shortcut key but you never know.

  9. Ever wanted to view two windows side by side on a single screen, perhaps to compare things?

    Well, Windows 7 comes with a nice “snap” feature that can be used to display two active program windows on a single screen.

    To get two windows displayed side-by-side on a screen follow these steps:
    1. Open the first window (from any program).
    2. Press the windows key + ← from your keyboard. The open Window will get re-sized and shifted to the left side of the screen.
    3. Open second window (from different or same program).
    4. Press the windows key + → from your keyboard. The 2nd windows will get re-sized shifted to right of the screen.
    5. You should now have the two open windows side by side proportionately on split screen.
    6. Pressing the windows key + ↑ on your keyboard will maximize the active Window.
    7. Pressing the windows key + ↓ on your keyboard will “restore down” the active Window if it is maximised, or it will minimize the window if it is not maximized.

    1. Thanks Adam, that will save me time as at present I resize each screen to view them side by side. It’s amazing how quickly you forget the commands we used in DOS all the time. If I had any problems with the system then I would hit the ESC (well named) key or CTRL+ALT+DEL for a reboot. I wish I now had the simplicity of DOS or even XP to reorganise my photos in their folders and subfolders. Somehow I always end up with more branches of my family and events than a monkey puzzle.

    2. @Figgis
      Instead of re-sizing them, or using/remembering the hot keys, you can alternatively grab the window by its title bar (using the mouse), and pull it left or right until it shows an outline of resizing to a half-screen.

  10. Trevor. I’m really happy using the hot keys. I don’t use a mouse as I like to have the freedom of using my laptop with the tracker pad. I did try out some ‘shaking or snapping’ from the left side and the right of the window as I thought I saw a windows demo doing this but it did not work. I’m a multi tab worker on Firefox and I’m sure that I will use your hot key tips all the time. Thanks again for the tip.

  11. In Word, you can copy and past *styles* : really useful when working on poorly designed templates.

    Ctrl-Shift-C and Ctrl-Shift-V

    (you usually need to select the block of target text)

Create account

You can leave a reply without having a WordPress account, but if you do register you can upload an avatar. A WordPress account is not connected to your Which? login and cannot be used to login to or any other Which? services.

Sign up