In my business I spend a lot of time at my computer. While I don’t mind it, I certainly don’t enjoy wasting my time, and keep on the lookout for ways to simplify my work. One method I’ve used successfully for some time is Windows keyboard shortcuts, which by a striking coincidence is the topic of this article.
Some tasks are common; checking email, running Internet Explorer, jotting down notes, running the calculator, etc. Shortcuts let you attach key values to any program, allowing you to call them up with the keyboard, rather than digging through the menu. On programs you use often, the time saving adds up quickly, besides being more convenient (you can run your email program without leaving your word processor, for instance).
To demonstrate, set up a shortcut for your calculator. First find the calculator in the Start menu (usually in Accessories). Right click on the shortcut, and select Properties, then the ‘Program’ tab when displayed. Click on the ‘Shortcut Key’ entry field to highlight it, and then press in your key sequence. Click finally on OK, and you’ve set up a new shortcut.
(for Win95 users, it’s somewhat more complicated. Since right clicking menu options doesn’t work, you’ll have to dig through the Start Menu, to ‘Settings’, then to ‘Taskbar & Start Menu’. Once there, a panel pops up, and you select the ‘Start Menu Programs’ option, and the ‘Advanced’ button. This opens Explorer displaying all your program shortcuts; right click on any and select ‘Properties’ to bring up the properties panel. Select the ‘Shortcut’ tab, click on the shortcut entry, then press the shortcut keys you want. ‘OK’ everything and close to activate.)
It’s important to choose your shortcuts wisely. For instance, don’t use single-letter keys – you’ll never be able to type a letter without launching a program! Likewise, CTRL- or ALT- letter combinations by themselves are best to avoid, since they are often already used (for instance, ALT-F4 shuts down the current window, and CTRL-C copies data to the clipboard).
The safest method is combining three or more keys together. I use a letter together with Shift, Ctrl, and Alt. These combinations should never occur in most programs, preventing a conflict. Holding these four keys together sounds harder than it actually is – one hand easily holds the three control keys down while the other hand pressing the letter key. And with this key shortcut, you’ve launched a program, and avoided the tedium of digging through your Start menu.
You can set up keys for anything, but the ones I’ve found most useful are the following:
- CTRL-SHIFT-ALT-I – Internet Explorer
- CTRL-SHIFT-ALT-M – Mail program (Eudora, so I guess I could have used ‘E’ as well!)
- CTRL-SHIFT-ALT-N – Notepad, for quick messages
Other possibilities: ‘W’ for your word processor, ‘S’ for spreadsheet, and ‘C’ for your chat program (or calculator). Quick, convenient, and faster than the mightiest mouse, start using keyboard shortcuts and save yourself time!