The unreasonable effectivesness of keyboard shortcuts
No more mouse for you!
In this article I want to show you how you can navigate your computer using your keyboard only. We will have a look at how to navigate windows folders, move windows arround, navigate across tabs in the browser and even on websites using just the keyboard – no more mouse!
Using a computer mouse greatly slows down your work as you have to constantly move one hand from the keyboard to the mouse and back. Moreover, using a mouse is putting quite a bit of strain in your tendons (much more than an ergonmic keyboard anyways). I had developed a mild case of tendinitis (just enough to make working with a mouse annoying). Figuring out these keyboard shortcuts, helped me a lot. Maybe it will help you too?
Note: For Linux/Mac there are alternative commands. Just checkout the windows version and then google your way to the unix equivalent.
The windows explorer helps you orangize your files on your PC. Usually you would use your mouse to click your way through the folder structure, double click an item or right-click it to interact with it. We can do all that using just our keyboard:
- Win + E: Opens a new windows explorer window
- Ctrl + W: Closes explorer window
- Alt + ↑/↓: Move folder structure up or down
- Alt + ←/→: Go back/forward
- Ctrl + L: Jump to nagivation pane
- F4 + Tab: Jump between context (e.g. jump from navigation pane, to folder items, to short cuts,…). Use this to get to the folder elements
- Shift + F10: This is right click equivalent. Calls the context menu on either an item in the folder or of the folder.
- F2: Rename a file/folder
- Ctrl + Shift+ N: Create a new folder
- F5: Refresh all elements (e.g. if you are waiting for a file to appear)
- Win + M: Minimize all windows. Can be useful in certain situations 😉
Most programs (like IDEs) have a file menu, or an edit function which can you can all pressing
- Alt+…: To get underlined which letter you need to press to get to the respective menu, turning this into this: Moreover, in the Microsoft Office Suite, you can press Alt to have short keys being displayed to go from this to this:
Now you know how you can interact with windows explorer using just your keyboard. But how can you move entire windows or change the focus?
- Windows + ←/→/↑/↓: Moves the window to the left, right, up or down. Just play a bit with it. Super useful once you get the hang of it. You can move across screens like this too!
- Alt + Tab: Opens an overview of all active windows from where you can pick one.
Most software has some additional short cuts available. I find the ones in outlook nice as I use it a lot in my daily work:
- Ctrl + 1/2/3/…: Open Mail/Calendar/Contacts/…
- Ctrl + N: Create new email
- Ctrl + F: Forward email
- Ctrl + R: Reply to sender
- Ctrl + A: Reply to all
- Ctrl + Shift + A: Create a new calendar event
Remember you can press Alt to show other hot keys.
The inter is a huge part of our life and work, so navigating your computer with a keyboard only can only make sense if you can navigate the internet as well. The following works in Chrome, but most seem to work in Firefox as well:
- Ctrl + T: Opens a tab
- Ctrl + W: Closes a tab
- Ctrl + Tab: Jump to next tab
- Ctrl + 1/2/3/…: Jump to first, second, third tab…
- Ctrl + Shift + Tab: Jump to previous tab
- Ctrl + L: Jump into the navigation pane (Where you can type a new address)
- Alt + ←/→: Go back/forward
- F5: Refresh page
Okay, so navigating between tabs etc seems easy, but how do you navigate on a given website. Every website is different so it is not so easy to have standardized commands. The key here is a neat little plug in called Vimium.
My favourite feature is called “find”: Press F on your keyboard to have Vimium display (combinations of) letters on every “clickable element” on the website. Next, simply press the combination you want to click:
This is awesome, as it allows you to interact with websites irrespective or their design. I keep being amazed at how well it picks up all click-able fields. Only when there is text to enter (say a registration form) it can get quirky to navigate.
It offers a lot of other functionality beyond that, best to check out this video.
So there you have it: Most (all?) operations usually performed with your mouse can be accomplished with your keyboard. It might take a bit to get used to it but it can save you a ton of time down the road and it is way more ergonomic.