The Exterminator: Keyboard Shortcuts

I haven’t touched an external mouse in two years. One reason for this is keyboard shortcuts. (The other is a SmartNAV and dwell clicking freeware, which I will review shortly.) Keyboard shortcuts are so much quicker than a standard mouse.

Keyboard shortcuts (Alt [letter] or Ctrl [letter]) vary by application, so it’s impossible to give a comprehensive list. I’m going to focus on general navigation.

To open a program from the Start menu (Windows XP, or Vista in classic mode):

  • Windows key
  • the first letter of the program’s name, repeated if necessary until that program is highlighted. If repeated, Enter. If not repeated, program opens automatically.

To select and open an item, e.g. in Control Panel or the Desktop:

  • Press the first letter of the item’s name, repeated if necessary, then Enter.

To right-click an item:

  • Once you have highlighted it, press the menu key — the one with the picture of the mouse cursor on it. This will bring up the context menu for that item (“open with,” “properties,” etc.) In Microsoft Word or Open Office.org Writer, this is a shortcut to commonly used formatting options and or the spellcheck.

To expand a “plus sign box,” e.g. in Device Manager or Regedit:

  • Once you have highlighted it either with the arrow keys or tabbing over to it, press the right arrow. To collapse, press the left arrow.

To click a checkbox:

  • Use tab or arrow keys until you’re over the box
  • press Space to check, again to uncheck

For those times when the tab, menu, and enter keys don’t work, and you can’t use a standard mouse, Mouse Keys can be useful. Shortcut: left-hand Shift, left-hand Alt, Numlock. If you’re using mouseless browsing and don’t want to mess with the numbers on the keypad, select “use Mouse Keys when Numlock is off.” This way you can switch between Mouse Keys and mouseless without altering anything.

Another occasionally useful tool is “snap to,” found in the Mouse option of the Control Panel. This will position your cursor over the default choice in a dialog box, e.g. “Yes” in Save Changes in Microsoft Word.

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