Oops! 10 Keyboard Shortcuts Users Keep Hitting by Mistake
Have you ever had something weird happen to your computer, seemingly out of nowhere? Suddenly, your display turns on its side, you can’t type correctly, or an annoying dialog box keeps popping up.
Chances are that you’ve hit a keyboard shortcut by accident. Here’s a guide to several common keyboard shortcuts you can mistakenly activate, and how to fix them.
1. My Display Is Flipped!
One of the most common keyboard goofs results in your computer’s display rotating 90 degrees in some direction. This means you have to deal with irregular mouse movement, which seemingly prevents you from using your computer as normal.
Thankfully, the key combination to fix this is basically the same as what triggers it. Use Ctrl + Alt + Arrow keys to re-align your display. Pressing the Up arrow should set it back to normal.
Note that this shortcut typically only works on displays using Intel integrated graphics. If your Windows screen turns sideways and the above shortcut does nothing, head to Settings > System > Display. Scroll down until you find Scale and layout, then set Orientation to Landscape.
2. This Website Says My Password Is Wrong!
Sometimes you’ll type your password for a website several times but see that it’s still incorrect. During your repeated attempts, you’re sure that you typed it out correctly. What’s the problem?
Chances are that you accidentally hit the Caps Lock key. The key above your left Shift key makes all characters you type uppercase, which causes you to enter your password incorrectly. Double-check if Caps Lock is on (most keyboard have a light for it) and try again.
Some websites will let you know if Caps Lock is on. The above screenshot is from Microsoft Edge, which also does this. Regardless, this is a frustrating oversight that’s easily fixed.
3. My Keyboard Won’t Type Numbers!
This is another Lock key mishap. The Num Lock key forces the number pad (present on almost all desktop keyboards, and many laptop keyboards) to type numbers.
If you have Num Lock turned off, the number pad keys will function as arrow keys, the Home and End keys, and similar. The reverse problem can also occur on some laptop keyboards that don’t have a number pad. On those, enabling Num Lock will cause some regular keys to type numbers instead.
If your keyboard has one, make sure the Num Lock light is on before you start typing numbers. On some laptops, you might need to hold the Function key to toggle Num Lock.
4. My Display Changes Size on Its Own!
Seeing your current window quickly zoom in or out? You’re not going crazy; this is another useful shortcut that’s easy to activate by mistake. Holding Ctrl and scrolling your mouse wheel is a shortcut common for many apps that zooms in and out.
This is quite handy if a web page is too small for you to see, or if you want to fit more information on the screen. But next time your display zooms in or out all over the place, check your Ctrl keys. One of them could be stuck, which results in the zoom when you scroll your mouse wheel.
To quick reset to 100% zoom, just press Ctrl + 0.
5. The Arrow Keys Scroll My Excel Spreadsheet!
We’ve so far looked at two issues that involve the Lock keys on your keyboard; this one completes the trio. Scroll Lock is rarely used on modern systems; because of this, one of its few actual uses can trip people up.
By default in Microsoft Excel, pressing the arrow keys moves the current cell selection. But with Scroll Lock enabled, the arrow keys will scroll the entire screen around instead.
Which behavior you prefer is up to you. But if you run into this issue, check the Scroll Lock light on your keyboard to see if you’re accidentally enabled it. Check out more useful keys you can add to your keyboard if this one makes you scratch your head.
6. Typing Erases the Next Letter!
Normally, typing simply inserts the new text next to what’s already there. But sometimes you’ll find that typing erases the text in front of it. This is the fault of the Insert key on your keyboard.
Hitting this switches between Insert and Overwrite modes. The former is what you’re probably familiar with; the the latter causes entered text to erase what’s on the page. Overwrite mode often makes your cursor into a highlighted box around the current character.
Simply tap Insert to change this. If you often do this by mistake, you might want to look into remapping your keyboard layout to get rid of the Insert key.
7. My Touchpad Won’t Work!
While there are many potential causes for a laptop touchpad not working, one of them is the keyboard’s fault. Most laptops have a Fn key that performs additional functions when combined with other keys. These include adjusting brightness, controlling media, and similar.
However, a lot of keyboards have a button that disables the touchpad. The exact key depends on your laptop model, but it’s often one of the F keys at the top of your keyboard. It’s easy to hit by mistake, so if you suddenly find your touchpad stops working, press that key and see if it’s fixed.
8. I Can’t Exit the Current Screen!
If you find that the current app fills your whole screen and certain control elements (like your browser’s address bar) have disappeared, you’ve probably entered full-screen mode by mistake. In many apps, you can switch to this by pressing F11.
Next time you find yourself stuck in an app, give this a try.
9. Nothing Is Working Right and I Hear Beeping!
If you’re experiencing complete chaos with your keyboard, such as random text highlighting, windows minimizing, and lots of beeping, you’ve probably accidentally activated a feature called Sticky Keys. Windows has many accessibility features that are vital to people who need them but can cause problems for other users.
Sticky Keys is one such feature; it allows you to use shortcuts that require the Shift, Ctrl, Alt, and Win keys by pressing them one at a time. For instance, instead of hitting Ctrl + Alt + Del all at once, you can press them in succession.
Pressing Shift five times in a row brings up the Sticky Keys dialog box. If you say Yes to its prompt, you’ll enable it. This is easy to do by mistake. To disable Sticky Keys, just press Shift five times in a row again, or press any two of the modifier keys at the same time. You’ll hear a beep to confirm the action.
How to Turn Off Sticky Keys in Windows 10
If you don’t need Sticky Keys, it’s a good idea to disable this shortcut. Head to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard and under Use Sticky Keys, uncheck the Allow the shortcut key to start Sticky Keys box.
While you’re here, you may want to disable the shortcut for Toggle Keys too, as it can cause similar issues.
10. My Keyboard Still Won’t Type Correctly!
In this guide, we’ve mainly covered specific keyboard shortcuts that trigger unwanted behavior. However, your keyboard can misbehave for several reasons. Discussing every possibility is beyond the scope of this article, but here are a few general tips:
- Make sure you haven’t selected the wrong keyboard layout or language. If you have more than one enabled, use Win + Space to cycle between them. Remove any languages you don’t need (visit Settings > Time & language > Language) to reduce potential issues.
- Confirm that you don’t have a key physically stuck. A bit of dust or an old keyboard could result in a jammed key.
- Reboot your computer. It could be a temporary glitch that’s simple to clear up.
See our guide to fixing a laptop keyboard that’s not working for more help. This covers important troubleshooting tips like reinstalling the keyboard driver.
Your Keyboard Is a Friend, Not an Enemy
As it turns out, your keyboard is working fine after all. Now you know how to stop several annoying behaviors. And with all this talk of accidental shortcuts, you might think that your keyboard is out to get you. But that’s far from the case.
After you’ve learned to recognize, avoid, and correct these mistaken shortcuts, look at the wealth of handy Windows keyboard shortcuts you can master.