The Essential Keyboard Shortcuts to whip your Windows

Mark O'Neill 19-03-2008

Windows Shortcuts Countless books have been written on how to shortcut your way around Windows to your advantage. But in the last part of my shortcuts series, I am going to do you a big favour and only tell you a few shortcuts that I use on a daily basis to speed up my travelling around Windows XP (most should work on Vista as well).


None of them involve going anywhere near the registry or indeed altering your Windows settings in any way. What I am about to talk about is just plain old keyboard shortcuts to make menus jump up and down, windows change or make you bounce your way around the desktop – without touching that mouse once!

So….we are on the desktop. Hello Windows XP.


When I start working on the computer, I mostly tend to head straight to the start menu so let’s go there. To bring up the start menu using the keyboard, just press the START key (also called the WIN key) which is normally at the bottom left of the keyboard close to the spacebar. It will have a small Microsoft symbol on it. It varies slightly in design according to what keyboard you’re using but it looks something like this :



Then once the start menu pops up, just use the arrow keys on your keyboard to choose your desired program and hit enter to run it.

The WIN key is actually very versatile and goes to the heart of being able to whizz around your desktop without the mouse. For example, if you do WIN + R, you can get the Run box (try it). WIN + E opens Explorer (your hard drive), WIN + D minimises all your windows and takes you to the desktop, WIN+L locks your screen and WIN + TAB moves you from one open application to another.

Browse Files

Now you want to open a file. Just do CTRL + O to open the file box. Use the TAB key and arrow keys to navigate to the correct folder then start typing the name of the folder in the file name text box. When the file name appears, choose it, hit enter and the file will open.


Later, to save the file before closing, just do CTRL + S. To print the file, do CTRL + P.

Cut / Copy / Paste / Undo

Obviously everyone knows the copy and paste functions (CTRL + C and CTRL + V). But how many people know that to cut something is CTRL + X. Or to undo the previous action is CTRL + Z.

These are the shortcuts I use every day and these are the ones you should be learning first. If you ask Microsoft for a list of essential shortcuts, they’ll be handing you a list as long as your arm. Instead, do your sanity a favour and learn the ones I’ve given you first – then combine them with the Firefox shortcuts The most Essential Keyboard Shortcuts for Firefox Read More , then the ones for Gmail Essential Shortcuts to Browse through Gmail Faster Read More , then Google Reader Unofficial Guide To Feedly: Better Than Google Reader Do you hunger for the best desktop and mobile RSS reader ever made? For both the hungry and the hopeful, Feedly satisfies. Read More , then Google Calendar The Essential Keyboard Shortcuts to Tame your Google Calendar Read More . Once you’ve mastered that lot, you can pat yourself on the back and crown yourself Keyboard Maestro!

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  1. admin_papa
    August 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Good Day

    Just wanted to share my new experience.

    If your Windows XP fails to run due to an error corresponding to lost HAL.DLL, invalid Boot.ini or any other important system boot files you can repair this by using the XP installation CD. Just boot from your XP Setup CD and enter the Recovery Console. Then run "attrib -H -R -S" on the C:\Boot.ini file and delete it. Launch "Bootcfg /Rebuild" and then Fixboot


  2. supriya
    March 26, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    combination of super+shft+M can also be used to restore windows.

  3. Mackenzie Morgan
    March 19, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Well, I call it the Super key since it can be an apple on a Mac running Windows or a diamond on one of those x86_64 Sun computers...but whatever.

    Super+Break will bring up the system properties window so you can see how much memory the computer has, what video card, etc.

    Super+M is the same as Super+D

    • Aibek
      March 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

      "Super+M is the same as Super+D"

      Similar, but not the same. Super+D has also the capability to restore windows. Just click on it twice and you 'll see what I mean. ;-)

  4. Jess
    March 19, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    One of the "secrets" of support that I let people in on is that if you want to look like a computer genius, don't use a mouse.

    I can do anything I need to (albeit a little more slowly, due to a lack of practice) with the keyboard as I can by using the mouse.

  5. Aibek
    March 19, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    The only two shortcuts I would like to add are:

    - 'CTRL+ALT+DEL' for task manager. Quite useful if you want to kill a running process or non-responsive program.

    - 'Alt+F4' for quickly closing active window or program.

    • Verdican
      March 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm

      In Vista, a better way to get into the Task Manager is to use 'CTRL+SHIFT+ESC'. Might be odd at first, but when you click those buttons, you'll skip the screen where you choose if you want to lock your computer or use Task Manager.

      Other handy shortcuts I use:

      ALT-BACKSPACE: This is just like CTRL+Z.
      CTRL + Y: This will undo your last undo. Quite handy.
      SHIFT+F10: This'll open up a shortcut menu (the right click menu).
      CTRL+HOME: When you're typing, this will move the mouse cursor to the beginning
      CTRL+END: The opposite of CTRL+HOME

      • Yeti~
        March 20, 2008 at 6:40 am

        CTRL SHIFT ESC has been around longer than vista :)

        Now I was under the impression that these are all common knowledge... at least for the people who would be reading here anyway

        • Aibek
          March 20, 2008 at 10:42 am

          Although I am fimiliar with most of the Windows shortcuts, the 'CTRL SHIFT ESC' was new to me. And as Verdican pointed out, it's especially conveninet for Vista users where 'CTRL ALT DEL' adds unnecessary step.