If you're a Microsoft Office user who touch-types, you might prefer the keyboard to the mouse for entering commands. Odds are, though, that you wind up using the mouse, because Windows and Office keyboard shortcuts are difficult to remember, and trying to find them is a little like searching for the hidden goodies in an adventure program. Once found, though, shortcuts can prove invaluable time-savers.
This is not a list of every shortcut in Windows and Office. We've concentrated on those we've found most helpful. We won't delve into the shortcuts you probably know already, such as those that copy (Ctrl-C), cut (Ctrl-X), or paste (Ctrl-V) objects.
Don't try to learn all these key combinations at once. Pick a few that fit the way you work and use them for a while until they're automatic, then try a few more. To help you remember, we've added mnemonics where we could, along with notes where appropriate. All these shortcuts work in Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4.0, and 2000, except where noted. Some require a keyboard with a Windows key (the key with a flying Windows icon on it). Windows-key shortcuts are among the most useful—and most overlooked.
Moving Around Windows and the Desktop
Shortcuts that let you move from one window to another easily, get to the Windows desktop, or move around the desktop can speed you up considerably.
The Windows-Tab combination cycles through the taskbar buttons. When the program you want is selected, hit Enter to switch to that window. If more than one program is running, Alt-Tab brings up the task-switching window. Immediately releasing the keys switches you to the previous application. To jump to one of the other running programs instead, release Tab, but keep Alt held down. Each succeeding press of Tab moves the program selection box to the next application. Releasing the Alt key switches you to the selected program. If only two applications are running, Alt-tab toggles between them.
Either shortcut will open the Start menu. Use the Up and Down Arrow keys to move through the menu, and the Enter key to choose an item. The two shortcuts vary slightly depending on your version of Windows. Ctrl-Esc, Esc leaves the Start button selected but not pressed. In Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0 (but not Windows 2000 and Me), Windows, Esc will return you to the window or desktop selection you were working with previously.
Mnemonics: This one's easy to remember; M for Minimize all and D for desktop. Note that Windows-D doesn't work under Windows 95, but Windows-M does.
Once at the desktop, use the Tab key to cycle through the Start button, Quick Launch toolbar, other toolbars, taskbar button area, and icons on the desktop (and those in the system tray in Windows 2000). Use the Arrow keys to move around within any of these areas of the desktop or taskbar. Use the Enter key to select items. You must, for example, select the Start button to open the Start menu.
Windows Housekeeping Chores
These shortcuts can help you with day-to-day housekeeping in Windows.
Mnemonic: The Windows Run dialog.
Mnemonic: Windows Explorer.
Mnemonic: Windows Find file dialog box.
Mnemonic: Windows is broken; check the system properties.
Mnemonic: This is the same command Excel uses for editing the currently selected cell. This command and the next one work within programs, too. For example, you can use these commands when working in the File | Open dialog box in Word or Excel. Note that after you select text in Word, F2 begins the operation of moving the current selection. You then move the insertion cursor to the desired location and hit Enter.
Mnemonic: A slightly shifted version of what happens when you hit Delete, which sends the objects to the Recycle Bin. Be careful with this command. Under some conditions, it will delete a file without asking for confirmation first.
This is an invaluable tool when you have to remove a disk during installation (to read the CD key, for example), then reinsert the disk.
This works for such disparate objects as icons on the desktop, printers, hard drives, and the taskbar.
The shortcuts in this category work not only in Windows itself, but also in most Windows applications. Some of these shortcuts relate to the windows of a particular application. Others relate to features you'll find in almost any Windows program, such as drop-down list boxes.
Alt-Spacebar opens the System menu, which will appear on-screen even if the application window is mostly off-screen. You can move the window back to a workable position using the Arrow keys and then hit Enter to set it down.
This is particularly useful in a program like Word when, for example, you want to call up the editing context menu but don't want to take your fingers from the keys to right-click.
Mnemonic: Down box, Down Arrow. This is especially helpful when you're filling in database forms (in Microsoft Access, for example). It's also useful when working in a dialog box.
Mnemonic: Control your way from tab to tab. Ctrl-Tab goes from left to right, Ctrl-Shift-Tab moves from right to left.
This won't work with all windows. It will, for example, toggle between a Find window and a document window in Microsoft Word, but it won't toggle between one document window and another. The command in Word for cycling through the open document windows is Ctrl-F6.
You probably know these work in the Office programs you use, but try them in other programs as well; they may work.
Mnemonic: Zap that. Again, this works throughout Windows, if not in every program.
Microsoft Word Shortcuts
Word offers over 300 shortcuts as shipped, not including the menu shortcuts. This adds up to more shortcuts than any reasonable person would be willing to memorize. There are a few, however, that we've found are worth the effort.
If you use autotext very often, you'll get the hang of this one. Simply type the abbreviation (such as your initials for your address) and hit F3 to replace the abbreviation with the fill entry.
The effect of this shortcut depends on the selected text. The basic behavior cycles through all caps, all lowercase, and title capitalization (the first letter of each word capitalized). If the selection includes a sentence break, the shortcut cycles through all caps, all lowercase, and capitalization of the first word in each sentence.
F7 by itself performs a spell-check on the entire document. If you select a word or section first, however, F7 checks the spelling of only that word or selection. If you have the Check Spelling As You Type feature turned on, this shortcut probably won't interest you. If you find that feature distracting and keep it off, you might find this shortcut quite useful.
Mnemonic: There's not really a good mnemonic, but remembering that the F7 key is associated with both spelling and thesaurus commands might help. Shift-F7 checks the thesaurus for the word the cursor is on or just past.
Mnemonic: Again, there's not really a good mnemonic. All shortcuts dealing with fields use the F9 function key, though. Remember that much and you can, at the very least, experiment with various keystroke combinations. F9 by itself updates the selected fields, if any, or just the field the cursor is in.
Mnemonic: Shift between selected field codes and field results.
Mnemonic: Show all (Alt) codes or results.
Mnemonic: Control what goes into the field. If you know the field codes you need to enter, use Ctrl-F9 to insert both open and close markers for the field quickly, then type your codes between them. Hit F9 to calculate the field result.
Mnemonic: Shift control from the field to the field result. This converts a calculated field result into permanent text or a permanent graphic.
Mnemonic: Date. To insert the date as text, type Alt-Shift-D, Backspace, Ctrl-Shift-F9.
Mnemonic: Time. Again, to make the insertion as text, follow the shortcut with Ctrl-Shift-F9.
Mnemonic: Take Control to shift the Style. Once you get to the Style text box, you can open the drop-down list with Alt-Down Arrow.
Mnemonic: Superscript is +. Subscript is the unshifted form of +.
If you depend on styles for formatting, this is one of the most important shortcuts to learn—particularly if you collaborate with others who may not be familiar with styles.
This is equivalent to clicking on the Show/Hide icon in the standard toolbar.
This moves the paragraph containing the cursor or selection one paragraph marker at a time.
Microsoft Access And Excel Shortcuts
Here are two handy shortcuts that work for both Access and Excel. See the sidebar for more.
Mnemonic: You separate hours and minutes with a colon, so use a colon for time. The date shortcut is the unshifted colon key.