Navigating your Computer without a Mouse - Top Keyboard Shortcuts

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Any time I can learn a trick that will save me time and help me be more productive while I am working at a computer, I’m on it. Many people don’t know about the built in keyboard shortcuts (Hotkeys), or if they do, they only know about a few of them, such as CTRL + ALT + DEL to bring up the program manager. With practice, you can actually navigate your computer entirely by keyboard, and not even have a mouse hooked up at all. It is also helpful to know how to do things without a mouse if you need to do any troubleshooting.

In this guide, I will show you some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts that work on Windows XP with SP3. Many of them also work on Vista as well. Some of them may not work for you, depending on your configuration. This is only a sample of the many possible hotkeys already programmed into Windows.

The common abbreviations I will use are:

  • CTRL = The Control Key, usually on the bottom left of your keyboard.
  • WIN = The windows logo key, usually under the letter ‘Z’ on your keyboard. Also called the ‘Start’ key, because it will open your Start menu if pressed alone.
  • SHIFT = The Shift key
  • DEL = The delete key
  • ALT = The Alt key, usually on either side of your space bar.
  • A thru Z = Meaning the corresponding letter on your keyboard.
  • 0 thru 9 = Meaning the corresponding number on your keyboard.
  • F1 thru F12 = The function keys at the top of your keyboard.
  • + sign to signify holding two or more keys down at the same time. Once you press the last key in the combination, release all of them.

A button you probably never noticed on your keyboard, unless you came across it by accident, is the apps/menu key, which is usually located under the Right-Shift key. This button acts the same as a Right-Click on your mouse, and will bring up the same menu. The same can be done with SHIFT + F10.


  • CTRL + C to Copy highlighted text onto your clipboard. This is the same as Copy from your right-click menu.
  • CTRL + V to Paste highlighted text onto your clipboard. This is the same as Paste from your right-click menu.
  • CTRL + X to Cut
  • CTRL + A to Select all (Useful when selecting files or photos in an explorer window, or all text in a field)
  • CTRL + Z to Undo - This is one of my favorite shortcuts. It will undo the last action you took, usually up to 25 or more times.
  • CTRL + Y to Redo - Did you hit CTRL + Z one too many times? This will restore it.
  • CTRL + F to find text on a page. This is very helpful when trying to search through a long document for specific words.
  • CTRL + B to make highlighted text Bold
  • CTRL + I to make highlighted text Italicized
  • CTRL + U to underline highlighted text
  • WIN + TAB = This will tab between the open windows on your taskbar. Press ENTER to select.
  • ALT + F4 = Close the currently selected window or program.
  • SHIFT + DEL = This will PERMANENTLY delete the selected file, bypassing the recycle bin. Use with caution!
  • SHIFT + (Arrow cursor keys) will allow you to select or highlight text or multiple files.
  • CTRL + (left click) will allow you to select multiple items or files, in forms or Explorer window.
  • TAB use the tab key when filling out a form, such as a signup form on a website, and it will jump from field to field.
  • SHIFT + TAB = This will allow you to go to a previous field in a form.
  • WIN + D = This will minimize all windows and instantly show your desktop. To restore all windows to their original positions, just press the WIN + D again.
  • F2 = To quickly rename a file, without right clicking on it and waiting for the menu to come up so you can click ‘rename’, just highlight the file and press F2.

Just about every software program has a file menu at the top of the window. (File, Edit, View, etc.) - Have you ever noted how some of the letters are underlined? Press ALT and the underlined letter to open the submenu. Then you can use your arrow cursor keys to navigate the menu. Press Enter to select your option. Most programs also have custom hotkeys, and will tell you what they are in these sub menus. Take note of the ones you use frequently and learn them! For example, in Microsoft Word, you can quickly do a spell check with CTRL + F7.

So, there is your introduction to keyboard hotkeys. With a little bit of practice, you can learn these in no time at all. I hope you find them as useful as I do!