Hardware

Poll: What is the most useful keyboard shortcut command of all time?

If you had to pick the most useful keyboard shortcut command of all time, irrespective of operating system or application, what would it be?

In this week's TR Dojo video, I show you how to create custom Windows keyboard shortcuts with the free AutoHotkey utility.

While the keyboard shortcuts we regularly use often depend on our operating system and applications, some shortcuts are ubiquitous--like Copy and Paste. If you had to pick the most useful keyboard shortcut command of all time, what would it be?

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

49 comments
CPPCrispy
CPPCrispy

Alt-Tab - To switch between windows. Alt-Left Arrow Key - To go back in browser and explorer. Alt-Right Arrow Key - To go forward in browser and explorer. Alt-F4 - To close windows and Shut down menu. Ctrl-T - To open new tab in Firefox and IE

Philogos
Philogos

text formatting commands to copy and paste formatting and to reduce and increase font sizes. also the task manager short cut for when the machine has fallen asleep. In the right context these save hours of work. p.s. is anyone counting the votes?

sundelinmats
sundelinmats

I have learned a lot from all these tips. Up to now my favourites were Alt-Left Arrow Key Alt-Right Arrow Key Now i have a few more. Mats

Emaad nakhwa
Emaad nakhwa

Ctrl+Alt+Del by far is the most useful keyboard shortcut command. It brings a lot of things under control.This is a command that any lame man would also know. Alt+F4 would also earn a top spot in the list. Out of your list, I would choose Alt+f4.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

For a Windows abuser anyway.

Boomer_Sexy
Boomer_Sexy

Ctrl-Alt-Del Stop the chaos I have created because I am so non-tech oriented! No matter what the problem, Ctrl-Tech-Del gets me through the night. Better than counting to ten while annihilating the computer with an axe!

staffordd
staffordd

All you people voting for ALT-F4 - you are all a bunch of QUITTERS ! Why celebrate a shortcut that ENDS your session ???? Strange. My choice, is all about WORK. Copying and pasting data automatically, like a human robot. Swipe some text with your right hand with the mouse, AS, at the same time, you hit CRTL-C with your left fifth finger-second finger combo, AS at the same time you move your mouse to the new area the data is to be pasted AS, at the instant the focus in set to the new area, you change the CRTL-C to CTLR-V by restriking the CTRL key with your fifth finger and striking the C key with your second finger. Repeat, rapid fire, until you have captured, copied and pasted many data elements from one place to another, selectively. This of course, ONLY when you can't do it with a query. If you cannot mid string or left string or right string or in string, then - grab the part of the text you want, and use your ROBOT left hand to CTRL-C CTRL-V it to where you NEED it to be. This is about WORK. Alt-F4 is for those QUITTING work - so therefore kinda not that interesting. Or so it seems to me, but, I've been REQUIRED to do a lot of manual copying and pasting over the years. When a query fails, CTRL-C CTRL-V WILL NOT FAIL. Old reliable. It's good, trust me :-) dave

TheOnlyRick
TheOnlyRick

These are less useful than Alt+Tab and Copy&Paste, but they're still quite handy: Open up System Properties: Windows key + Pause/Break Manage Computer console in half a second: Win + E Context menu on keyboard (to right of right windows key), then press the letter G Also, a nice little one if you're using command prompt - it displays a history of commands you've typed: F7

leo8888
leo8888

you learn something new every day, I like the F7 in command prompt.

TheOnlyRick
TheOnlyRick

When the PC is slowing down and stuff randomly crashing, I press that button on the wall that has the black power cord coming out of it. Then I press it again. After the PC restarts,I find that simple technique guarantees me two hours of crash-free computing!

Firedrake
Firedrake

"Ctrl-+" to "autofit all columns."

willcomp
willcomp

An indispensable combo in Vista and Win 7 for those of us who work on other people's PCs. I add the run command to Start menu on my personal PCs. Prior to Vista, I would have said Ctrl + C, X, or V.

ckinzler
ckinzler

cntrl+alt+delete

nbpt1
nbpt1

I agree!!

freddo frog
freddo frog

* Accessing the task manager to kill a hung process or application. * Locking a system to prevent any fool from playing with the Servers or your workstation. * Rebooting a system. Ctrl-Alt-Del is my personal favorite.

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

and C-A-D _is_ most useful. OTOH, I use Control-Escape most often.

davidt
davidt

To permanently delete those pesky reply-to-alls....

m.drum
m.drum

Ok, this is a MOUSE shortcut, not a KEYBOARD shortcut. It also requires a special mouse, but it is SO useful for copy/paste that I highly recommend it. Copy/paste is almost always: 1) Highlight text (your hand is on the mouse) 2) Copy 3) Click on insertion point (hand on mouse) 4) Paste The usual alternatives for 2) and 4) are: A) Alt-C/Alt-V (mouse->keyboard->mouse->keyboard) B) Context menu (all on mouse, but THREE actions for each: rt-click->navigate-menu->click) I have a Logitech V200 wireless mouse with a special scroll wheel [unsolicited endorsement]. I've assigned 3 additional actions to the scroll wheel: tilt-left = Alt-C, tilt-right = Alt-V, and press-down = Alt-F4. So now I have a third alternative for 2) and 4). C) Highlight->tilt-left->insertion point->tilt-right (Four simple actions, ALL ON THE MOUSE!) Plus, exiting an application is as simple as pressing down on the scroll wheel, (and in case you're wondering, no, that is VERY difficult to do accidentally). This is what I find most useful, but if you'd rather, you can assign other keystrokes to the tilt wheel, or even use it for horizontal scrolling or zoom-in-out, instead. Very handy stuff.

phpenguin
phpenguin

alt-tab and ctrl-tab definetely, literally noticeable on my keyboard as theseare the most worn off keys :)

jtankard
jtankard

Ctrl+Print Screen, then Ctrl+V in an email. I love getting a screen shot rather than a vague inaccurate description of an error message!

kdr1139
kdr1139

Alt + Print Screen works well for this too, as it only takes a screen shot of the active window.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I agree with Alt-Tab to switch between windows.

ra4wmsn
ra4wmsn

key strokes starting programs is really nifty!

pier-3d
pier-3d

1 - Cut, Copy, Paste 2 - Alt-Tab 3 - Ctrl-Z 4 - Ctrl-S 5 - Ctrl-A

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Enter is probably the one you use the most for closing a dialog, confirming options, submitting a form. But many users still prefer to click the OK or Submit button, as they are too addicted to their mouse or still do not know that most forms can be filled without using a mouse. It's immediately followed by the TAB key for navigating between form fields. Then comes the arrow keys to navigate in a composed text. (PageUp and PageDown are much less used, as they scroll the page often too much abruptly, and its preferable to scroll with the scroll button of your mouse or using the scroll bars, and not all contents need to be scrolled in a correctly designed GUI interface) If you think that a shortcut is something that uses more that one key, then they are Copy/Cut/Paste shortcuts: some keyboards provide convenient dedicated keys for these functions (instead of Ctrl+C/Ctrl+X/Ctrl+V on PC or Apple+C/Apple+X/Apple+V on Mac keyboards). Only beginners will use the application's Edit menu or the contextual menu (right click) to perform these operations quite slowly with their mouse (and for them, a keyboard with explicit function keys for the three operations may be helpful). The Escape key is not always known and used to cancel a confirmation or revert an edit in a form field (in fact it is a bad idea to revert an edit with it, and the use of confirmation dialogs is often irritating, when the most frequent action will be to confirm the action with the Enter key instead of clicking OK or Submit). The same is true about shortcuts to close a or switch windows or tabs: these actions are not very frequent, and the keyboard is not always the easiest and best method to close a window or tab, when the focused window is not always very proeminently visible. A too easy shortcut for them can be "dangerous" in many contexts.

sysadmin
sysadmin

I actually use the... spacebar as much if not more than i use the enter key to clear msg boxes and the like away as i can see the little dotted selection line around the OK button and pressing the spacebar guarantees i am getting the button i want to press. If you press TAB obviously you can see the dotted selection line around the button jump to another button, thus using the spacebar would guarentee that i get that next button where as Enter would go straight to OK. Although i've seen odd times wher Enter doesn't jump straight to OK. Just depends on the software programer.

thomascwhitfield
thomascwhitfield

I think copy, cut, paste, and especially UNDO are the keyboard shortcuts i have found most helpful and useful.

Ron_007
Ron_007

Now that they've foisted the Ribbon Gooey on us, I'm betting MS will come up with another "Study" proving the Control-C is inefficient and should be replaced with something "better".

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

Let's not forget that the criterion for the topic is Keyboard Shortcuts, which consist of more than one keypress. Here are some of my most common shortcuts: Ctrl-Alt-Del to logon (if configured this way) and access the Task Manager. Windows-R to access the "Run" prompt. Alt-Tab for cycling between windows in the taskbar. Alt-Shift-Tab for reverse of the above. Windows-Break for System Properties. Ctrl-'F' to find text. Ctrl-Shift-Left/Right to select entire word/row from current position. Ctrl-Shift-Up/Down to select entire paragraph/column from current position. Ctrl-Shift-Home/End to select entire story/table from current position. Ctrl-Alt-'E' for ?. Ctrl-Alt-'4' for ?. Ctrl-'+'/'-' to insert/delete a row/column. Alt-'F' for File menu.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Those applications that forget to designate a default button for their confirmation dialogs, or that forget to transfer the appropriate focus to a new window requiring an action and require using a mouse are very irritating. Such dialogs are still present in Windows, notably the LUAC confirmation prompts in Vista or Seven. all of them should be actionable with the Enter key for Conofirmation/OK/Yes, and should also support the Escape key for the Cancel/No action. but the most irritating applications are those whose GUI design has not correctly set the TAB order for input fields. Some of them give incorrect focus to the Cancel button with the Enter key, instead of focusing the OK button; this is really confusive, notably when the only way to confirm the dialog requires pressing first a Shift-Tab key to get back to the previous button, or TAB to give focus to the first field prior to press Enter to activate the default OK button. Only if the confirmation has effectively security implications (or where the confirmed action could be destructive), could then the confirmation button requiring first transfering the focus to it with TAB, after focusing each input field. This initial transfer of focus should not be required if there's no input field but only a OK/Cancel confirmation or Yes/No question.

c4work
c4work

Windows+F = Windows Find Windows+R = Windows Run Windows+Tab = Switch program (only in Vista Business or above) Windows+D = Show Desktop

iShango
iShango

Open windows explorer

rdawson
rdawson

I agree. Windows E is so much easier when you have several windows open. Also Windows D for Windows desktop is pretty useful too.

C F USA
C F USA

also works on XP (at least pro) to switch between the windows on your taskbar. Select the window you want and press SPACEBAR and it will restore that window. Also... Windows+M to minimize all windows, then SHIFT+WINDOWS+M to bring them all back

plandok
plandok

Glad someone brought up (sorry) mentioned these keyboard shortcuts. Works all over the place even when it's not supposed to, like on a web page or a secure PDF. Thanks

QA_In_Vegas
QA_In_Vegas

I use Ctrl-C/V all day every day regardless of what app I'm using. Its by far the most useful if for no other reason than it can be used across all apps and between apps. Gotta love it. :)

subpixel
subpixel

Sometimes known as "the boss key", it has a whimsical as well as practical aspect. A close runner up would have to be "the any key". PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE...

robotmfr
robotmfr

alt+f4 its the wining combination

monniek
monniek

Ctrl S - it's so easy to do, but it has saved my bacon many times while writing technical manuals. After writing (copying) line after line of code that I don't know or understand and losing it all, I now use Ctrl S automatically.

microface
microface

2nd is Alt+tab or alt+Space

jcurto
jcurto

Windows D, Alt-Tab these are my time savers!

erni
erni

As long as Windows has existed, this has always been the life saver!

allan_h
allan_h

The only one we can't do without