Microsoft

Benefits of the Tools menu and Windows Key shortcuts in Windows 8

Greg Shultz shares his most-often used Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts and shows you how to discover your own favorite Windows Key shortcuts.

In the article, Tips for navigating Windows 8 with your mouse, which I wrote back in March, I briefly touched on a special menu in Windows 8 that I called the Tools menu because it contains shortcuts to all sorts of good old Windows tools that you might need such as the Command Prompt and Device Manager.

Well, ever since I wrote that article I began using the Tools menu more and more until I got to the point where I have been using it to launch certain items without even thinking about it. I recently took notice of how frequently as well as how fluidly I have been accessing items from the Tools menu and decided that I should write a blog post. So without further ado, let's get started.

Who needs touch?

Just because Microsoft is touting Windows 8's touch-based user interface for use on Surface and other tablet PCs, doesn't mean that Microsoft forgot about the more traditional desktop keyboard and mouse users. No, as you'll discover in the previously mentioned article as well as in the article Navigate Windows 8 like a pro with the Windows Key, Windows 8 is actually full of mouse and keyboard shortcuts that make all sorts navigational tricks possible.

For instance, using just a few [Windows] Key shortcuts you can perform all sorts of common tasks such as launching applications, initiating search operations, or switching tasks, just to name a few.

Accessing the Tool menu

As you may know when you move your mouse pointer to the lower left corner of the screen up pops the Start Screen button. If you left click, you'll instant have access to the Start Screen where all of the new app tiles live. Also on the Start Screen, you'll find all of the icons that used to live on the Start Menu. In fact, you can think of the Start Screen as the new Start Menu. In addition to clicking the Start Screen button, you can achieve the same result just by pressing the [Windows] Key on your keyboard.

Now, if you right click on the Start Screen button, you'll see the Windows Tools menu, as shown in Figure A. As you can see, this menu provides you with access to fifteen tools that you can use to perform all kinds of operations.

Figure A

Right click the Start Screen button to bring up the Windows Tools menu.
In addition to right clicking the Start Screen button, you can bring up the Windows Tools menu by pressing [Windows] + X. When you do, you'll see that each of the items on the Windows Tools menu has its own shortcut key, as shown in Figure B. For example, the shortcut key for Program and Features is F and the shortcut key for System is y.

Figure B

Bring up the Windows Tools menu by pressing [Windows] + X, reveals the shortcut key for each menu item.
This means that if you tack one of those shortcut keys onto [Windows] + X, you can launch any of the available tools very quickly. For instance, [Windows] + X + F will open Program and Features. Table A shows all the [Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes for accessing the items on the Windows Tools menu.

Table A

[Windows] Key Shortcut

Windows Tools Menu Item

[Windows] + X + F Programs and Features
[Windows] + X + O Power Options
[Windows] + X + V Event Viewer
[Windows] + X + Y System
[Windows] + X + M Device Manager
[Windows] + X + K Disk Management
[Windows] + X + G Computer Management
[Windows] + X + C Command Prompt
[Windows] + X + A Admin Command Prompt
[Windows] + X + T Task Manager
[Windows] + X + P Control Panel
[Windows] + X + E File Explorer
[Windows] + X + S Search
[Windows] + X + R Run Command
[Windows] + X + D Show/Hide Desktop
The full list of Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes for accessing the items on the Windows Tools menu.

While knowing that all of these [Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes exist for the items on the Windows Tools menu, they are not the only keyboard shortcuts you can use to access these features. There are five that already have more straightforward [Windows] Key shortcuts.

Since these five features can be reached with alternative keystrokes that I am already familiar with, I use them exclusively and have ignored the keystrokes from the Windows Tool menu. These are shown in Table B, where I have them arranged by most often used.

(The first one in the list: press the [Windows] key to bring up the Start Screen and just start typing the name of the application, is the one that I use the most often - I find that it more than makes up for the absent Start menu.)

Table B

[Windows] Key Shortcut

Operation

[Windows] + Start typing Search/Application launch
[Windows] + E File Explorer
[Windows] + R Run Command
[Windows] + D Show/Hide Desktop
[Windows] + [Break] System
Five already have more straightforward [Windows] Key shortcuts.

Top five

While the remaining ten [Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes all provide a unique way to access the associated items, not all of them provide access to frequently used items. Over time I have found that there are five [Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes that I use all of the time to access items on the Windows Tools menu. What I consider the Top Five are shown in Table C, where I have them arranged by the ones that I use most often. As I said at the beginning of the article, I now use these so often that I have memorized them and use them without even thinking about it.

Table C

[Windows] Key Shortcut

Operation

[Windows] + X + T Task Manager
[Windows] + X + A Admin Command Prompt
[Windows] + X + C Command Prompt
[Windows] + X + P Control Panel
[Windows] + X + V Event Viewer
My Top Five [Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes for accessing items on the Windows Tools menu.

The remaining five, I don't use often enough to memorize, but I do remember that they are available on the Windows Tools menu. All I have to do is press [Windows] + X and click on the tool that I want.

What your take?

Have you used the Windows Tools menu? Will you take the time to memorize some of the associated [Windows] Key shortcut keystrokes? If so, what would be your top five? Do you agree with my top five? Do you use the [Windows] + Start typing shortcut to launch applications in Windows 8? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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