Windows

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.

Also read:

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.

12 comments
Gisabun
Gisabun

Funny. Prior to Windows 8, the majority of us used probably 5-6 shortcuts. Now we need to probably learn dozens of them only because an interface that few will probably like is forced on everyone.

paulro37
paulro37

I for one can't wait for Windows 8 to come out. Been using XP since it's launch and never upgraded to Vista or W7 because some of my Pro Music Applications have not been supported properly. But now I have moved onto supported apps and having been playing around with Windows 8 preview. I really like it. I do see the Start screen as a large Start Menu, and Desktop mode being the place where all full windows apps are run. I think it's way easier to navigate than my old trusty XP. I do see the point that Microsoft had to do this to compete in all markets from Desktops to Tablets, so they can stay in the game.

jrojas_ac
jrojas_ac

I dont understand the point of Metro . While I like the perfromance of windows 8 it its not really condusive to productivity especially for its number intended purpose which was Touch. The metro while nice is really an attraction piece more than anything and should of just put in windows RT only. for the real who like to work and be productive give us our desktop and make it work for touch. Windows 7 could of been used for tablets you just had some terrible tablets that did not develop good touch drivers for it like the dell latitude XT tablet./laptop. it recognizes touch when ever it feels like it however Samsung, acer and asus have some great windows 7 tbalets which work very well.

mswift
mswift

I guess it depends on the size of your screen. On my big screen the first Win 8 tile set has the common operations that you show as shortcuts and the most common applications. The second tile set has anything personal. I use the approach of hitting the Win key and typing what I want for anything else.

drdave1958
drdave1958

I've been using those same "top 5" shortcuts since XP and that's the first thing I tried on Windows 8 to be able to get around. That said, I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to use Windows 8. I do love the look of it.

phuong.le
phuong.le

@imulo, they're putting us back to stone age........ LOL Just kidding, I love it.

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131313ontanez-24472904060645141771750399938085

The Great thing about keyboard shortcuts is that its a more ergonomic way to navigate the OS (without manhandling the keyboard LOL). The ones that I find myself using often are the [b]Windows+D, Windows+R, and Windows+L, Alt+Tab or Shift+Right[b/] key in IE or Windows Exlorer. Another useful thing is that you could create your own key shortcuts for any particular program or application and then defining the keys to use, like the Runas program or opening an application up like a VMware client console

imulo
imulo

I just love Windows 8 all those key combinations remind me of the old times in Unix world

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you a practitioner of the keyboard shortcut navigation system? Windows 8 offers some very useful keyboard shortcuts, especially those tied to the Windows Key - have been using them?

JJFitz
JJFitz

I am sure that you would agree that keyboard shortcuts are often much faster and more efficient than mouse moves. You probably know more than 5 or 6. I know I use more than 10 different shortcuts every day. Ctrl+A, Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+B, Ctrl+I, Ctrl+"+", Ctrl+ "-", Windows+L, F5, Shift+End+Up, Shift+End+Down, Alt+PrintScrn, etc. Why? It's faster because there is less hand movement and if you type with both hands, your hands are already on the keyboard. Most of the shortcuts are not new to Windows 8. Most of the shortcuts also work in Windows Vista & 7. But here's the thing, if you don't want to remember keyboard shortcuts, the same old mouse moves work (scroll, drag and drop, right click, left click, highlight and click, etc.) and the new ones are pretty intuitive and quick to learn. Drag from the left edge opens a previous window is intuitive because we read from left to right in the western world. Drag from the right edge brings up "Charms". That is not particularly hard to remember. Finally, no one is forcing anyone to switch to Windows 8. You can stick with Windows XP if you don't mind falling out of support in 2014. You can stick with Windows 7 until at least 2020. You can learn to use a Linux distro. You can buy a Mac.

JJFitz
JJFitz

It's not a new touch system that supports Windows 8. Touch is like cruise control on your car. There are times where it would come in handy if you had it but you do not need it to drive your car.

tracer
tracer

I wouldn't be able to use Windows 8 without shortcut keys, but there is a problem with the Tools menu shortcuts. Many of these tools are useless unless you run them as an Administrator. If you normally run as a Standard user, as I think you should, you can't start them as an Administrator from the Tools menu. So I've trained myself to go to the Start Screen first when I want to use one of those tools. So much for Microsoft's ludicrous Tools menu substitute for a Start Menu.

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