Photograph of hands working on data entry with keyboard
Image: iStock/psphotograph

To help users efficiently and effectively use Windows 11, Microsoft has included many keyboard combination shortcuts into its operating system. Over the years, TechRepublic has published several guides explaining what these keyboard shortcuts are and how users can apply them in their daily activities. However, there are a set of 10 keyboard combination shortcuts that are so obscure and Microsoft-specific, they should be included in their own list.

SEE: Considering Microsoft 365? What you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)

10 secret Microsoft-specific keyboard shortcuts

This list of secret keyboard shortcuts for Windows 11 exists because the company decided many years ago to license and endorse a line of special Microsoft-branded keyboards. These Microsoft 365 keyboards, or Office 365 keyboards, are designed to be used in conjunction with, and in support of, Microsoft’s line of productivity applications.

Each of these keyboards has a special “Office” key (Figure A) that can be used in combination with another modifying key to start Microsoft-specific productivity applications or websites.

Figure A

Image: Microsoft

However, under normal circumstances those of us without a special keyboard must replace that “Office” key with this specific keyboard combination:

Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Win

Using that admittedly difficult combination of keys along with these modifiers will accomplish some interesting tasks:

  1. L: Opens the LinkedIn homepage.
  2. N: Opens the web version of OneNote (Or the OneNote app, if it is installed)
  3. Y: Opens Yammer’s homepage.
  4. Any Numpad Key: Opens
  5. D: Opens a new File Explorer window with OneDrive selected.
  6. O: Opens the Outlook inbox.
  7. P: Opens a new slide on PowerPoint.
  8. T: Opens Microsoft Teams.
  9. W: Opens a blank Word document.
  10. X: Opens a blank Excel spreadsheet.

SEE: Windows logo keyboard shortcuts: The complete list (TechRepublic)

Obviously, the keyboard combination of Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Win is not really a practical tool for increasing productivity. (It’s difficult to accomplish with one hand—try it). So, if you want to be able to open Microsoft Excel with a keyboard combination shortcut, you should forego the Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Win combination and create an easier shortcut for opening Excel. For example, create a simple Excel application shortcut on your desktop and then associate a keyboard combination with that shortcut, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

We also have the freely available Windows PowerToys to help us. Namely the PowerToys Run app, which can be used to quickly access applications with a few keystrokes, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

To open Excel, for example, open the PowerToys Run app with the keyboard combination ALT + Space and start typing “excel,” which will quickly narrow to the Excel application. Pressing Enter at that point will open the application, which is certainly much easier than trying to use the Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Win + X keyboard combination you would need to type if you do not have an Office keyboard.

Using the PowerToys Run app also has the added advantage of being useful for any application installed on your Windows 11 PC, not just Microsoft apps. Typing “chrome” or “adobe,” for example, can be extremely efficient if you use those applications often during the day.

Once you are familiar and comfortable with whichever keyboard shortcuts you choose to employ, using them becomes second nature, which is where the efficiency we all seek comes into play.