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Keyboard Magic

Tuesday 29 August 2006 - Filed under Default

I enjoy educating people about computers and the internet and I thought I’d use this issue to teach you how to use the keyboard to be faster, more effective, and more comfortable in your computing. If you’ve seen the back of my business card, you know what I’m talking about. Which can you do faster? Type 100 characters or click 100 different spots on the screen?

For most it’s the latter. That’s why I’m going to go over 7 basic keyboard shortcuts in this issue. They’ll speed up your computer use and even if you know them, I’d encourage you to read on. I’m sure you’ll learn something. To qualify, these had to work in both Windows and Mac. They should work in every program you’ll ever use. In the Mac world, substitute Command (the 4 leaf clover looking icon) for the Control key.

What’s a fast way to copy some text or a file from one place to another? Click on the text or file, hold down the Ctrl key and hit c. That will copy it into the clipboard, hidden short-term memory that Windows and Mac have just for this purpose. The clipboard exists in RAM so its contents are lost when you reboot.

Then when you want to put that information in a new location you can paste it. The keyboard shortcut for paste is Ctrl-v. You can think of it as what comes logically after copying something, you paste it, so it’s v, the key right next to c.

In some cases, you want to move some selected text or files from one place to another. That’s the same as copying, pasting, then deleting the original items. Cut takes care of the first and last parts of that operation. Use Ctrl-x to cut what you want and put it right into the clipboard. Again, you can use Control and the v button together to paste to it’s new location.

What if you want to quickly save or print a document? To save, use Ctrl-s. Voila, no need to find that little disk icon or pull down the File menu just to be sure your work is safe. Likewise, you use Ctrl-p to print. Once you press those keys that familiar print dialog box should show up asking how many copies to print and what printer to use.

Multitasking is a great feature of modern operating systems. It means you can have lots of documents and programs open at the same time. The problem that arises in multitasking is that you often need to change quickly between two programs (QuickBooks and your online bank window, for example). For this, hold down the Alt key and hit Tab. As long as you hold down Alt, the tab key will let you cycle through your open proggies. When you release, Alt, the switch will happen.

My final shortcut for this issue is Print Screen which can be seen on your keyboard as either PrtSc or Prnt Scrn on towards the right side of the top keyboard row. Most people don’t know that this key does anything! It does. It takes a picture of the screen and places that picture into the clipboard. You can then open up Word or a photo editor and paste (Ctrl-V) the screen right in there. This is great when you see an error or something on the screen that just won’t print properly.

2006-08-29  »  David Sterry