How to navigate Windows using a keyboard

Navigating Microsoft Windows using the keyboard for many of the commonly performed tasks can dramatically increase your productivity. In addition, a situation may arise when the mouse stops working or you need to work on a computer with no mouse. Below are some of the commonly used keys you need to use to navigate Windows using your keyboard. You can navigate this document by clicking on one of the links below, or you can scroll through the entire document and learn about each of the methods of navigating Windows using your keyboard.

Opening the start button
Opening a program on the desktop
Closing, minimizing, maximizing, or moving a window
Moving between open windows and applications
Navigating between fields and buttons on a window
Manipulating and moving through text
Scrolling in a window
Right-clicking an icon or other element of Windows

Opening the Start button

To start off, you can open the Microsoft Windows Start button by pressing the windows key on the keyboard or by pressing the CTRL and ESC keys at the same time.

Once in the Start menu you can use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move up, down, left, or right in the start menu. Once you've located the program you want to run, press the Enter key.

Opening a program on the desktop

If there is a program you want to run that has an icon (shortcut) on the desktop, you can move to the desktop by pressing your tab key on your keyboard. Pressing tab while on the desktop will switch between the desktop, the Start button, and each of the items on the taskbar. You can determine what area you're currently at by looking for an item that is selected; an item that is selected will either be highlighted or have a border of dots.

In some cases you may have to press tab several times before getting to the desktop icons. Once one of the desktop icons has been selected, you can move to other icons by using your arrow keys.

Once the icon on the desktop you want to run is selected, press the Enter key to open that program.

Closing, minimizing, maximizing, or moving a window

Closing a window

If you have a window open that you want to close using the keyboard, press CTRL and F4 on the keyboard at the same time to close the current open program or window.

In addition to the above recommendation to closing a window, you can also press the ALT and the spacebar key at the same time, arrow down to the close option from the menu that opens in the top left portion of the window and press Enter.

Minimizing a window

To minimize a window in Microsoft Windows using the keyboard, press the ALT and the spacebar key at the same time, arrow down to the minimize option from the menu that opens in the top left portion of the window and press Enter.

Maximizing a window

To maximize a window in Microsoft Windows using the keyboard, press the ALT and the spacebar key at the same time, arrow down to the maximize option from the menu that opens in the top left portion of the window and press Enter.

Note: If the window is already maximized, this option will not be able to be selected.

Moving a window

Before you can move any window In Microsoft Windows it must not be maximized. To make the window appear in window mode, press ALT and the spacebar at the same time, move to the restore option, and press enter.

Once the window is not maximized you can move a window by pressing ALT and spacebar at the same time, move to the move option, press enter, and then move the window using your arrow keys on the keyboard.

Moving between open windows and applications

To move between any open programs on your computer, press ALT and Tab at the same time and let go of Tab while continuing to hold the ALT key. If done successfully, a window will be shown that displays each of the open programs on your computer. Pressing Tab while ALT continues to be held will move between each of the programs. When the program you want to switch to is selected, letting go of ALT and Tab will switch to that program.

Navigating between fields and buttons on a window

A window, dialog box, or window with buttons is often done by using the Tab key, spacebar, arrow keys, and the Enter key. When in this window, if you need to switch between buttons, text fields, or other portions of the window, press the Tab key. If this does not work, try using the arrow keys. If you need to press a button such as an 'Ok' or 'Cancel' button, if the button is selected, often pressing the spacebar or enter key will push the button.

Manipulating and moving through text

Below are the different methods of how you can move through text in a document without the aid of a mouse. Not only does this help users who do not have access to a mouse, it can also save you a great deal of time when working with text documents.

Computer keyboard overview

Arrow keys - using the arrow keys on the keyboard will move the cursor up, down, left, or right in the document.

CTRL and Arrow keys - Holding down the CTRL key while pressing the left or right arrow keys will move the cursor one word at a time. This is much faster than only using the arrow keys. Holding down the CTRL key while pressing up or down will move through each of the paragraphs in the document.

End and Home keys - Pressing the End key takes you to the end of a document and pressing the Home key will move you to the beginning of a document.

Shift key - The shift key allows you to highlight text. For example, holding down the shift key while using the right or left arrow keys will highlight the text to the left or right. If you hold down shift while pressing the down arrow keys, you will highlight one line at a time in that direction.

Finally, you can use the Shift key in combination with the other above recommendations. For example, pressing and holding Shift and CTRL and using the arrows will highlight a word at a time, or holding down Shift and pressing the End key will highlight from the current cursor position to the end of the document.

Scrolling in a window

Scrolling up or down in a window is often accomplished by using any of the following keys: Up and Down arrow keys, Page up and Page down keys, or the Spacebar.

Right-clicking an icon or other element of Windows

In some situations you may need to right-click on an icon, text, or other Windows element. To do this without a mouse, select the icon or move the cursor to the text you need to right-click and press and hold Shift and F10 at the same time.