How to use a computer keyboard

Updated: 08/08/2017 by Computer Hope

A computer keyboard is an input device used with all types of computers. Newer devices like a smartphone and tablet even still use an on-screen keyboard. This page is designed to help new computer users become more familiar and efficient with their keyboard. For new users, we suggest reading through all of the below sections and doing all of the practices. If you are familiar with the keyboard but want to be more efficient click on any of the links below to jump to the section.

Connecting the keyboard

Before you can begin to use the keyboard, it must be properly connected to the computer and working. If you have a new computer and need help connecting the keyboard or the keyboard is not working see our steps on connecting and installing a keyboard.

Familiarizing yourself with the keyboard

Below is an overview of a Desktop computer keyboard. In this picture, we point to each of the major portions of the keyboard that are explained in further detail in the overview.

Computer keyboard overview

Overview of each section of the keyboard

Alphanumeric keyboard

The alphanumeric keyboard is the primary portion of the keyboard that contains letters, numbers, punctuation, and some of the symbol keys. Today, most users use a QWERTY style keyboards, as shown in the below illustration. You can tell if you are using a QWERTY keyboard by looking at the first six letters to see if they spell "QWERTY."

Qwerty keyboard layout

See the link below for a full listing of each key and symbol and their functions.

Function keys

The function keys or F1 through F12 or F19 keys are used in programs as shortcut keys to performed frequently performed tasks. For example, the F1 key is the key to open the online help for most programs.

On some keyboards, the function keys may be used to activate additional functions on a computer. Used in combination with the Fn key, the function keys can activate other functions, like changing screen brightness, accessing media controls, or turning off the computer.

Keyboard control keysControl and toggle keys

The control keys or toggle keys give the user additional control over text manipulation and cursor placement. They may also be used as shortcut keys in many programs. See our control keys definition for additional information and examples.

Tip: Control keys and Ctrl keys are different.

Keypad

Although not available on all computer keyboards, especially laptops; the keypad gives the user a quick access to numbers and math functions such as plus, divide, times, and subtract. See the keypad definition for further information, pictures, and related links.

Wrist pad

In our example picture, the Saitek keyboard has a wrist pad intended to help support the user's wrists. Although many keyboards do not include a wrist pad, hundreds of different options can be purchased at a computer store or online.

Warning: Experts debate the need for wrist pads and many ergonomic experts argue a wrist pad may be more stressful and may help cause carpal tunnel.

Keyboard arrow keysArrow keys

The arrow keys are four directional keys that allow you to move the cursor or change a highlighted selection. See our arrow keys page for further information.

Special keys or media keys on a multimedia keyboard

Multimedia keyboards have additional buttons not found on a traditional keyboard. See our special keys page for further information.

Start typing and how to position hands

Before typing make sure your hands are in the proper position on the home row keys and that as you type each finger is pressing the correct key. Below is a picture to help illustrate where each finger should be positioned as well as the home row keys. Your left-hand fingers should be positioned over A, S, D, and F keys and your right-hand should be positioned over the J, K, L, and ; keys. Also, each color helps illustrate what fingers are responsible for what key.

Computer keyboard finger placement

If you have never learned how to type properly and use the hunt-and-peck method of typing, we strongly encourage you to practice throughout this page using the proper technique. Not only does this improve your typing efficiency it also reduces the strain you may encounter while typing from having to look down at the keyboard.

Once your hands are in the proper position practice typing the below sentence that has every letter in the alphabet.

Practice typing every letter

the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Correcting errors

It is inevitable as you type that you are going to make errors the backspace and delete keys can help you correct these errors. Using the backspace key erases one character to the left of the cursor and delete erases one character to the right of the cursor.

Note: Apple computer keyboards have two delete keys. The big delete key on the keyboard acts the same as a backspace key, and the other delete key acts as a delete key.

Use the below practice are to practice correcting errors.

Correcting errors

Using your mouse click in the below box after the "e" in "doe" and press the backspace key once. Once the "e" has been removed type a "g" to make the word "dog" in the sentence.

Using the mouse click the cursor before "s" in "sox" and then press the delete key once. Once the "s" has been removed type a "f" to make the word "fox" in the sentence.

Tip: You can press delete or backspace multiple times to delete multiple characters.

Using the arrow keys to move around

One of the best methods to improve your efficiency on the keyboard is to avoid using the mouse whenever possible. Having to move your hand away from the keyboard to the mouse and then back to the keyboard wastes a lot of time. One method of avoiding the mouse is to use the arrow keys to move the cursor instead of using the mouse to move the cursor.

Use the practice below to use the arrow keys to move the cursor and navigate through a line of text to correct errors and add new text to the line.

Practice using the arrow keys

Click in the below box before the word "wuick" and press the delete key to delete the "w" and then type "q" to make the word "quick." Next, press the right arrow key until you are after the "a" in "brawn" and press the backspace key to delete the "a" and then type "o" to make the word "brown." Finally, repeat these steps until the below sentence reads "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

Tip: Keeping with our suggestion of trying to avoid using the mouse press the "Tab" key on the keyboard to make the mouse cursor jump to the below text field. This tip can save you a lot of time when filling out online forms and with the remainder of the practices on this page.

If you followed the tip, your browser should have jumped to the below field. If the text is all highlighted press the right arrow key to get to the end of the text and then using the steps you used earlier fix the below sentence to read ""the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

Deleting text one letter and one word at a time

It may also be necessary to delete more than one letter or even a word at a time. Use the below practice to delete all of the text from a line.

Practice deleting one letter and one word at a time

Move to the end of the below line and then press the backspace key until all text is deleted in the below box.

Now use the Ctrl key with backspace to delete one word at a time by moving to the end of the below sentence and press and hold Ctrl and then while continuing to hold down the Ctrl key press backspace to delete one word at a time.

Upper case, lower case, and all caps

Lowercase exampleUnless your Caps Lock key is turned on your computer types everything in lower case. To make the first letter of a sentence or word uppercase, hold down the Shift key on the keyboard and press the letter you want to capitalize.

If you want all of the words capitalized press the Caps Lock key, which should turn on an LED indicator indicating it is enabled. Once enabled everything remains capitalized unless you hold down the Shift key or press the Caps Lock key again.

Use the below practice to type text in uppercase and lowercase.

Practice using the arrow keys

Type "Example" by holding down the left Shift key and pressing "e" to get an uppercase "E" and then letting go of the Shift key and typing the remaining of the word in lowercase.

Example

Type "EXAMPLE" by pressing the Caps Lock key once and then typing out the word. After you have completed using the Caps Lock key press the key again to return it back to normal.

EXAMPLE

Now knowing what you know practice using the Shift key and Caps Lock key to complete the below sentence. Again, make sure that when you are typing these practices that you have your hands on the home row keys and are using the correct fingers.

The QUICK brown Fox jumps OVER the LaZy dOg

Getting to the beginning and end of a line

The Home key and End key can also be used to get to the beginning of the line. Use the below practice to get to the beginning and end of the line of text.

Practice going to the beginning and end of a line using the keyboard

Click anywhere in the middle of the text below and then press the Home key to get to the beginning of the line and then the End key to get to the end of the line.

Highlighting text using the keyboard

It is also possible to highlight text using the keyboard with the Shift key. Follow the below practice to highlight text in the below sentence.

Practice highlighting text using the keyboard

Move to the end of the sentence and then press and hold the Shift key and while continuing to hold the Shift key press the left arrow key to begin highlighting the sentence. You can highlight the whole sentence if you continue to press or hold down the left arrow.

You can highlight one word at a time by holding down the Shift key and Ctrl key and then press the left arrow to highlight one word to the left or the right arrow to highlight one word to the right.

Highlight all of the below text by clicking anywhere in the below box and then use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A (press and hold Ctrl and then while holding Ctrl press the "a" key). If you are using an Apple Computer press Cmd+A (press and hold the command key and while holding the key press the "a" key).

Tip: When text is highlighted you can press the delete key to delete all highlighted text or start typing to replace highlighted text.

Copy and paste text using the keyboard

Copying and pasting text is something every computer user is going to do more than once. Knowing how to copy and paste text using the keyboard can save you a lot of time when using the computer.

Practice copying and pasting text using the keyboard

Click in the below text box and then using the steps we learned earlier highlight either part of the below sentence or the whole sentence. Once the text has been highlighted press Ctrl+C or Cmd+C to copy the highlighted text.

Once the text has been copied to the clipboard click in the below box or press the Tab key to move the cursor to the below box and then paste text into the below box by pressing Ctrl+V or Cmd+V on the keyboard.

Tip: You can also cut the text instead of copying the text if you want to move the text from one box to the other box. To cut text you use the Ctrl+X or Cmd+X keyboard shortcut.

Further steps and information on copying and pasting text using the keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen on any device is also on the link below.

Using the 10-key

External USB KeypadIf your keyboard has a numeric keypad or you have an attached external keypad learning to use the 10-key is essential if you frequently work with numbers or would like to get a job that deals with numbers.

Before using the 10-key make sure your right-hand is properly positioned on the keypad. The home row for the numeric keypad is 4, 5, 6, and Enter. Your index finger on your right hand should be on the number 4, middle on the 5, ring finger on the 6, and your pinky resting on the Enter key.

Tip: There is usually a small bump on the five key to help position your right-hand without looking.

After your hand is in the position you can use the below practice to practice using the keypad.

Keyboard 10-key practice

Note: If your keyboard has a Num Lock key, the Number lock must be turned on for the numbers to work on the keypad.

456+654

123*987

159/357

159/357

Tip: Another good way to practice using the 10-key is to open the calculator on your computer and enter numbers using the calculator. Pressing the Enter key on the 10-key with your pinky after entering a math formula gives you the total.

Keyboard shortcuts

One of the best methods of becoming more efficient with your computer is to learn and memorize as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. As mentioned earlier not having to move your hand from the keyboard to the mouse and then getting it back to the position on the keyboard can save you thousands of hours. Computer Hope has hundreds of keyboard shortcuts for popular programs and operating systems. Below are a few links to our keyboard shortcuts to help get you started.

Additional practice sentences

Finally, as with anything practice makes perfect and the only way you will increase your speed and become better at typing is to practice. Below are some more sentences to practice that also relate to the everything you learned on this page. Not only is doing the below practices going to help you learn to type, it also helps reinforce everything you learned on this page and teach you a little more.

Type each of the additional practice sentences

A keyboard has alphanumeric keys, function keys, control keys, and arrow keys.

The "asdf" keys are on the left-hand and the "jkl;" keys are on the right-hand.

Press the Tab key to move between boxes or Shift+Tab to move backwards.

Using the arrow keys, I can move to where an error exists and correct that error.

Use the backspace to remove a character to the left and delete to delete to the right.

Use the Caps Lock to type IN ALL CAPS or the Shift key to capitalize one letter.

I can use the Shift key to highlight text and the Ctrl key to move one word at a time.

Today, I typed "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." too many times.

I can use the keypad to quickly type 1456 + 96571 = 98027

I don't need the mouse to copy and paste because I know the keyboard shortcuts.

Using Computer Hope, I can find any other computer questions I have.

Additional information