Keyboard shortcut

Updated: 05/02/2021 by Computer Hope
Keyboard shortcut

A keyboard shortcut is one or more keys used to perform a menu function or other common functions in a program or operating system.

Keyboard shortcuts usually are not as intuitive as point-and-click mouse actions. However, they can be used by novice users in frequently used programs to get to locations much faster than using the mouse.

Note

A keyboard shortcut may also be referred to as an accelerator key, access key, hot key, shortcut, or shortcut key.


Why should I use and learn keyboard shortcuts?

Below are a few of the reasons you should learn and memorize keyboard shortcuts.

  • Makes the computer easier to use.
  • Allows you to be faster and more productive on the computer.
  • Keeps your hands on the keyboard and reduces the stress caused by you moving your hand between the mouse and keyboard.
  • Can perform tasks difficult for some to perform using the mouse.
  • Keyboard shortcuts can be used with programs like AutoHotkey to automate common tasks.

For example, to copy paste all text in an e-mail to a Microsoft Word document without keyboard shortcuts, you'd do the following steps.

  1. Highlight all of the text with the mouse.
  2. Right-click the highlighted text and click Copy.
  3. Use the mouse to navigate to Microsoft Word.
  4. Right-click in Microsoft Word and click Paste.

With keyboard shortcuts, you could perform the same steps above using the following steps.

  1. Press Ctrl+A to select all text in the e-mail.
  2. Press Ctrl+C to copy the text.
  3. Press Alt+Tab to switch to Microsoft Word.
  4. Press Ctrl+V to paste the text.

Although both of these steps only have four steps, the second series of steps can be faster and easier for most users once they learn the four keyboard shortcuts. Also, using these shortcuts allow your hands to stay on the keyboard and are all universal and work with all programs.

How to use a keyboard shortcut

A keyboard shortcut is activated with a key combination — pressing two, or more, keys at once on the keyboard. These keys include at least one modifier key in combination with one or more other keys.

Like most other computer documentation Computer Hope lists keyboard shortcuts with a plus symbol between them, indicating that both keys need to be pressed at the same time. For example, the keyboard shortcut to select all text is Ctrl+A. To use this shortcut, press and hold down the Ctrl key, then press the A key, then let go of both keys.

Note

In Windows operating systems, keyboard shortcuts are not case sensitive. So, although the Ctrl+A shortcut is written with a capital "A," a lowercase "a" also triggers the shortcut.

Tip

Keyboard shortcuts that works in Microsoft Windows will not always work on the Apple macOS, and a software keyboard shortcut that works in Microsoft Word may not work in OpenOffice.

Note

Although we follow the above method of showing a keyboard shortcut, some documentation may list a shortcut key as ^A instead of Ctrl+A. The caret (^) in front of a letter, number, or series of letters and numbers also indicates the Ctrl key.

Function key keyboard shortcuts

Although most keyboard shortcuts are two or more keys, the keyboard's function keys can also be used by themselves as a shortcut key. For example, the F7 key in Microsoft Word and other Microsoft programs is the shortcut key for the spell checker. The function keys can also be used with other modifier keys to perform additional functions. Shift+F7 (pressing and holding the Shift key while pressing the F7 key) opens a Thesaurus in Microsoft Word.

How to identify and learn keyboard shortcuts

For most programs with a file menu, keyboard shortcuts are shown by examining what letters are underlined in the menu. Some programs may also show the shortcut key to the right of all file menu drop-down options.

File menu with underlined shortcut letters

For example, in the image, the "F" in File is underlined. This indicates you can hold down the Alt and press F to access the file menu.

Tip

All the main file menu options (e.g., File, Edit, View, etc.) are accessed with the Alt key and the underlined letter.

Note

If your program has a file menu, but none of the letters are underlined, it may not show underlined characters until you press and hold the Alt. If your program doesn't have a file menu, the keyboard shortcuts cannot be learned using this method. Instead, they would need to be learned from product documentation or through our shortcut listing.

In the same image above, you can see that some of the common features, such as Open (Ctrl+O) and Save (Ctrl+S), have shortcut keys assigned to them. As you begin to memorize shortcut keys, you'll notice that many applications share the same shortcut keys.

How to enable a program's keyboard shortcut underline

With new versions of Windows, most programs no longer show the keyboard shortcut underline until you press and hold the Alt. To re-enable this feature, follow the instructions below.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, click Ease of Access.
  3. In Ease of Access, click Change how your keyboard works.
  4. Finally, check the Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys, and then click Ok.

Keyboard terms, Macro, Mnemonic, Modifier key, Programmable function key, Shortcut, Special key, StickyKeys