Most of us will already be using Ctrl, Alt, Del to access the Windows login screen (or more likely, the Task Manager to end an unresponsive app); while Ctrl, S to save a document and Ctrl, C and Ctrl, V to copy and paste are other common commands. But there are tons of helpful shortcuts that can make creating, navigating and formatting documents a breeze. We'll be your guide.
Those of us familiar with desktop-publishing software will know how useful keyboard shortcuts can be for speeding up almost any process. No doubt, like me, you pine for the same functionality in Microsoft Word, Excel and the programs you use every day.
Most of us will already be using Ctrl, Alt, Del to access the Windows login screen (or more likely, the Task Manager to end an unresponsive app); while Ctrl, S to save a document and Ctrl, C and Ctrl, V to copy and paste are other common commands. But there are tons of helpful shortcuts that can make creating, navigating and formatting documents a breeze.
The chances are you work on the same few programs most of the time. And in each, you probably know a fair few shortcut keys that enable you to quickly jump from point to point on the page or to take you to the item you need.
Many of these shortcuts can be applied to most of the other programs you fire up. For example, Microsoft Word's formatting commands Ctrl, B and Ctrl, I will also turn text bold or italic in any other text editor. And they're applicable regardless of whether you're using Windows, Linux or Mac OS X.
In the following workshop we'll look at shortcuts and timesavers for a variety of programs. Follow our advice to ramp up your productivity and free up your time for more creative pursuits.
Using alphabetical shortcuts
Many shortcuts correlate to a letter of the alphabet: hence Ctrl, A to select all, Ctrl, C to copy, Ctrl, P to print and Ctrl, F to find. Ctrl, N creates a new document in most apps while Ctrl, O opens an existing one.
To left-align the text of a paragraph, ensure your cursor is blinking somewhere within it and hit Ctrl, L, while Ctrl, R will line up all the text to the right, leaving the ragged edges of each line on the left. You can force the alignment of both sides using Ctrl, J for justify.
Some of these options will be very familiar, but the rule is that many text editors and photo editors, including Adobe's Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, make heavy use of alphabetical command-based shortcuts. So if you don't know a specific shortcut command, it's worth trying what seems the obvious correlating letter.
The big exceptions are Ctrl, Z to undo and Ctrl, Y to redo - some programs (including Microsoft Word) allow multiple undo and redo commands, while others instead use Ctrl, Z to alternately undo and redo the same action.
It's not just the Ctrl (or Apple key on a Mac) key that can be used to invoke shortcuts. The F keys that sit at the top of your keyboard are invaluable, as is the Alt button. The Windows key and Alt Gr also have their uses. For example, Alt Gr, 4 in Word produces the euro symbol.
Alt, Tab on the desktop allows you to toggle between open applications, while Ctrl, T can be used in a web browser to open a new tab or window, allowing you to perform a new web search or visit another website without abandoning one you still need to consult. You can bookmark an item in Firefox using Ctrl, D - ideal for ensuring you can quickly browse to pcadvisor.co.uk, of course. And if you decide that you prefer navigating the web using the arrow keys rather than other means, you can specify
as much under Tools, Options, General.
Many shortcuts require you to have highlighted or otherwise selected the item to which the command is to be applied. For example, there's no point hitting a key combination to apply a formatting command to nothing. As well as Ctrl, A to select everything, you can quickly select a word by double-clicking with your mouse or the whole paragraph by triple-clicking the left mouse button.
To add a page break, try Ctrl, Enter, while Microsoft Office 2007 users can quickly add page numbers and footers using the key combination Alt N, N, U.
If all this formatting is getting too much, press Ctrl, Shift, 8 to view invisible characters and Ctrl, spacebar to remove the unwanted formatting.
Double-click a word and then right-click with your mouse for options such as synonyms and dictionary definitions, and to hyperlink or anchor the item in the text. For an instant spellcheck, press F7. Word highlights in red any misspelled words or items it doesn't recognise.
Some programs let you assign your own shortcut keys - you just need to be sure that those you specify aren't about to overwrite another key combination you're likely to need. In Word, the easiest way to assign your own shortcuts is by going to the Tools, Customize menu and choosing the Commands tab. Word displays a list of actions with which you can associate your own shortcut.
Another useful option is found in the Customize, Toolbars menu. Here, you can opt to display only those items you need for a specific type of document. Microsoft offers presets that you can adjust for drawing tasks, extended formatting and, usefully, showing the Fn keys and what they are used for. You can also create your own toolbar from scratch and give it a memorable name.
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