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Tech Tips Tuesdays: Time-Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

by Jesika Brooks on 2024-03-26T12:00:00-04:00 | 0 Comments

A header graphic reading "Tech Tips Tuesdays." There is a laptop sitting at an angle. It is purple and bright green, with a green display on its monitor. The background has ones and zeroes floating as code, along with a purple circuit line snaking behind the text.

Good afternoon,

With this short week, I thought today we’d look at keyboard shortcuts, or combinations of keys that you can press to do various tasks—and save time. 

Koala typing at a keyboard

AI image generated by Gemini.

You’re probably familiar with the most common keyboard shortcuts, used in most programs:

  • Ctrl + C = copy
  • Ctrl + V = paste
  • Ctrl + Z = undo
  • Ctrl + Y = redo

If you’ve never really used a keyboard shortcut, all you have to do is press and hold the Ctrl key, then the corresponding letter (or key). For Mac OS, you can often use the Command key () and the letter to do the same thing, although you’ll want to double-check as shortcuts aren’t always the same across systems.

Using these keyboard shortcuts can save you the hassle of deleting or rewriting, as well as there being plenty of things that you can copy and paste between programs, such as copying images and pasting in documents. But the real magic of keyboard shortcuts is in how you can supercharge how you use specific programs. For example, as I’m using Word, here are some shortcuts I find handy:

  • Tab + Shift = tab backwards (great if you didn’t mean to Tab something!) 
  • Ctrl + Alt + 1 = Heading 1 (vital for accessibility, and faster than going to the Styles tab)
  • Ctrl + Alt + 2 = Heading 2 (instant subheadings!)
  • Ctrl + S = save
  • Ctrl + E = center align (you can also press Ctrl + L and Ctrl + R for left and right alignment, respectively)

Windows itself has a few handy keyboard shortcuts. Most folks know about Ctrl + Alt + Delete, which forces the Task Manager to pop up if something freezes. But what about Windows + L? This shortcut locks your computer. I do this in my office when I step away, or to library computers when I’m helping folks at the desk.

(By the way, the Windows key is a special key that looks like the Windows logo, a flag with four squares, and is often found near the bottom-center or bottom-right of your keyboard.)

Here are some other Windows shortcuts:

  • Alt + F4 = shut down current window
  • Windows + X = quickly access the advanced Start menu to log in and out, as well as Task Manager

Web browsers like Chrome have useful shortcuts as well, and I find myself using them daily. For example, to open a new tab, you can press Ctrl + T, while to close a tab it’s Ctrl + W. To open a new window, it’s Ctrl + N. You can cycle through tabs you have open with Ctrl + Tab and Ctrl + Shift + Tab, just like the indentation shortcut in Word. Ctrl + Shift + T allows you to reopen a tab you closed.

An accessibility-centered shortcut I use on sites and documents while presenting to folks is Ctrl + + and Ctrl + - (yes, the plus sign and minus sign). This allows you to zoom in and out, which is vital for allowing students to see small text easier from the back of a classroom.

Finally, some web apps have keyboard shortcuts. You’ll usually find them listed somewhere on their site, but like with all the shortcuts I’ve shared, you can also find lists of them online. I recommend looking for programs you use daily, and tasks you do within those programs, to see if there’s a shortcut to make things easier for you.

An example “web app” with shortcuts is SpeedGrader in Canvas. If you go into SpeedGrader, you can use J and K to cycle through students. If you press G, it will take you to the grading field to insert a grade. So, you can go J, G, type grade, click screen, J and quickly make your way through grading.

Canvas itself has lots of keyboard shortcuts. If you want to dive deeper, here’s the documentation:

If you’ve never used keyboard shortcuts, give it a try! You don’t need to remember everything at once. Just try something that you do often, like opening tabs (for me) or cycling through SpeedGrader. You might find it makes things a bit faster.

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