Windows shortcuts can boost your efficiency

Scott dunn
By Scott Dunn

Constantly moving your hands between the keyboard and mouse is not the most efficient way to interact with our computers, but most of us doggedly stick to it.

But if you take a little time to learn (or relearn) a few basic keyboard and mouse shortcuts, you can blaze through your windows faster and more easily — and possibly put less stress on your overworked hands as well.

Launch your favorite applications faster

There are several ways to launch apps quickly, using either mouse or keyboard.

  • Direct method: You can assign keystrokes to launch any shortcut. Right-click the shortcut and choose Properties. On the Shortcut tab, click in the Shortcut key box and then press the keys you want to use to launch the shortcut. Click OK.
A word of warning: Be careful not to reassign other useful keyboard shortcuts you may have already assigned. Also, you can assign keyboard shortcuts only to icon shortcuts — not the actual icon of a document or application.

  • Search method: In Vista and Win 7, press the Windows key to open the Start menu. Then type a few letters until the search tool finds the program you want to launch; press Enter. The catch — if you have several programs starting with the same characters, you end up taking more time typing than if you simply mouse-clicked the application’s icon.

  • Menu method: For me, the “classic” Start menu provides a better solution. If you organize shortcuts into a hierarchy of menus, each starting with a unique character, you can navigate the menus quickly and launch most programs with only 3 or 4 keystrokes.
For example, to launch Photoshop (which is on my Start menu’s Images menu), I press the keyboard Windows key and then type I, P (see Figure 1). For Microsoft Excel, I type Win, N, X (Start, Numbers, eXcel). Before long, you’ll know your shortcuts by heart.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-02-25: