Mas­ter your com­puter’s key­board short­cuts

Ian Paul shows how to in­cor­po­rate key­board short­cuts into your work­flow and boost your pro­duc­tiv­ity

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Us­ing key­board short­cuts may seem com­pli­cated since you have to re­mem­ber a bunch of key com­bi­na­tions. How­ever, when it comes to ef­fi­ciency you just can’t beat them. It’s much faster (and even­tu­ally eas­ier) to keep your hands on the key­board while nav­i­gat­ing around your PC.

Still, it can be hard to know where to get started with key­board short­cuts. To give short­cut new­bies a pos­si­ble us­age tem­plate, we’ve bro­ken down how we use key­board short­cuts on a typ­i­cal work­ing day.

Fir­ing up pro­grams

We use the mouse or Cor­tana voice com­mands to open up pro­grams, but you can use key­board short­cuts as well. If you have any­thing pinned to your taskbar you can open each item us­ing the Win­dows key plus a num­ber short­cut. In the screen­shot of our desktop (top right), we have the Con­trol Panel, File Ex­plorer, and Chrome pinned to my taskbar. To start the day by open­ing Chrome, we use Win-3 (Chrome is the third pro­gram pinned to the taskbar). To open File Ex­plorer, we use Win-2.

An­other method is to just hit the Win­dows key to open the Start menu (on Win­dows 7 and 10), and then scroll through the Start menu to find the right pro­gram. That is not very ef­fi­cient, though. An­other op­tion in Win­dows 10 is to hit Win-C to call up Cor­tana and search for each pro­gram.

Nav­i­gat­ing the browser

Now that the ap­pli­ca­tions are open – in our case Chrome, OneNote, Out­look 2016, Slack and Sub­lime Text 2 – it’s time to get to work. Af­ter check­ing in with the news team in Slack, we switch to the browser us­ing Alt-Tab and get to work on our re­search for what­ever the news topic is.

When in the browser, we use a com­bi­na­tion of stan­dard Chrome browser short­cuts, as well as the spe­cialised nav­i­ga­tion fea­tures of Vim­ium (a must-have ex­ten­sion). To be­gin, we need to open a new tab to carry out a Google search, so we hit T and then type our query into the ad­dress bar.

If it turns out that our query didn’t get us what we wanted, we hit Ctrl-L to high­light the con­tents of the ad­dress bar (the Google search URL in this case), and then type in what­ever our new in­quiry is.

If this re­sult gets us what we want we hit Shift-F, which is a Vim­ium com­mand that says we want to open a link on the cur­rent page in a new tab. Vim­ium then la­bels every pos­si­ble link on the Google re­sults page with a key­board short­cut. That can get a lit­tle messy, but you get used to it. In this case, we hit the L key and we’re off.

On the new web­site, we start nav­i­gat­ing the web page us­ing the J and K keys to scroll up and down the page as we read. Once we reach the bot­tom, we realise we want to dou­ble-check some in­for­ma­tion at the top so we hit GG to jump back up. Oh, but what was that thing we wanted from the bot­tom again? We hit the G key to jump right back to the bot­tom.

Our re­search is now fin­ished and stored in OneNote via a quick suc­ces­sion of Alt-Tab short­cuts to switch be­tween OneNote and Chrome. Now it’s time to go back to the Google search tab, so we hit Shift-J to move to the next tab to the left in Chrome. We find an­other page we want to check out in the search re­sults. This time, how­ever, we land on a page where, for what­ever rea­son, Vim­ium just isn’t work­ing that well – these pages are rare but it hap­pens some­times. We can nav­i­gate up and down the page, but can’t jump back with a Shift-J. No prob­lem, Chrome has a built-in key­board nav­i­ga­tion short­cut. Google oc­cu­pies the sec­ond tab in our win­dow, so we hit Ctrl-2 and we’re back where we started. We go through a few more pages, close a bunch of tabs us­ing Vim­ium’s close tab com­mand (a sim­ple x), and then it’s time to get to work writ­ing the news story. At this point, we hit Alt-Tab again to jump into Sub­lime Text. We might hit the Win­dows key, plus the right ar­row to snap Sub­lime to the right-hand side of the screen, and then use the mouse to se­lect OneNote as the pro­gram to oc­cupy the left of the screen.

Once the re­search is com­plete, we give up on short­cuts of any kind and use the tra­di­tional key­board and mouse setup. Key­board diehards could take their love of ef­fi­ciency to an ex­treme by cus­tomis­ing Sub­lime to work like Vim (tinyurl.com/j33vbmu): a key­board-con­trolled text edi­tor that in­spired Vim­ium.

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A Google re­sults page with Vim­ium ac­ti­vated

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