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Useful Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows

Published May 14, 2020

One of the first things I do when learning a new tool or application is to learn its keyboard shortcuts or unique features that might improve my workflow. We try so hard to enter a flow, digging through menus to figure out how to do something is a great way to break that flow. In this post I will share some of my favorite common shortcuts. Some are specific to Windows 10, others are ubiquitous and can be used in almost any application.

#The Great Duality: Copy & Paste (and its lesser siblings)

Copy: Ctrl + C
Cut: Ctrl + X
Paste: Ctrl + V
Paste as Plain Text: Ctrl + Shift + V

Everyone knows copy and paste, even if they don’t know the keyboard shortcuts. But how many people know about paste as plain text? This function removes any and all formatting from the text you’ve copied. If you’re wondering why you’d want to do that, have you ever pasted text into an email or a word document and noticed that the font or the colors are different than the rest of the document? That’s because you’re copying over styles as well as text! Paste as Plain Text prevents that. It’s incredibly useful when pasting into a WYSIWYG editor too, like in WordPress.

#Browsing Shortcuts

New Tab: Ctrl + T
New Incognito Tab: Ctrl + Shift + N (Chrome only)
Re-open Closed Tab: Ctrl + Shift + T
Open Link in New Tab: Ctrl + Left Mouse Click

Web browsing is probably the most common activity on a computer. How much time (and frustration!) could we save with the above shortcuts? There are a few questions these might bring up though, which I’d love to address.

Why should I open a link in a new tab? Do this when you want to save your place or work on the existing tab. You can’t trust a site to take care of this for you.

What use is Incognito Mode? This is a great way to get around cookies, sessions, and caches. As just one example, let’s say you’re browsing your favorite eCommerce site and one of those annoying popups appears. On instinct, you close it, but as you’re closing it you realize it was a coupon for 25% off (and you were planning on buying something anyway!). Chances are you won’t see that popup again, because the site knows you’ve already dismissed it (it probably set a cookie to do that). All you have to do to get that coupon, is open up the site again in Incognito and you’ll be greeted with that same 25% coupon!

#Virtual Desktops

New Desktop: Ctrl + Windows key + D
Navigate Desktops: Ctrl + Windows key + Left Arrow or Ctrl + Windows key + Right Arrow
Close Desktop: Ctrl + Windows key + F4
Desktop Map: Windows key + Tab

This feature is unique to Windows 10, although I understand there may be equivalents in MacOS and Linux.

What are Virtual Desktops? In short, they are an improved way to multitask — all the productivity with less clutter. I can have a virtual desktop for each different “hat” I wear. For example, maybe I have one virtual desktop with things like email, Trello, and Slack — for planning and communicating. I may have another one strictly for coding, with my editor and browser open (and no clutter from the first desktop!). They say a cluttered workspace leads to a cluttered mind. That holds true in a virtual space too.

What is the “Desktop Map?” I called it a desktop map because it shows you all of your open virtual desktops, and all of your open applications in each desktop. Like a map gives you a birds eye view, this view gives you the same high level view — plus the ability to move apps from one virtual desktop to another, close applications (a la the task manager), open new virtual desktops, and close existing ones.

#Other Shortcuts

Navigate Open Applications: Alt + Tab
Grab Screenshot: Windows + Shift + S
Undo: Ctrl + Z
“Hard” Refresh: Ctrl + F5
Window Snapping: Windows key + Left Arrow or Windows key + Right Arrow

What is a “Hard” Refresh? F5 refreshes or reloads a web page in all major browsers. But sometimes you need to clear your browser’s cache to see an update, or to fix a weird bug. Ctrl + F5 takes care of this, forcing a “hard” refresh! Alternatively, you could use Ctrl + R to refresh and Ctrl + Shift + R for a hard refresh.

What is Window Snapping? Before Windows 10 came along, if we wanted to have windows side by side on the same monitor, we’d have to manually drag the edges into place. Now, all we need to do is press the Windows key and either the left or right arrow. This will snap the current window to that side of the screen, and will allow you to pick another window to the opposite side of the screen, easily aligning them side by side. As a nice bonus, you can then drag the border between these two aligned windows side to side, conveniently resizing both of them.