If you drive a reasonably new car you know that car makers have gone to great lengths to make it easy for you to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Controls that used to be located on the console are now embedded right under your fingertips as you drive. Volume, temperature, cruise control might all be found conveniently located one quick flick of the thumb away without having to avert your eyes from the road or, worse, take your hands off the wheel.
In the same way, software designers have always tried to make it easy for you to keep your hands on the keyboard. The first patent for a typewriter was issued in 1829 but it took more than a century before the computer mouse came along.
Keyboards are well-worn technology and the engineers that built the first computers worked with what they had.
As computers have gotten more powerful and easy to use, we’ve lost a little bit of that love of keyboards. Using a mouse to click on a glowing pixel is easy to teach, can be memorized quickly, and requires very little practice to become proficient.
But a mouse or trackpad is not always the best tool for the job.
What usually happens is that folks learn one way to do something on a computer. And when it works for them consistently, they stop looking for a better way. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” the thinking goes.
But when you perform repetitive tasks that require accuracy, focus, and speed it can get cumbersome to do things the way you first learned them. Almost any task you can execute on a computer can be done at least three ways. And usually, the fastest most accurate way to do it is the one way most folks never learned.
Most people know how to cut and paste using the edit menu. Many people know that you can right-click the mouse (in Windows) to open a menu that allows you to cut and paste. But not nearly enough people know you can do the same thing without ever taking your hands off the keyboard.
Keyboard shortcuts are a powerful tool that can lead to several benefits:
- More accurate data entry
- Increased productivity and efficiency
- A reduction in repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome
This series will cover keyboard shortcuts from beginning to end. If you’ve never bothered to look at the Control, Alt, or Shift keys before I’ll start with basic definitions and terms and move into shortcuts you can begin using immediately. As you get more comfortable I’ll give you more advanced and program-specific shortcuts. Finally, I’ll help you find the easy-to-use tools you’ll need to create your own custom shortcuts and become a keyboard wizard.
Impress your boss! Shock your friends! Get more done in less time! Take back control from your computer so it works with you instead of against you.
OK OK, your friends may not be impressed with your new-found skills. But you will become more productive and achieve more accuracy and less frustration when you sit down to get some work done on your computer.
Get on the keyboard shortcut journey and you’ll be amazed at the places you’ll go.
Let’s get started…