person writing on paper on top of table

Keyboard Shortcuts for (Almost) Everything

The computer mouse is a wonderful thing. It is probably the piece of hardware most responsible for the widespread adoption of PCs by average consumers and business users. The mouse makes it easy to navigate and manipulate all those pixels on our screen.

But sometimes a good old fashioned keyboard shortcut is just easier. If you are a touch typist, or if you perform repetitive tasks on a computer you want the fastest way to do something with the least amount of movement.

Luckily there are keyboard shortcuts for almost everything you need to do. Whether you a shortcut novice or ninja, there should be something in the list below to help you be more productive at the keyboard.

The keys we need

All keyboard shortcuts are based on pressing two or more keys at the same time. So when we write out a keyboard shortcut we put all the keys together joined by the plus sign “+” and when we say the keyboard shortcut aloud we just say the names of the keys.

Aside from the letters and numbers on the keyboard (which I think we are all familiar with), there are a couple of keys we will use a lot for shortcuts. The table below gives you a quick overview.

NameAbbrev.Location
ControlCtrlLower left and right corners of the typing area
AltAlt– To the left and right of the space bar (PC)
– Next to the Command key (Mac)
Command(Mac Only) To the left and right of the space bar
ShiftShiftTo the left and right of the last row of letters on the keyboard

Moving information with the clipboard

Copy

When you select text or files on a computer the most basic thing you can do is make a copy to use somewhere else. The copy command does exactly that. It makes a copy of the information and places it in a special location of your computer’s memory designated as the “clipboard”. The information will stay there until you replace it with something else that you’ve copied, or you turn off the computer.

To copy your selection to the clipboard the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+C (PC)
  • ⌘+C (Mac)

Cut

Cut and Copy are very similar. The only difference (and it is an important one!) is that while Copy leaves your selection right where it was, the Cut command will remove it from its original location and move it to the clipboard. You can think of this as putting the information into a moving truck (the clipboard) so it can be delivered to its new home later. This also means that if you replace the information on the clipboard or turn off your computer you run the risk of losing the information. But fear not! Most modern computers have some safeguards in place to prevent you from accidentally losing data.  

To Cut your selection and place it on the clipboard the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+X (PC)
  • ⌘+X (Mac)

Paste

Once you’ve moved your selection to the clipboard (using Copy or Cut) you’ll probably want to put it in its new home. This is where the Paste command comes in.  

Paste takes the contents of the clipboard and puts it somewhere else. 

To Paste the contents of the clipboard somewhere the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+V (PC)
  • ⌘+V (Mac)

Bonus! Paste Without Formatting

If you are copying text from a webpage or document that has its own fonts, colors, and styles applied you might want to keep the words but ditch the design choices that were made. For instance, if you wanted to use a quote from an article on a news website in a blog post that you are writing, you want the quote to be accurate (the text) but you want it to fit in visually with the rest of your blog post (the design).

Well, friends, there is a quick and painless way to do this. It will take one extra finger but I think you’ll agree it’s worth it. Instead of using the normal Paste command (Ctrl+V) use the “Paste Without Formatting” keyboard shortcut. Which is:

  • Ctrl+Shift+V (PC)
  • ⌘+Shift+V (Mac)

Time travel to correct mistakes

Making a typo is easy to fix. You just hit the backspace key until the word is gone. But what if the typo was pasting in the entire text of the Gettysburg Address? Or accidentally adjusting a slider in Photoshop? Wouldn’t it be nice to go back a little bit to a time just before you made your blunder?

Fear not! There are shortcuts for that.

Undo

The name says it all. the Undo shortcut works in most programs on Windows and Mac (but not all, save your angry emails). While it may work slightly differently in each program, the basic idea is that you can “undo” the last command you gave the computer. That might be text that you typed, or something more complex like a change to the formatting of text. It will also undo a Cut or Paste command.

Using the shortcut repeatedly will walk back even further in time, unwinding commands in reverse order. Again, this varies by program, but typically you can reverse the last several dozen commands you made.

To undo the last command the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+Z (PC)
  • ⌘+Z (Mac)

Redo

Time travel is great. But as we all learned from Back to the Future, half the fun is going forward again. The Redo shortcut lets you work your way through commands that you just undid. Think of it as the undo command for the Undo command.

To redo the last command the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+Z (PC)
  • ⌘+Z (Mac)

Searching and replacing

Looking through a large document or scrolling through thousands of rows in a spreadsheet is impractical, inaccurate, and generally a huge waste of time. Fortunately, there is a quick and easy way to search through webpages, documents, spreadsheets, and almost anything else that appears on your screen.

Find

The Find shortcut lets you enter a bit of text and figure out where it appears within your information. It can be just a few letters, a word, or even a whole sentence. It depends on the specific program you are using Find in, but generally it will seek out anything that is a rough match. So trying to Find “some” with find the word “some” but also “someone”, “somewhere”, “somehow”.

To search through a document for a specific bit of information the keyboard shortcut for Find is:

  • Ctrl+F (PC)
  • ⌘+F (Mac)

Find & Replace

Sometimes we don’t want to just find the information in our document, we want to replace it with something else. For instance, if you want to replace “Tues.” with a more formal “Tuesday” you could find each instance (using the Find shortcut) and then retyping the word. But wouldn’t it be easier to let the computer do that for you? Of course it would!

The Find and Replace shortcut generally only works in programs like word processors, text editors, spreadsheets and other productivity software. It will not, for instance, work well on a web page where you are not allowed to make changes.

To replace every instance of a string of characters with another set of characters the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+H (PC)
  • ⌘+H (Mac)

Conclusion

Keyboard shortcuts may seem like a very small change to make. You might be wondering if it is worth trying to retrain your brain to use them instead of sticking with the tried and true methods for getting your work done.

I’ll admit that it is a small thing. But a small thing multiplied by hundreds of occurrences can add up into something worth noticing. Practice with keyboard shortcuts and you will find that you become a bit more efficient, have a bit less chance of repetitive stress injuries, and are more accurate in your work.

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