Be a Pro at Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

The ultimate guide to up your Windows skills with Keyboard Shortcuts

Windows has been designed as a general-purpose operating system, aimed at the average user as well as power users who want to speed up every task as much as possible. For power users, it is necessary to cut down the time spent on mundane tasks, which isn’t possible with a pointing device like a mouse or touch. Using a mouse or touch-gestures can slow down the process significantly as, instead of a key press (or a combination of key presses), it requires the user to lift their hand and move it around in order to click on a certain point on a screen.

Moreover, it also requires a certain level of thought and accuracy as the button that needs to be clicked in order to perform a certain function may not be visible on the screen at that certain moment. It restricts the user to perform only functions that are visible on the screen, which may not always be the case. For example, for even a basic task such as increasing or decreasing the volume, it is easier to have a dedicated key (or a combination of keys) on the keyboard that can be used to tweak with the volume level while watching a video, instead of finding the volume settings each time you want to change it. It is this precise reason modern touch-based smartphones have dedicated volume keys since they don’t have keyboards and can’t use keyboard shortcuts.

Microsoft has built tons and tons of keyboard shortcuts right inside Windows, which every application can take advantage of (and most do). While some keyboard shortcuts are application-specific, most are generic and allow you to navigate through different applications and perform basic Windows functions efficiently and quickly.

While it isn’t necessary to know all the keyboard shortcuts, it is advisable to learn at least some of the most basic ones to make using your PC easier. Here, we have compiled a comprehensive list of some of the most essential keyboard shortcuts that can make your Windows life easier,

Useful Windows Shortcuts

The Basics

  • Undo
    CTRL + Z
    Pretty self-explanatory, Undo is universally used throughout the Windows operating system by almost all apps as a way to reverse the most recent step you took. A lifesaver to undo mistakes, you can press CTRL + Z multiple times to undo the changes you most recently made in reverse order. Undo is, by far, the most useful keyboard shortcut to ever be invented.
  • Redo
    CTRL + Y
    A kind of anti-Undo, the Redo shortcut allows you to reverse Undo itself. For example, if you used Undo to go back the most recent change, but now want to implement that change again, you can use Redo to achieve that. Unfortunately, Redo isn’t as widely implemented across all apps as Undo is. However, it is still a pretty useful shortcut to know.
  • Select All
    CTRL + A

    If you ever want to select all the items, be it inside a document or in a folder, the Select All keyboard shortcut is the way to go. Normally, people prefer to use their mouse to drag it across the screen and manually select all the items (or text) on the screen, which is highly inefficient. You can just press CTRL + A to select all of it.
  • Copy
    CTRL + C
    Another one of the most widely used and implemented keyboard shortcuts, CTRL + C is a lifesaver as it allows you to copy anything from one place to another. It works almost everywhere, be it making copies of files or text or images.
  • Paste
    CTRL + V
    What’s the point of copying a file with a keyboard shortcut if you can’t paste it with one? CTRL+V allows you to paste whatever item you have copied with the keyboard.
  • Cut
    CTRL + X
    Cut works just like copy, only it deletes the original copy when you have successfully made (or pasted) the copy of the file somewhere else in case of a file. In the case of text, it deletes the text and copies it at the same time.
  • Delete
    CTRL + D
    Delete the selected item and move it to the trash can.
  • Find
    CTRL + F
    CTRL + F allows you to search the currently active window (application) for whatever textual term you want to search for. It works in most text editor programs as well as web browsers, allowing you to search the opened page for a given term.
  • Find and Replace
    CTRL + H
    Similar to Find, the Find and Replace shortcut goes one step further by allowing you to change the text you just searched for. However, this functionality is only available in advanced text editors, like Microsoft Word, Visual Studio Code Editor, Sublime Text, etc.
  • Task Manager
    One of the oldest and most known Windows shortcuts, this key combination allows you to access the Task Manager which can be used to close misbehaving applications. If your computer is stuck, try using this combination and closing down the currently active applications to free up memory and processing power.
  • Go Back
    ALT + LEFT
    Go back. Particularly useful when using a web browser to go back a page.
  • Go Forward
    Go forward. Particularly useful when using a web browser to go forward a page.

Window Management

Essentially, Microsoft’s Windows Operating System is all about Windows – the way applications are opened and shown by the operating system, allowing you to multitask and quickly move about from one application to another. It also allows you to place multiple apps on the same screen and position them as you like, which is one of its biggest advantages over mobile operating systems like Android and iOS (which allow only one app to be opened on the screen at a time).

There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts that make Window Management surprisingly easy and intuitive. Here, we have made a list of some of our favorite ones,

  • New Window
    CTRL + N
    This keyboard shortcut allows you to open a new Window for the currently active application on the screen.
  • Close Window
    ALT + F4
    Closes the currently active Window (application). You need to press and hold down ALT and then press F4.
  • Switch Active Window
    ALT + TAB
    Switches to the next open Window. For example, if you have Chrome and Word open at the same time, you can quickly switch between them by pressing and holding ALT and then hitting TAB.
  • Switch Active Tab
    CTRL + TAB
    If you are using an application that has a tabbed environment, like Google Chrome, you can use CTRL + TAB to quickly switch between the tabs. Not only that, you can use CTRL + (Number) to go to the given tab number. CTRL + 9 goes to the last opened tab.
  • New Tab
    CTRL + T
    If you are using an application that has a tabbed environment, like Google Chrome, you can use CTRL + T to open a new tab.
  • Close Active Tab
    CTRL + W
    If you are using an application that has a tabbed environment, like Google Chrome, you can use CTRL + W to close down the currently active tab.
  • Re-Open Recently Closed Tab
    CTRL + SHIFT + T
    If you are using an application that has a tabbed environment, like Google Chrome, you can use CTRL + SHIFT + T to reopen the most recently closed tab(s).
  • Show Desktop Screen
    Minimizes all the currently opened Windows and takes you to the desktop screen.
  • Temporarily Peek at the Desktop
    Allows you to temporarily peek at the desktop screen without minimizing all the open screens.
  • Pin Screen to Left
    Pins the currently active Window to the left half of the screen.
  • Pin Screen to Right
    Pins the currently active Window to the right half of the screen.

Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 added a really nifty little feature, allowing you to create virtual desktops. Basically, this allows you to isolate your work and create a separation between them, allowing you to mimic the fact that you have multiple PCs running on the same machine. It is really useful and can be effectively used to avoid clutter.

  • Create a New Virtual Desktop Screen
    Pressing this key combination creates a new virtual desktop screen for you.
  • Open Virtual Desktop Switcher
    You can press the Windows Key + Tab to see how many virtual desktops are currently open on your machine and switch between them if necessary. You can also move a Window between virtual desktops from this screen by clicking and dragging them.
  • Switch Active Virtual Desktop Screen
    This key combination will take you the next (or previous) open virtual desktop, depending on which arrow key you press.
  • Close Active Virtual Desktop
    Closes the currently active Virtual Desktop screen.

Other Useful Shortcuts

  • Run
    Opens the Run dialog box, which can allow you to quickly access different applications or Windows settings by typing them out.
  • Open Settings
    Quickly access the Windows Settings app.
  • Open Search
    Opens the Windows Search box.
  • In-App Search
    / (Forward Slash)
    Most applications (and web applications) allow you to press the Forward Slash button to go to the search functionality.
  • Project Screen
    START + P
    Opens the Project Screen sidebar to switch between different projection settings.
  • Print
    CTRL + P
    Opens the Print menu.
  • Lock Screen
    Locks the screen so nobody can use it unless you enter the password.
  • Quick Access Menu
    Opens a Quick-Access Menu, which gives you the option to quickly access Windows Settings, from the Device Manager to Event Viewer, Control Panel, Task Manager, and more.
  • File Explorer
    Opens the Quick Access Windows File Explorer, showing you the most frequently used folders and the most recently used files.
  • Zoom In / Out
    You can use the above key combination to zoom in or zoom out in the currently active window, be it inside a browser screen, a document, or an image viewer. You can also use CTRL and the mouse scroll wheel to achieve the same purpose.
  • Take a Screenshot
    You can press the above screen combination to take a screenshot, which will be saved automatically inside a folder called ‘Screenshots’ inside the ‘Pictures’ directory by default.
  • Open Cortana
    Opens Microsoft’s virtual assistant, Cortana.
  • Refresh Screen
    F5 or CTRL + R
    Refreshes the currently active screen.
  • Rotate the Screen
    Rotates the screen in the direction of the arrow key.