Keyboard Shortcuts

Have you ever wondered why there are so many strangely labeled keys on computer keyboards? Things like CTRL or ALT don't seem to make much sense at first glance, and many people are unaware of what they can do or how they work. This can also be said of the function keys, the row of keys at the top of your keyboard with cryptic names like F2 or F10.

The answer is that many of the everyday actions you do on your computer using the mouse can also be done using the keyboard. You see, the earliest computers didn't come with a mouse, and took their input soley from their attached keyboards. In order to do basic things like cut and paste, work with a document or close the program, these computers relied on special combinations of keys strokes.

Today we can use the mouse to do all of these actions, but the old controls have remained popular and can still be used. Known as Keyboard Shortcuts, they can be used to do a great number of things. In fact, it's possible for things done via Keyboard Shortcuts to be faster than using the mouse.

Below is a table listing a number of commonly used Keyboard Shortcuts. Most of these will work in any program on your computer, so feel free to experiment with them. By the by, the keys marked CTRL and ALT are using shorthand for the words "Control" and "Alternate". So, when you hear someone say to press "Control-C", they mean to press CTRL and C at the same time.

F1 This usually opens a document that provide help with using the current program.
F2 Opens a new, empty document.
F5 This prompts a web browser to reload the current page. Some other programs are now using this to reload the information they display, just like a web browser would.
ALT-F4 Closes the current program. If nothing is running, this prompts the computer to shutdown. You'll typically be asked to confirm that's what you want to happen though, so don't worry about accidentally shutting down your computer.
CTRL-F4 Closes the current subwindow. This may also close the program if the current subwindow is the last one left.
CTRL-A Selects everything in the current document or widget.
CTRL-C Performs a copy operation.
CTRL-F Opens the prompt for searching for something within the current document.
CTRL-O Prompts to open a document; same as the Open option in a program's File menu.
CTRL-P Opens the Print dialog or attempts to print the current document directly.
CTRL-S Saves the current document; same as the Save option in a program's File menu.
CTRL-V Performs a paste operation.
CTRL-X Performs a cut operation.
CTRL-Z Undoes the last action performed; same as the "undo" option in a program's Edit menu.
CTRL-ALT-DELETE Also known as the "three finger salute", this tells the computer to stop whatever it's doing.

Modern Windows systems will prompt the user for what to do next, but hitting this repeatedly will force the computer to reboot without closing any programs.

Only use this to reboot your machine as a last resort when the computer will not respond to any input. You will lose any unsaved information, and repeated use of this feature can potentioanlly damage your system.