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Windows Without the Mouse - Keyboard Shortcuts

Tired of reaching back and forth between the keyboard and your mouse? It is easier than you might think to switch between programs or find files without reaching for your mouse, and once you have trained yourself to use keyboard shortcuts-sometimes called hotkeys-you'll find that you work much more smoothly. With Windows 7, Microsoft tried to make it easier than ever for users to keep their hands where they belong: on their keyboards.

Since some people may be new to Windows, note that for the purposes of this article, a 'window' is an open program that is visible on your screen. This can include a calculator program, a movie you are watching, a word processor or an internet page. The 'active window' is the program you are currently working in, and the Windows key is the key with the Windows logo, usually on the left of your keyboard. (Some computers, sadly, do not have a Windows key.) Readers are invited to try each shortcut as they read.

Search and open a file or program
It is easy to find or search for a file, like a Microsoft Word document, without touching your mouse. Tap the Windows key. A list of programs will appear on the left of your screen. To search for a file, simply begin typing, and a list of relevant files will appear. To pick a file from a list, simply hit the up or down arrow keys to select the file you wish to open. Then press the enter key. Like magic, your program opens, and you didn't need to touch your mouse.

If you intend to open a program, like a game or an accounting program, tap the Windows key and use the arrow keys to select the program you want to open. You can use the down key to select the item at top of the list. Items with a small rectangular arrow open into a larger menu if you highlight them and press the right arrow key. For example, the "Recent Items" option allows you to open any files you've recently worked on. When you get to the desired item, press the enter key to open it.

Switch between open windows
Many users will have a dozen different programs open at once. There are two methods of switching between open windows. In the first, a user holds down the Windows key and, while it is still depressed, taps the tab button repeatedly. This creates an almost beautiful effect that allows the user to cycle between open windows. Simply let go of the Windows key when you find the program you want to use, and it will fall gracefully to the top of your open windows.

Hold down the alt button while you tap the tab button for a quicker and less disorienting method of switching between open windows. Simply release the tab button when the program you would like to use is selected. This method takes a bit of practice but will allow you to keep from reaching for your mouse literally dozens of times a day.
These two methods allow you to switch between Microsoft Word, a movie, and an internet browser, all without taking your hands from the keyboard.

Docking a window
Docking is one of the easiest and best features offered in Windows 7. A window is docked when it is resized and repositioned to fill exactly the right or left half of your screen. Users find this handy when transferring data from one document to another-for instance, when placing an open web page on one half of the screen and using the other half of the screen to write an email.

It is possible to dock a window by dragging it with your mouse past either the right or left edge of your screen and releasing it. This, however, forces you to use your mouse.
A better way is to hold down the Windows key and press either the right or left arrow button. This will dock the active window to either the right or left side of your screen. If you hold down the Windows key and press the up arrow button, Windows will maximize the active window so that it fills up your entire screen. Try it!

These Windows keyboard shortcut and hotkey tips enhance productivity by allowing users to open programs and manipulate their workspace easily and conveniently, without moving back and forth between their keyboard and their mouse. It can take a few days or even week to embed these hotkeys until they become second nature, but uses who train themselves to consistently use these shortcuts will find their productivity enhanced considerably.


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