Monday, February 14, 2005

Taking Control of Shortcuts



If you've been reading this space for a while you know of my love affair with the Right Mouse button. See (Do the Right Thing from December 22, 2004) I have become a master of the right click, happily cutting, pasting and performing all kinds of other computer tasks. My theory is, if you're looking at a screen and wondering how to do something, you are often just a right click away from your answer.

But it's been an interesting week around here. I've been working on a project that requires the use of a program that was originally created for the Macintosh and I'm being taught to use it by a Mac user. Suddenly my right clicking habit is the object of scorn and derision. What, you don't know the shortcut key?

So, I've been relearning the Windows Shortcut keys I originally learned as a Mac user years ago and here's what I have to report; I'm not about to untether myself from my mouse, but there are a few tasks that, for a variety of reasons, work better with Shortcut Keys.

The most obvious shortcut scenario is that of the mobile user. I do all my work on a laptop and mostly have a mouse plugged in. But sometimes, if I'm traveling, the mouse is too much trouble and I have to resort to…gasp, the keyboard touch cursor and mouse buttons. Instantly, the command keys come back into play. I'd rather type a document standing on my head than have to use the laptops right click button while trying to use the touch cursor to highlight something.

There is also the occasional scenario when the mouse will freeze up but the computer still functions. Here, particularly if you're trying to save your work in a document, the (Ctrl +S) Save key can make all the difference between glumly restarting your computer and backtracking over hours worth of work, or calmly saving and restarting. I like it so much I just saved this file that way!

Once in a while out on the Web, I will try to right click and highlight a word to copy it only to find that when I try to paste it in somewhere else it hasn't come along for the ride. But the good old copy (Ctrl +C) and paste (Ctrl +V) keyboard shortcuts work like a charm.

Other favorites? Cut (Ctrl +X) is commonly used when dealing with a small space that makes the combination of using the right and left click buttons simultaneously difficult.. The Delete button is pretty self explanatory, but did you know that the Shift-Delete combination sends an item into the ether instantly without having to send it to the recycle bin first? (Ctrl +A -for all), will select all the text on any given page at once, while the Alt-Tab combination will switch between open programs. I use this one when a program I am using takes up the whole screen and thus blocks the task bar. Alt-Escape works similarly except that it cycles through your program in the order in which they were opened.

Oh and one last thing, a VERY handy key when using a new program, the life-saving Undo command. (Ctrl +Z) This one gets you out of all kinds of pickles and, for Microsoft Word users, also undoes the auto format suggestions that the program constantly foists upon us. So by all means, keep up the right clicking. But every now and then don't forget to limber up your fingers and take Ctrl.

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