Which keyboard shortcuts should I learn?

Many people ask me to give them a secret list of most powerful keyboard shortcuts. They think knowing more shortcuts is the same as being more efficient. Unfortunately, it is not. Read this 3 min article to understand how to find out the shortcuts you need and how to learn them in a simple manner without stressing yourself.


Why do we need shortcuts?

The idea is simple. You want to work faster. So if something takes 4 steps you want to do it in one step. If something requires 4 clicks you want to do it in one click and so on…

The fact that using keyboard shortcuts is faster than using the mouse or stylus or touch is NOT always true. The rider should be “if you know proper typing using keyboard”.

Unfortunately, most of us DO NOT know proper typing (with both hands, without looking at the keyboard). Most of us have learnt to live with the handicap of unstructured and pitiable one, two or n finger typing.

In this case, your entire interaction with the keyboard is a “looong” cut. Even if you want to type a shortcut – you are going to take a long time to find it. Usually keyboard shortcut keys require you to press non-frequently used keys. Which makes it even slower!

Anyway, please – please – for your own sake – learn typing. Irrespective of your age and seniority, learning typing will liberate your life. Trust me.

Practice for just 15 minutes every day and you should have a good speed (30 wpm) within a month.

Now, assuming you are good at the keyboard, let us discuss which shortcuts we need.

Shortcuts save time. So choose only repetitive activities.

  1. Next time you are about to click on a button in the menus, STOP.
  2. Think whether you use this button often. If yes, wait there for one second.
  3. You will see a tooltip. If that button has a keyboard shortcut, it will be displayed.


  4. Notice it. Keep noticing it a few times and then you will remember it.
  5. Next step is to remember to use the keyboard shortcut instead of the mouse next time onwards

If there is no built in keyboard shortcut: Option 1

You have two choices. Press and release the Alt key and then follow the keyboard shortcuts which are displayed on top of the buttons.


If there is no built in keyboard shortcut: Option 2

  1. Right click on the button and choose Add to quick access toolbar
  2. Now the button is shown in the custom toolbar in the title bar (next to Save, Undo and Redo buttons)
  3. Now each button there gets a shortcut. Alt followed by that number is your new shortcut.


For details, read the article: Increase efficiency by using or CREATING keyboard shortcuts

Word is a special case

In case of Word, any command can have a shortcut, which is customizable. With other tools, you have to do programming to create new keyboard shortcuts – which is usually not worth the effort. We will cover this in a separate article. But the above two methods are usually sufficient.

Choose which hands to use

Shortcuts are assigned by Microsoft with the keyboard layout in mind. Most common action we perform is UNDO. That shortcut is CTRL Z – as all of you know. Ideally it should have been CTRL U, but because the Z key is nearest to the CTRL KEY, this shortcut was chosen.


This is called “ergonomics” (or simplicity and convenience of use). If you do not notice this, you may end up using Ctrl key on the right side and Z key on the left side – defeating the purpose and making it a “loooooooong” cut rather than a short-cut.

Look at the context

If you are performing a mouse oriented operation, using mouse may be more convenient than pressing keyboard shortcuts. So don’t use either mouse or shortcuts blindly. Look at the current situation and then decide what is most convenient to you.


3 thoughts on “Which keyboard shortcuts should I learn?”

  1. Very useful – I especially liked the idea of creating a shortcut by method #2.

    Personally, the shortcuts I find most useful (besides the usual cut/copy/paste/undo/save) are maximize a window (Alt+spacebar+X) and close a window (Alt+spacebar+C). The mouse action for this is extremely painful because (a) the cursor has to be moved toone extreme corner of the screen and (b) it needs to be very precise.

  2. Hi,
    there is another hint for shortcuts in word.
    1. Press Strg+Alt+ +(NumberKeyPad)
    2. The mouse pointer turns into a shamrock like thing.
    3. Now Click on the button or function you want to use a shortcut for
    4. A dialog box opens showing a current shortcut (if available) and giving you the opportunity to define a new one. The box even shows you whether the new shortcut is already in use

    try it.

    Helps me since Word 6. I am a shortcut fan and although I am a 2 finger handicapped typewriter ist is faster for me to use shortcuts than moving to the mouse and back to the keyboard.
    My problem with 2-finger writing is, that I have to look on the keyboard, so I realize typos after writing them, that’s annoying.
    I really tried and try to learn writing blindly, but it is so hard, as long as you are faster typing with two fingers instead of 10. Work has to be done 😉

Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?