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How to learn keyboard shortcuts

Most of us want to learn keyboard shortcuts. But the problem is that there are too many of them.  For example, if you list down all the shortcuts in Word, it creates a 9 page document with 251 shortcuts!

Obviously, that is not the right way. 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… So here is how to learn keyboard shortcuts – without trying to memorize them.

How to learn keyboard shortcuts while you are working?

  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.How to learn keyboard shortcuts - showing the tooltip of Paste Special button (Ctrl Alt V)
  4. Notice it. Notice it a few times…
  5. Then you will remember it.
  6. Next time you are about to click on the button, use the keyboard shortcut consciously.
  7. That’s it.

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.

image keyboard shortcuts which are highlighted after pressing and releasing the Alt key

Using this method you do not have to learn keyboard shortcuts. You just see the characters and type them as needed.

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.

How to learn keyboard shortcuts in QAT - press Alt key - each button in QAT gets a number - press that number

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.

Explains the ergonomics behind Ctrl Z as the shortcut for UNDO. Z is the key nearest to Ctrl on the left side of the keyboard.

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.

Which buttons you should NOT put in QAT

Those buttons which already have keyboard shortcut. In fact, you should customize the QAT and remove the default ones – Save, Undo and Redo – because they already have shortcuts – Ctrl S, Ctrl Z and Ctrl Y.

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 Responses

  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 😉

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