Productivity

The 10 Most Useful Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

If you’re using your mouse for everything in Windows except actually typing characters, you’re wasting a lot of time. Here are the ten most useful keyboard shortcuts for Windows 7.

Picture by Michael Smith/Getty

These keyboard shortcuts all work in Windows 7. We’ve ignored common in-app options (like Control-Z for undo) to focus on options that work Windows wide. Most of these will also work in older versions (such as Windows XP), but there are exceptions (such as the Aero Snap options for relocating windows). (We have a parallel list for Windows 8, though its keyboard options are arguably less extensive.)

10. PrtSc: Screen capture

There are plenty of dedicated screen capture tools with more nuanced options, but if you just need a basic screen grab, hitting PrtSc will copy the entire screen to your clipboard, ready for pasting into any image editor. Using Alt-PrtSc captures just the current window.

9. Windows-Arrow Keys: Aero Snap

Type Windows-Left Arrow and the active application will shift to fill the left half of the screen. Windows-Right sends it to the right, Windows-Down places it in the middle of the screen, and Windows-Up maximises. It’s a really handy option when you want multiple application windows neatly arranged (such as copying information from a web page into a spreadsheet or document).

8. Windows-Break: System Information

Want to quickly check which version of Windows you’re running or how much RAM you have? Windows-Break goes straight to system information.

7. Control-Alt-Del: Lockscreen

From Control-Alt-Del, you can launch the Task Manager, lock your machine or log off. Many users save Control-Alt-Del for when their system freezes, but it can be useful at other times.

6. Alt: Access menus

In traditional Windows apps, the underlined letter on a menu will open that menu in conjunction with the Alt key (so Alt-F will open the File menu). On the menu itself, individual items will also be underlined and you can access them simply by hitting the letter. So in Notepad Alt-O then W will access the Format menu, then Word Wrap. It doesn’t make sense to memorise these individual combinations, but because they’re visible on screen, they’re easy to use when you need them.

5. Esc: Cancel

Got a dialog box open and realise you don’t need it? Esc (the escape key) will dismiss it instantly with no drama.

4. Windows-D: Desktop

If you regularly use the desktop to store files or app shortcuts, Windows-D gets you there without needing to minimise or grab your mouse.

3. Control-Shift-Esc: Task Manager

One of the options on the Windows lockscree (Control-Alt-Del) is to launch the Task Manager for checking and closing apps. But you can save even more time with Control-Shift-Esc, which goes directly to the Task Manager.

2. Alt-Tab: Switch between apps

Rather than mousing to the taskbar, use Alt-Tab to cycle through all your open apps. (Windows-Tab does the same thing with fancier animations, but I find the basic version easier to use. Take your pick.)

1. Windows key (on its own)

Hit Windows to bring up the Start menu, then start typing for instant searching. A fast and easy way to find almost anything on your computer.

Any other favourite Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts worth sharing? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


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