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?


Comments

    Ctrl+shift+N Creates a new folder. Win 7 only.

      Windows+L locks your PC

        ESPECIALLY good when you have trust issues with those around you.

      I believe that is also the shortcut for google chrome incognito mode.

    Alt-Shift-Tab will allow you to cycle through open apps in reverse too... Not really useful though unless you've got a whole bunch of windows open.

      ... and Control-Alt-Del will give you the lock screen, but if you want to go straight to 'locked', use Windows-L... Really handy for quickly ducking out of the office!

        Cool, didn't know this one! My workplace requires me to lock my workstation whenever I leave my desk so I've gotten pretty deft at alt+ctrl+del then enter, but window+L will be my new thing.

      @Spyder You can also use Alt+Tab. It does the same thing.

      Windows Key+Tab launches Flip 3D, which is much the same but has nicer effects. This is only available with Windows 7 Aero.

    I use Windows-L to lock my work computer when I have to head out of the office. A lot quicker than Ctrl-Alt-Delete then lock.

    Windows-E to open "My Computer"

      Thanks!!

      Please don't call it "My Computer", it is an Explorer window (hence WIN+E).

      Windows & E can be a good simple CPU stress test. Brings back solitaire memories. Please don't close them one by one though if you use it. Easier to use task manager to close.

    Best one I use in the office is ctrl+alt+down arrow. Only use on a PC someone left unlocked when they go to toilet. Then watch them from afar. It never gets old. (Win7 only)

      I don't believe how funny this one is. Definitely will be getting used a lot.

        Cheers for this little nugget of gold. Found in a multi monitor setup you can click in the screen you want and do say ctrl+alt+left arrow, then click in a different screen and do ctrl+alt+right arrow. ;-)
        Yes, I am easily amused.

      It's definitely not exclusive to Win7, but may depend on display drivers. Ctrl-Alt-Down/Left/Right/Up all work on this XP system with Intel drivers.

      That's a driver shortcut, not a windows one. It does nothing on my (windows 7) laptop, for instance.

        Ctrl alt & any arrow key is a video driver shortcut, nvidia maybe?

      One great feature to use at high resolution is to change desktop icon size to make them bigger. Click on the desktop then hold Ctrl and scroll up or down on the mouse wheel. Reverse works as well if you want smalle icons. This also works in web browsers. Give it a shot on this page. Use Ctrl & 0 together to go back to 100% (normal) view. Keep in mind that it's very funny to see someone's reaction to having only 4 super huge desktop icons. be ready to undo this one though. :)

    Aero snap only works for me with win+ctrl+arrow. May be a multiple monitors thing.

      I have multiple monitors (4) and Win Key + arrow works for me, Win Key + Control + Arrow doesn't though. Are you running some 3rd party screen software??

    I would use alt+prt-scr more than print screen on its own, usually you really don't need the whole screen, just the window your discussing or wanting to print... much mroe useful.
    +1 for win+E, I use this more than any other short cut i think.

    My fave shortcuts in Windows 7 are definately Alt+Tab (and Alt+Tab and then Tab again) for swapping apps and Ctrl + Tab for swapping tabs in browers.

    Nah best one hands down - hit F11 in IE. Removes the toolbar and borders. has people entertained for hours, usually resulting in a call to tech support. Top notch.

      If you just put your mouse cursor on the top of the browser the toolbar comes back :). F11 puts just about any browser into fullscreen.

    I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts - I can go for hours without touching the mouse at all, depending on the task. The ones I use more often are:

    Win+E - Windows Explorer
    Win+M - Minimise all windows (Win+Shift+M to restore them all)
    Win then type - Bring up the Start menu and type just a few characters to select a program, then run it with Enter. For example, I run MS Word by typing Win, W, O, R, Enter. (Might not work for Word of Warcraft players!)
    Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V - Cut, copy, and paste, in WIndows and in pretty much any program that runs in Windows
    Ctrl+Z - Undo (Re-do varies. Adobe uses Ctrl+Shift+Z, MS Office uses Ctrl+Y)
    Ctrl+B, Ctrl+I, Ctrl+U - Bold, italic, and underline in pretty much every Windows text editor
    Win+L - Lock screen
    Ctrl+R - Reload/refresh pretty much any program that supports such a function, including Windows Explorer and all browsers. (F5 and Ctrl+F5 can also work.)
    PrtScn - Screen capture (Alt+PrtScn screen capture only of active window or dialogue) then paste it into a document or a text editor with Ctrl+V.
    Ctrl+F, Ctrl+H - Find in pretty much everything (including Windows itself - brings up a search window) and find-and-replace in Word and other editors like Notepad++
    Ctrl+S, Ctrl+Shift+S, Ctrl+O - Save, save as, and open in pretty much every program with file handling, including Adobe suite and MS Office
    Tab, Shift+Tab - Next field and previous field in a web page, spreadsheet, or form
    Enter, Esc - OK and cancel. Seriously, press Enter, don't mouse and click to the OK button. It drives me nuts when people do this.

    That's all I can think of off the top my head, but I'm sure I use even more that are so second nature now that I don't even realise I'm using them. Keyboard shortcuts are awesome. Use them!

      NICE !!!

    Forgot Ctrl+A for select all in any program, and Ctrl+Shift+N for create new folder in Windows Explorer. Both time-savers.

      I agree that the Enter key versus Mouse click is a no-brainer, and while the Esc key always works, there is a flaw with the design of some software. in many dialogue boxes I come across, for example non-Msi-installers and design software, the OK/Cancel/Close/Retry/etc buttons are not always in the same place and as often as not, the default selection is not the OK button -- if you always press Enter without thinking you can end up cancelling or deleting your data rather than Saving / Copying it.
      habitually using the mouse is the safer option, unless you only use the same handful of Microsoft programs every day.

    Also Alt+PrtScn will take a screenshot of the active window only.

    IIRC, Ctrl-Alt-Tab brings up the Alt-Tab dialog in Win7 and keeps it there so you don't have to hold Alt.

    Win+Number (1,2,3 etc): Launch the app pinned to your task bar (1 for 1st, 2 for 2nd etc)

    Win+Tab - scroll through all open windows

      Yeah, WIN+TAB does it in amazing 3D Aero view. Uber-cool.

    F2 = rename folder/file
    Ctrl + PageUp/PageDown to scroll through tabs in a browser

    If only there was a shortcut to logoff with one keystroke.

      In the Create Shortcut wizard, type:
      shutdown.exe /l
      Then tap Next, give the shortcut a name, eg Sign Out, and then click Finish.
      Right-click the shortcut and choose Properties. Click the Change Icon button and then click OK in the warning dialog that appears, select an icon, click OK and then OK again.
      A good place for this is in the Taskbar, in a new toolbar along with:
      (Shut down immediately shutdown.exe /s /t 0 Restart immediately shutdown.exe /r /t 0);
      or the Start screen -- right-click each icon and choose Pin to Start.

      Also, don't forget the quickest, most reliable way to shut down any computer / tablet is almost always by tapping the Power button. IF your computer's not working right, just hold the Power button for 10 seconds and it will switch off without shutting down.

    Only works with OneNote 2010 (and maybe 2007), but:
    Win+S = take a snippet (use the mouse to drag a box and take only that as a screenshot).

    Within the settings of OneNote, you can define this to put the screenshot to the clipboard where you can paste into any application you like.

      This is one of my top 5. Win & S for screenshots are very quick. It's perfect for troubleshooting pesky error messages or trigger happy customers as it locks the screen until you select your intended screen shot area. Also use win & n instead of notepad, for notes. I use that for phone numbers, no having to click save or find a pen. These work in 2010 and 2007 one note. If you have one note you will need to have the small icon running, the one near the clock. There is a setting to have this startup on boot within the program I believe. If you have one note I highly suggest going this route and stop using notepad and print screen. It saves everything so no wasted "save" clicks.

      Now that is cool!!

    Alt-doubleclick - Explorer properties dialog.

      F10 does the same

    Alt + F4

    BEST SHORTCUT EVER

      Alt+F4 is good, but don't forget Ctrl+F4 / Ctrl+W -- if you want to close a single window / tab in the current application, rather than close the whole program.

    There's some great shortcuts here. Windows 7 was built for the mouse, but it's surprising what you can do with the keyboard.

    One of my favorites is Windows Key + D
    Minimizes every window. Very useful if someone walks up behind you and you're looking at...uh...top secret spy stuff?

      Correction: This actually shows the desktop.

    ctrl-shift-t to undo close tab in Chrome or Firefox. Not win7, but most of the original shortcuts were available in XP so I guess there aren't any rules.

    Windows + P is a godsend for when you often toggle video output amongst multiple monitors.

      Win & p is great for presenters. Keep in mind how useful those aero snap shortcuts are as well with multiple monitors. Put something on your right screen, such as this window. Use win & left arrow key. Keep hitting this, notice how it moves and docks to the left screen. Also, dragging a window to the top of the screen aero snaps to full screen. This is great for moving and full sizing rdp server logins to your other screen since its usually not the selected window when it opens.

    What about win + r Which launches the run window

      Not as usful now that you can just run things straight from the start menu

        well I much prefer the run command anyway, use it nearly every day. Very handy around the offices since they're mostly XP too.

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