The 10 Most Useful Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

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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

    • … 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.

  • 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)

      • 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.

    • 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. 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • Win+[numbers] to give an app focus (or open app if not already open but is pinned) in the task bar
    Win+Shift+[numbers] to open another app even if one is oppened

  • windows key+pause, show system properties and it saves a lot of clicks(works in win7 and xp), windows key+r, run any program such word excel explorer etc…,
    this ones works for ie: conrol+t new tab, control+tab , navigate trough internet explorer tabs, , control+f4 close tabs in ie,

  • Alt + left (or right) to move forward and backwards in a web browser.

    Windows + left (or right) to move application sizing to side, but with 2 monitors you can easily setup 4 windows perfectly spaced

  • Window can be driven almost entirely via the keyboard!

    To select items in an open window e.g. file menu
    Alt + f (I.e. letter usually indicated with an underscore) once this is selected arrow keys or letter for the next part.

    A dialogue box with multiple options the is always a dark black boarder on the default option (which you can press enter to select) and a dotted box you can move around with TAB and SHIFT TAB using space-bar to select.

    The keyboard options fall over on badly written user interfaces. I.e. when you tab through the options on the screen they jump point of sequence or on the same screen there is an underscore for the same letter for two different options or no underscores at all.

  • it is quite surprising that people are still learning about Windows 7 when the world is moving on — we are already in Windows 8 territory now, folks (unless you work in a large corporate environment where the IT department enforces the luddite approach to new software rollouts) — the only articles about Windows 7 worth writing now are about how and why people should upgrade to 8, and what changes / improvements it brings.

  • most of these commands have worked since Windows 3.x and many still work in Windows 8. however there are a few new tweaks now, such as the WIN-key which now switches to the Metro/Start screen -> Desktop and back again. a few more:

    WINKEY – Toggles between the Windows desktop environment and the new Start screen.
    WINKEY + 1, WINKEY + 2, etc. – Launch the nth shortcut in the Windows taskbar. So WINKEY + 1 would launch whichever application is first in the list, from left to right.
    WINKEY + B – Select the tray notification area.
    WINKEY + C – Display Charms and time/date/notification overlay.
    WINKEY + D – Toggle Show Desktop (as with WIN+Mminimizes all applications and other windows).
    WINKEY + E. Launch Windows Explorer.
    WINKEY + F – Search Files using the new Windows Search pane.
    WINKEY + I – Display Settings pane , including Networks, Volume, Screen Brightness, Notifications, Power, Language Settings.
    WINKEY + , – Peeks at the Windows desktop.
    WINKEY + L – Lock PC and return to Lock screen.
    WINKEY + M – Minimize all windows.
    WINKEY + O – Toggle orientation switching on tablets / mobiles.
    WINKEY + P – Display the new Project (for “projection”) pane for choosing between available displays.
    WINKEY + Q – Search (within) Apps.
    WINKEY + R – Display Run box (to start a program that’s not in the Start Menu list, eg CMD).
    WINKEY + U – Launch Ease of Access Center.
    WINKEY + W – Search Settings.
    WINKEY + X – Display Windows Mobility Center / Advanced Context Menu
    WINKEY + ARROW KEYS – Aero Snap.

  • also, I wish the Prt Scrn key could bring up the Vista/7/8 Snipping Tool, instead of the old snapshot — Snipper isn’t as well rounded as some other tools (eg Snagit), but it’s free and installed with all versions of Windows.

  • in windows 7, if you click and drag the title bar of the active window and “shake” it left and right, it minimises all windows apart from the active one.

  • Some great posts so far from fellow power users, here’s the few that haven’t already been suggested:

    CTRL+SHIFT+V: Paste unformatted. Word and Evernote are two apps that I’m aware use this, I think a few other rich content editors support this.

    CTRL++ and CTRL+-: Zoom in and zoom out. In browsers, CTRL-0 will return your zoom to the default.

    CTRL-T: commonly sets text as ‘strike-through’ in many editors, find it very useful

    • Remembered one more.

      CTRL-W: Close window/foreground in many apps

      CTRL-K: execute search from address bar in many browsers.

      CTRL-L: focus address bar in many browsers

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