The 10 Most Useful Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

The 10 Most Useful Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

Most of the design effort for Windows 8 has been focused around its touch screen interface, but there are keyboard shortcuts in place for those of us who aren’t using a touch device or who want the productivity boost of keeping hands on the keyboard. Here are the ten most useful keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8.

We haven’t listed familiar keyboard shortcuts such as Control-V for paste here. The focus is on the new or revamped keyboard shortcut options in Windows 8, especially as they apply to Metro apps. (We have a parallel list for Windows 7 as well.)

These keyboard shortcuts all work in the Windows 8 Release Preview, and there’s no reason to assume they won’t be supported in the final release. Virtually all of them use the Windows key in combination with another key.

10. Windows-PrtSc: Screen capture

PrtSc has long been the default option for screen capture in Windows, but in Windows 8 there’s a neat new twist: if you use Windows-PrtSc, a PNG file of the capture is saved in a Screenshots folder in your picture library. (If you don’t want the clutter of lots of picture files, PrtSc on its own still copies the screen to the clipboard, and Alt-PrtSc captures just the active window in non-Metro apps.)

9. Windows-C: Charms

Think of charms as a kind of super-sized options setting: you can use individual charms to share with other apps, search for information, change settings, or send something to a connected device such as a printer or drive.

8. Windows-Z: App bar

The app bar is essentially the equivalent of right-clicking: use it to access additional options in Metro applications.

7. Windows-Q: Search charm

This launches search options for any Windows application: if you’re in the store, for example, you need the Search charm to actually look for apps. Search is also accessible from charms (Windows-C), but using Windows-Q saves you extra clicking or arrowing around.

6. Windows-H: Share charm

Similarly, while you can access the Share charm (used to share information via email or to other apps) through the main charms list, this shortcut saves time getting there.

5. Windows-fullstop: Snap

This snaps a Metro app to the right, placing it in a narrow column so you can see crucial information (such as a Twitter feed) while working in another app. (By default, Metro apps take up the entire screen, which makes sense on tablets but can be annoying on large screens.) Repeating the key combination snaps to the left; repeating a third time maximises. To snap immediately to the left, use Windows-> (which is, in effect, Shift-Windows-fullstop).

4. Windows-Tab: Switch apps

The familiar Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut still cycles through open applications in the centre of the screen. If you only want to cycle through newer Metro applications, Windows-Tab is your friend, and switches in a list down the left-hand side.

3. Windows-D: Desktop

If you’re not using Metro apps and want a more familiar Windows interface, Windows-D opens up the desktop.

2. Windows-I: Settings

This is a speedy route to system-wide PC settings. It’s also where you’ll find the Power button if you want to shut down your machine entirely (by default, Windows 8 favours putting your system to sleep rather than a complete shutdown.)

1. Windows key (on its own)

Hitting the Windows key on its own brings up the Metro desktop. However, if you then start typing Windows will begin searching (just as it used to on the old Start menu), finding apps, files and settings. You can also switch to searching other Metro apps from within the interface. You can navigate the results with the arrow keys and Enter, so you don’t need to use a mouse at all.

Any other favourite Windows 8 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?


  • Start8 is useless, it completely ruins everything. I tried it for about two hours before uninstalling it. Far from bringing back the Start Menu, it simply makes a new menu that is less useful than the Start Screen. I can’t remember specifically what it broke but when I decided to stop using it, I found that it had broken something so I had to uninstall it to get Win8 to work the way it is supposed to. My recommendation is that you avoid Start8 like the plague. You can still pin icons to your Taskbar and put shortcuts on your desktop and these are much better alternatives if you really, really don’t want to use the Start Screen.

    All the misinformation about Win8 has annoyed me to the extent that I’ve created a blog to give some information from the perspective of someone who has been using Windows 8 as their main OS for 6 months. If you are interested in some real facts, you can check it out here –
    Feel free to ask any questions, I’ll answer them as thoroughly as I can.

    • The first time i tried windows 8 i hated it. It was new, different and i didn’t have time to mess around. I quickly went back to my Win 7 install.

      After getting a new copy off MSDN sitting down for a few hours and playing around with it. I cannot go back! The new smart menu is amazing! After reading a few blogs including motormouths and seeing just how much i can customize the new start menu i fell in love.

      Give it some time guys…The boot speed, general speed and features of the start menu are just amazing!

  • Windows 8 is not so difficult and horrible.
    You only have to know 4 o 5 things and then you understand how the OS works. My wife was using yesterday and she told me that is quite easy, when you know these things. I only spent 2 hours to understand the OS.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!