Every time you lift your hand off the keyboard and reach for your mouse or touchpad, you’re wasting precious seconds. That’s why I use keyboard shortcuts for everything on my PC. Not only are key combos faster to hit, but they’re also more accurate than even the best mouse when it comes to precise actions like highlighting text or selecting cells in a spreadsheet.
When I talk to friends — even my most tech-savvy colleagues — I find that most use basic keyboard shortcuts such as CTRL+X to cut and CTRL+V to paste, but they don’t know some of the most helpful hotkeys that their PCs have to offer. These are the 22 best PC keyboard shortcuts you’re probably not using, but should be.
CTRL +A: Select All Items
If you want to select all of the content in a given window, whether it’s a document, a picture in an image editor, a folder full of files or even a web page, you don’t have to hold down your mouse button and drag the highlight down the screen. Just hit CTRL + A and you can select everything in one stroke. You can then copy, paste or even apply formatting.
Shift + Arrow: Highlight Text
With today’s legion of jumpy, inaccurate clickpads, it often takes a few tries to select just the text you want. And using a finger on a touchscreen PC isn’t much faster or easier. To highlight text with your keyboard, simply hold down the Shift key as you move the cursor with the arrow keys. If you also hold down CTRL, you can highlight whole words rather than individual characters with each arrow press. Remember that you can also change text to bold (CTRL + B) or italics (CTRL + I) in most programs without using a mouse.
ALT + Left Arrow: Back in Web Browser
Most of us probably hit the back button in our web browsers a dozen or more times a day. There’s no need to lunge toward the arrow button every time you want to return to the previous page. Just hit ALT + Left Arrow instead. Hitting ALT + Right Arrow takes you forward.
Windows Key + Arrow: Windows Snap
One of the best features of Windows 10 is is the ability to snap windows next to each other so you can split the screen evenly between two to four applications. To perform this snap feature with the mouse, you need to drag a window all the way to the left or right side of the screen if you want it to take up half or into the corner if you want it to take up a quarter of the space. Don’t bother. Hit Windows + Left Arrow to snap a window to the left side of the screen or Windows + Right Arrow to snap it to the right. If you want your application to take up a quarter of the screen, hit Windows + Up Arrow or Windows + Down Arrow after you snap it to the left or right and it will move into the corner. If you have more than one screen, you can hit the key combo more than once to move a window from one screen to another and you can snap a different window to each monitor edge, allowing you to have eight snapped windows on two displays (or twelve on a three-display setup). If a window is not snapped, hitting Windows + Up Arrow maximizes it while Window + Down Arrow minimizes it. MORE: How to Use Windows 10
CTRL + Shift + V: Paste as Plain Text
It happens from time to time. You’re composing an email or editing an online document in your browser, and you decide to paste in a snippet of text from a web page or a Word doc. You highlight the text, copy it and paste it, only to see all kinds of wacky fonts and unwanted formatting in your destination document. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution in Chrome and Firefox: hit CTRL + Shift + V and the contents of your clipboard will paste into your browser as plain text.
Alt + F4: Close Any Windows App
Most people close programs by rolling the mouse pointer to the upper right corner of their windows and clicking the X button. But that’s a lot of lunging and swiping, especially if you want to close several programs at once. ALT + F4 will close all programs in Windows 7, 8 and 10. CTRL + W closes desktop applications (not Windows store apps) only.
Shift + F7: Thesaurus Lookup in Word
Every time I write an article, I find myself looking for synonyms to keep the text fresh. If I’m composing my article in Microsoft Word, I don’t need to whip out a thesaurus or visit one online. I just highlight the word I want to look up then hit Shift + F7 and Word shows a comprehensive list of related terms in a panel on the right side of the screen. MORE: How to See All of Microsoft Word’s Keyboard Shortcuts
CTRL + SHIFT + T: Restore Closed Browser Tab
Sometimes you find yourself with way too many tabs open and you start closing them, hitting CTRL + W like wild just to clean up your messy desktop. Then you realize that you just closed the tab with an important Gmail from your boss open or the critical reference material you need to finish your report. Just hit CTRL + SHIFT + T in any of the major Windows web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer) to restore the last tab you closed.
CTRL + P: Print Out
Most programs have a “Print” option available on their main menus, but who wants to roll the mouse when you can just hit CTRL + P. Hitting this key combo doesn’t immediately output your document, but instead brings up the print dialog box. From there, you can choose a printer or save as a PDF you can share digitally.
F5 / CTRL + R: Refresh Web Page
Perhaps you’re viewing a frequently-updated web page like a forum or breaking news site and you need to reload in order to see the latest content. Or maybe the web tool you’re using is stuck in some way and you just need to start over. Either way, you can hit F5 or CTRL + R in any Windows web browser (Edge, Firefox, Chrome, IE) to refresh the page.