Embarrassing confessions. Who’s old enough to remember Clippy? Who’s brave enough to admit they actually learned something from Clippy?
For folks who don’t remember Clippy, he was Microsoft’s Office Assistant beginning with Office 97. He was an animated paperclip who popped up to offer help based on what you were doing. For instance, if you started your Word document with the word “Dear,” Clippy would show up on your screen and ask if you were writing a letter, and if so, if you wanted help. Many people found Clippy’s intrusiveness annoying and unhelpful. Time Magazine went so far as to call Clippy one of The 50 Worst Inventions.
But guess what? My favorite keyboard shortcut is something I learned from Clippy.
I can still remember the day—I was in graduate school at my job in the music library. I’ve never been a particularly good typist, so I make a fair number of mistakes, and that day at work was no exception. I needed to fix something, and I was using the arrows on the keyboard to move to the point in my Word document I needed to fix. Clippy suddenly appeared, and I was ready to close him like I always did, when for reasons I still don’t know, I stopped and read what he had to say.
The advice he gave me was the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Arrow, and it is unquestionably the keyboard shortcut I use most often. (When I bought a new laptop and the Ctrl key was in a different place than my previous laptop, I almost cried.) When in Word or using text editors online such as a WordPress blog, if you hold down the Ctrl key and then type the Right Arrow, the cursor moves forward one word or punctuation mark. If you hold down Ctrl and then type the Left Arrow, the cursor moves back one word or punctuation mark. In other words when I reach the upcoming comma and realise I spelled “realize” wrong, I could hold Ctrl while typing the Left Arrow six times to return quickly to the word “realise” and fix it.
Ctrl + Up or Down Arrows moves the cursor to the last hard return. Usually this means the end/beginning of a paragraph. If I type Ctrl + Up Arrow right now, my cursor will jump to the beginning of this paragraph. Since I haven’t hit Enter yet, if my cursor is anywhere in this paragraph when I type Ctrl + Down Arrow, the cursor will go to the farthest point in the document. This is handy for when I have to go back a few words to fix a typo (which I did using Ctrl + Left Arrow), and then I want to quickly return to where I was typing.
So, thank you Clippy. You weren’t all bad.