So, I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a terribly good typist. This fact, however, does not stop me from hitting very many keys in a short span of time. Because of this, I use my Backspace key a lot to correct my million and one typos. Now, when I’m working in a Word document, for instance, this is fine. But when I’m online filling out a form, sending a Tweet, or posting this blog, I have to be very careful about where my cursor is and that I’m deleting text, not something else.
See, in your web browser, whether you’re using Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, that comes with Windows 10, the Backspace key is a shortcut. If you have viewed more than one webpage inside the same tab, and you want to return to the previous page, most of the time, people use the back arrow located at the top left.
However, typing the Backspace key provides the same result, returning you to the previous page. Now, loving my keyboard shortcuts the way I do, and with all the time I spend online, you would think I’d love this shortcut. Truth is I despise it. Because when I’m typing (poorly), if I’m not careful, I don’t delete my typos, I leave the page I’m typing on.
In fact, I just did this last night. I was composing a terribly clever DM (Direct Message) on Twitter, and somehow I’d moved my cursor without realizing it, so when I hit backspace to fix a typo, I lost my clever message when I went back to the page I’d been on before Twitter. At this point, I may have lost my temper a tiny bit, and politely asked my husband if he knew how to disable this particular feature, because I knew that it could be done, but I could not remember how. So he looked up how to disable the shortcut in Firefox while I looked up how to do the same in Chrome. (Sadly, there is no way to turn this off in Internet Explorer or Edge.)
First off, a warning if you’re going to attempt to do this in Firefox. You need to go into the configuration of the browser, so if you turn on, off, or change something here, it’s fairly dramatic, so you want to make certain that you know what you’re doing. That said, in this particular instance, it’s pretty easy to know what you’re doing.
Open a new tab and in the address bar where you would usually enter a website url, type in about:config and hit Enter.
You are now about to configure the browser in a very specific way. To turn off the Backspace key as a shortcut for the back arrow, type backspace in the search box at the top and then hit Enter.
This should net only one result, so right click on the result. You should now have a menu. Left click on Modify.
A box pops up allowing you to change the integer value. To turn off backspace, change this from 0 to 2.
The Value should now read 2, and the Status should have changed from default to user set.
If you’re using the Google Chrome browser, Backspace is disabled by adding a free extension. To do this, go up to the menu in the top right (three horizontal lines), move your mouse down to More tools, which opens another list, from which you will click on Extensions.
At the bottom of the next page (depending on how many extensions you already have, you might need to scroll down a little), click on Get more extensions.
In the search box at the top left, search for backspace and then type Enter.
There are several extensions that will stop the backspace key from returning you to the previous page. (I use BackStop.) Simply click on ADD TO CHROME for the one you want. As soon as you close and reopen Chrome, the extension will be working.
If you use a Mac and love using keyboard shortcuts to speed up simple tasks, take the time to acquaint yourself with Spotlight. Spotlight is a search utility built into Mac OS X. In addition to searching your files, Spotlight also doubles as a very convenient application launcher.
To get started, just press ⌘+ spacebar to pull up Spotlight. (Alternatively, you can click the magnifying glass icon on the menu bar in the top right corner of the screen.) You’ll see the following window on your screen:
Simply begin typing a search term for an application installed on your computer to see results. Spotlight will search lots of things on your Mac—files, dictionary entries, etc.—but we’re specifically looking for applications, which normally appear at the top of the search results.
Typing the word safari into Spotlight search yields these results:
In this example, the Safari web browser appears as the top result. Since the top result is automatically highlighted, we can simply press Enter on the keyboard to launch the program.
By default, Spotlight searches a lot of locations—including online resources, such as the Bing search engine and Spotlight Suggestions, both of which send your search queries over the web to deliver results. You can customize what Spotlight searches, as well as turn off these online features, by going to System Preferences > Spotlight.
By combining one simple keyboard shortcut and the Spotlight search feature, you can launch programs and search for files incredibly quickly.
So, just because I had one of those round number, milestone birthdays this year, I am NOT think about getting older. Too often. I certainly don’t think about it more as a squint at my computer screen when I’m working in Microsoft Word and I already have it jacked up to 120%. And I don’t think it’s my eyes as much as it is the default settings in Firefox and Chrome that make everything on the Internet look so small.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter if it’s age or default settings, it’s easy to make everything on a webpage bigger, whether you’re using Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. Better yet, the keyboard shortcut is pretty darn easy to remember: Ctrl + +. And even nicer, it doesn’t matter if you use the shift key.
Now, let me first explain what I mean when I say you don’t even have to use the shift key. On the standard keyboard, anything at the top of a key requires you to hit Shift at the same time. So, when you’re sending an e-mail and you need the @ sign, you don’t just hit the 2 key, you hold down the Shift key and the 2 at the same time in order to type @. The plus sign + is above the equal sign =, but to use the Zoom on the Internet, it works whether or not you just hit = or if you use the Shift key and the +.
So, let’s say you’re reading this very blog using the Chrome web browser. If Chrome is at 100%, it looks like this:
That’s kind of tiny, if you ask me. So I typed Ctrl and the plus sign + at the same time and it jumped up to 110%:
But let me just confess it now: I pretty much live at 125%. Here’s what that looks like when I type the same combination again:
Now, if I decide I need a webpage to be smaller, I use Ctrl + –. The more times you hit either of these combinations, the larger, or smaller, the image and text on the page will become. No matter how old you are.
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.
When it’s available, Ctrl + Click can be the biggest time saver of all the keyboard shortcuts I’ve talked about so far. In certain programs and from some websites, if you hold down the Ctrl key while clicking the mouse, you can select multiple files at the same time. Much quicker than moving or uploading a single file at a time, and less cumbersome than copying an entire folder because it’s quicker than picking out the files you want.
How might this be practically used, and why, exactly would you want to select multiple files in this manner? Imagine this: you’ve just returned from an amazing weekend at Gen Con and you took a ton of pictures. Now you want to upload them to your Flickr account. Well, you want to add some of them. (There is that embarrassing picture of you meeting your favorite author in which you looking painfully awkward, and no one ever needs to see that.)
So, there must be some fast way to upload just the pics you want. Right?
Yep. On Flickr, go ahead and click on Upload and then Chose photos and videos.
When File Explorer opens on the computer, navigate to where you saved the pictures from Gen Con. Then hold down the Ctrl key while clicking the photos you want to upload. It can be 2 photos or 22—it doesn’t matter. Just be sure to hold down the Ctrl key the whole time. Click Open when you’re done and watch the pictures you selected upload.
This same trick works on many websites, including Tumblr and OneDrive, and with files other than pictures, such as Word documents on Google Drive. If you’re in doubt as to whether a site supports Ctrl + Click, go ahead and give it a try. If you’re on a website where Ctrl + Click doesn’t work (such a Facebook), then every time you click on a new picture, the previous one will simply be unselected.
Many email programs also allow Ctrl + Click for adding multiple files to a single email message, including Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. This way you can carefully choose exactly which pictures from your crazy weekend you send your mom.
Today’s shortcuts are great for those of us who 1) don’t want to take our hands off the keyboard to use the mouse or touchpad, and 2) have a lot of things open at the same time. Or in my case, have so many things open that taking my hands away from the keyboard to navigate between all of them would slow me down. And now that I think about it, it’s great for when you have a limited number of things open that you want to toggle between often.
I’m not sure when or how it happened, but I always have a million things open. Probably when a fast laptop happened to be on sale when I needed a new one and so I got a computer that could handle having a million things open and running at once. For instance, I pretty much always have two Internet browsers open with 2-6 tabs open in each, as well as something playing music or video, and a Word file or two. Oh, and it’s not uncommon for me to also have PowerPoint and photo editing software (typically Paint, GIMP, or both) open along with all of that.
Now, the way most people would move between all of these open windows and tabs is point and click—they would use the mouse to move the cursor to what they wanted to open and then click. This is how I do it a lot of the time myself, but I also use keyboard shortcuts to move between open software and open tabs online. Here’s how moving between open windows works in Windows 8.1. (The keyboard shortcut is the same in Windows 7, buy it looks a little different.)
On my taskbar, you can tell which programs I have open because they have a square around them. Looking at the taskbar above, at the far left is the Windows button and next to it is a start button replacement I use called Pokki. Neither is open, but the next icon, the Internet browser Firefox, is open, which I know because it does have the outline around it. So does the File Explorer icon that comes next, but not the calculator after that. The other open windows are: Chrome, Windows Media Player, Word, PowerPoint, GIMP, and Paint. Let’s say I’m checking my email on Firefox when I open an email from a coworker I need to give my full attention, so I want to stop the video I’ve got playing. If I type Alt and Tab at the same time, this menu pops up on my screen.
The icons on the menu represent the currently open windows (as well as the Desktop at the end) and they are organized by most recently used. So, in this case Firefox is on the far left and when I typed Alt + Tab, the second tab, Paint, gets highlighted. If I release the keys, Paint is the window that will appear on my screen. But I don’t want to use Paint, I want to get to Windows Media Player, which is the fifth icon. So, while I continue holding down Alt, I release and type Tab again. That highlights the next icon on the list, Word. If I type Tab twice more while holding down Alt, I reach Windows Media Player. When I release both keys, Windows Media Player is the active window, and I can pause my video and go back to give my full attention to the very important email from my coworker.
Now, if I’m online and I have multiple tabs open, which is always the case, I can skip through my tabs in two ways. One is to type Ctrl and Tab at the same time to move one tab to the right.
For instance, I’m looking at the Ohio Digital Library and I want to read the Thomas Hardy book the new Carey Mulligan movie is based on, but I forget the title of the book. If I type Ctrl + Tab, the tab to the right of the Ohio Digital Library, which happens to be Project Gutenberg, opens. If type Ctrl + Tab again, I get to IMDb, a great site for looking up movie information. There I discover the book I’m looking for is Far From the Madding Crowd. Huzzah!
I could have gone straight from the Ohio Digital Library to IMDb by typing Ctrl + 6, because IMDb is the sixth tab from the left. Which of these methods I use generally depends on if I think it will be quicker to count the tabs or just hit Ctrl + Tab until I reach the tab I want. I showed the shortcut using Firefox, but it works the same in Internet Explorer and Chrome
And there are some ways to navigate around all the stuff you have open.
So, you’re working away on something. It could be anything, a paper for school, an online job application, or a Tweet about what you ate for lunch. But then something goes terribly wrong. Your cat jumps on your keyboard, and of course those pesky little paws couldn’t land on Ctrl + S (which is the keyboard shortcut for Save in most programs). No, the lovely fur ball you feed and shelter just did you don’t know what exactly, but that perfect phrase you spent 15 minutes crafting has been deleted.
You are never going to remember what you wrote. Perfection like that is inspired by a Muse, and your cat scratched the Muse’s metaphorical eyes out. The world will forever be denied the most glorious 140 character description of a ham sandwich ever written and it is a lesser place for it.
Now, if you are writing a paper in Microsoft Word, you know that your brilliant, hard work can be recovered by using the back arrow, the Undo button. But you worked hard on your job history for this position you really want, and there’s no Undo button on the Internet. You have to start over, right?
Most of the time, if you type the Ctrl key and the letter Z at the same time, you will undo the last thing you typed (or last action taken). Ctrl + Z works in Microsoft software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) as well as on the internet, and in some other programs. So if you want your followers to know precisely how delicious that ham sandwich was, after politely asking the cat to shoo, type Ctrl + Z, and what was deleted will be restored.
If you should decide after going to all of that work your cat knew best and what you had done deserved to be deleted, Ctrl + Y is what you type to redo your last action.
So many of us are used to point and click to accomplish basic tasks on a computer, or increasingly, tap on a touch screen. But sometimes it’s easier or faster to do what you want by using keyboard shortcuts. The shortcuts I use most often are for Copy, Cut, and Paste. To Copy, use the Ctrl key and C at the same time. Cut is Ctrl and X. To Paste either a Copy or a Cut, use Ctrl and V. These shortcuts work in most programs, including Microsoft Word and on the internet.
Why would you want to use any of these? One instance I run into often is transferring text from the internet to a Word document. Internet browsers, whether it be Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome, often don’t have menu bars showing by default so that you can click on Edit and then Copy if you want text (or media, such as a picture) copied somewhere else. This means it helps to know other ways to copy something. It can usually be done by using the menu that pops up when you right click the mouse, but the keyboard shortcuts are another option that nearly always work. So, say I’m on a website, and I want to copy something. I highlight it by clicking the mouse cursor at the beginning of what I want, holding down, and dragging to the end of the selection. Once it’s highlighted, I type Ctrl and C at the same time.
With the description of the Workforce database highlighted and copied, I can now come to my Word document and type Ctrl and V at the same time, and the text is pasted into the document.
Sometimes what I want to do is remove something from one point in a document and put it elsewhere. To do this, I first highlight what is to be cut, and then type Ctrl and X at the same time. Then it is simply a matter of placing the cursor where I want the text and typing Ctrl and V to paste it in the new position.