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The best keyboard shortcuts

May 2004

It’s always nice to please someone.  In March I gave you some keyboard shortcuts (sneaky ways of avoiding using the mouse) and nothing I have written in the last four years has produced more positive emails from readers.  This not only provides the happy reassurance that somebody reads what I write, but almost all my correspondents included some excellent additions to my shortcuts collection, and I am happy to give the best here.

As all of them relate to Microsoft programmes, I apologise again if you are an Apple Mac or Linux user – these aren’t much use to you, I’m afraid.  I’ll return to strictly Internet matters next month.

First, let’s consider Microsoft Word.  Many of you recommended quick ways of adjusting the look of your text; for example, pressing down Ctrl and zero at the same time (Ctrl+0) will add a blank line to the start of your paragraph, and all subsequent ones, making it unnecessary to press Enter twice between paragraphs.  (Of course, if you are like my children then you don’t use paragraphs anyway.  Still I suppose I should be pleased that they write to me at all.  I am, very.)

Ctrl+1 produces single spacing, Ctrl+2 double-spacing and Ctrl+5 one and a half line spacing.  Ctrl+R makes the paragraph flush to the right margin, Ctrl+L lines it up on the left.  Ctrl+J justifies your words (that is, makes all lines the same length.  It doesn’t defend what you’ve written, sadly)

Remember that all these all relate to the paragraph you are in at the time, not the whole document.

Then there is how the text looks.  Ctrl+Shift+K turns a word into small capitals, Ctrl+I puts it in italics.

Best of all, Ctrl+Q wipes the slate clean and removes all the formatting you have been fiddling about with and gets you back to plain vanilla text.  Ctrl+spacebar does the same thing for a single word.

And then there are all those pesky foreign characters.  Before typing the letter you want, press Ctrl+accent grave (probably top left on your keyboard) to produce a Grave accent, Ctrl+apostrophe an Acute accent, Ctrl+comma a cedilla and Ctrl+Shift+colon for an umlaut.  Use Alt+Ctrl+Shift+? (if you have enough fingers) for the splendid upside down question mark that the Spanish use.

If you search the Helpfile (press F1 to get to it) for “insert symbols or special characters” you’ll find these and many more carefully laid out.  If you really want to master Word, rather have it master you, you need to get stuck into understanding Styles.  It is very worthwhile, but it’s pretty technical and certainly too much to tackle here.

If you want to surprise yourself, type :) and see what happens. 

Let’s escape from Word.  Press Windows+E and up pops Windows Explorer.  Highlight a file in the menu and press F2 – now you can rename it without mouse fiddling.

Now open Internet Explorer (press Windows+I) and Alt+D will put you in the address box to type in your next destination.  Press Enter and off you go.  Press ESC to stop downloading a page (useful for those irritating pages with too much on them that take forever to arrive).  Press Ctrl+H to see where you have been, and go to the previous page by pressing the Backspace key.

Print Preview is worth looking at – press Alt then P then V and it appears.  This just shows you what you are about to print, but press Alt+U and you can change the rubbish it prints at the top and bottom of each page (Headers and Footers, in the jargon).

Finally, press Windows then U then Enter.  It closes your computer down in three simple keystrokes.  Now go for a walk, you’ve spent quite long enough staring at that screen.