Sometimes shaving even a short amount of time off your regular tasks can add up to save you hours in the long run. Fortunately, both PCs and Macs offer lots of keyboard shortcuts to cut seconds off your repetitive tasks, and knowing them can help boost your productivity and the speed of your work.
I’ve put together a list of what I think are the 17 most useful computer keyboard shortcuts. While it may seem like a pain to have to learn and remember these, each shortcut performs a task that you probably use multiple times a day. By learning these easy keyboard shortcuts, you may be surprised at just how much the flow of your work improves! Instead of fiddling about with a mouse or keypad, trying to click in the right place several times, you can just hit two or three keys and perform an action much more quickly.
PCs and Macs do have slightly different shortcuts, so make sure you learn the right set for your preferred computer. Or if, like me, you regularly use both, you may have to remember one for each!
Note: in all cases below, you will need to press two or three keys at the same time to activate the shortcut. Each heading indicates the separate keys you need to press, separated by a ‘+’ sign. You don’t need to hold down the + sign as well.
So, Ctrl + C means hold down two keys, the one that says ‘Ctrl’ and the one that says ‘C’.
Ctrl + C / Cmd + C
Copy highlighted text, a file or a folder so you can paste it somewhere else. For example, you might have a chunk of text that you want to move from a document to an email.
When you copy, the original item (or items) remains where it is and a duplicate is created once you paste it elsewhere.
Ctrl + X / Cmd + X
Cut highlighted text, a file or a folder so that you can move it elsewhere. For example, you may move a file from one location to another.
When you cut, the item (or items) is removed from its original location and put in a new place once you paste it.
Ctrl + V / Cmd + V
Paste text, a file or a folder to a new place. After you’ve copied or cut your item, you’ll want to put it somewhere new. Place your cursor where you want to paste (for example, in a new folder), and then hit Ctrl + V and you’ll see you’re item appear there.
When used on text or a spreadsheet cell, this shortcut will paste the text exactly as it was copied.
Ctrl + Shift + V / Cmd + Shift + V
Paste plain text. So if you copied text that had lots of formatting (e.g. size, colour and font), this will remove that, leaving you with stripped down text using your document’s default formatting.
Ctrl + S / Cmd + S
Save a document. If the document is already saved, the updates will be saved under the same filename. If you haven’t saved the file before now, you’ll be prompted to select a location and filename.
Ctrl + Shift + S / Cmd + Shift + Option + S
‘Save as’. You will be prompted to pick a location and filename under which to save your document, regardless of whether you have saved before.
Ctrl + Z / Cmd + Z
Undo an action. If you’ve accidentally deleted a file or a a piece of text, for example, you can get it back. You can use this multiple times in a row to retreat back through multiple edits, though be aware that most programmes will only allow you to go back a certain number of stages.
Ctrl + Y / Cmd + Shift + Z
Redo an undone action. Imagine you’ve re-written a section of text, decided you preferred an earlier version, and hit Ctrl + Z to undo your changes. But you hit that shortcut too many times. Ctrl + Y is there to bring you back to where you want to be. Basically, Ctrl + Z / Cmd + Z goes backwards and Ctrl + Y / Cmd + Shift + Z goes forward.
Ctrl + Arrow / Option + Arrow
Move your cursor either to the end or start of a paragraph (using up/down arrows), or to the start or end of a word (using the right/left arrows). This works similarly on spreadsheets, but you move to the start or end of grouped cells (grouped based on whether or not they contain text).
Ctrl + Shift + Arrow / Option + Shift + Arrow
Like Ctrl + Arrow but also highlights all the text/cells that you move between. This can be used in a similar way in folders to select multiple documents.
Shift + Arrow / Shift + Arrow
Highlight the text up to the point above where your cursor currently is (using up/down arrows). Or highlight one letter to the left or right (using left/right arrows) of your cursor. In spreadsheets, highlight one cell in the direction of the arrow you use. This also works with files and folders.
Alt + Tab / Cmd + Tab
Shows a preview of all your currently open windows. Click the Tab key multiple times while holding down the Alt key to select the window you want, then let go of both to open that window.
Ctrl + Alt + Tab
Like Alt + Tab, but the preview doesn’t close when you release all the keys. You need to press Enter to select the window you’d like to open.
Ctrl + P / Cmd + P
Open the print dialogue box to select options for printing a document.
Ctrl + N / Cmd + N
Open a new document. If you have a spreadsheet open, the new document will be another spreadsheet. If you have a word processor open, the new document will be the same. This also works for emails, website browsers and folders.
Ctrl + Shift + N / Cmd + Shift + N
This one is a bit unusual because it has a few functions. I use it primarily to create a new folder. You can also use it in a web browser to open private browsing, and in a word processor, it will change the text from a heading style to the default body style.
Ctrl + A / Cmd + A
Select all the content of a page, or all items in a folder
This may seem like a lot of new information to memorise, but you can simply pick a few that you think you’d use most often and start there. You’ll find yourself using them so regularly that the shortcuts will become second nature to you in no time at all!