• Windows menus have gotten more complex making it hard to find things
  • Keyboard shortcuts save time, frustration and get you results instantly
  • Shortcuts can make you look smart and boost productivity
  • Use shortcuts to win back more “me-time”
It’s only Tuesday. You can hear the frenzy of everyone tapping their keyboards. Impatient. Relentless. Like a steady rain drumming at the window.

You glance at your bloated email inbox, as Outlook pings with yet another email arriving.
You have 93 emails, 21 of which are marked urgent. Have these people ever thought of planning ahead?

You look at your screen with all of the multiple windows open. It’s total desktop digital clutter with programs and files all over the place.

Three Word documents, multiple open Outlook emails, two Powerpoint decks, five simultaneous chat conversations, a dozen browser tabs and dueling Excel files are all open jostling for your attention.

Just finding what you need among the mess is a challenge.

Finally, you find the weekly report and click maximize to make it full screen. You get started on proofreading it and see a ton of incorrect case usage where titles that should be all caps aren't and even others where the first word in the sentence isn’t capitalized.

You’ve seen better grammar and punctuation on tweets.

Now, you’ve got to go through and click on each incorrect case and retype it. It’s a mind-numbing sequence of clicking on the exact spot, deleting the error with a backspace key and then re-typing the correct capitalization.

This document is close to a hundred pages long and every page has got a bunch of these case errors.

You hunt all over the MS Word menu for a special function to do this, but after almost thirty minutes of searching, you just resign yourself to having to do it manually. This is the kind of shallow bullshit work that sucks.

This is going to be fucking torture.

This same kind of frustration happens to you not only in Word, but also in all the other Microsoft Office programs. There are so many menu commands, buttons, options, and selections and it gets worse every time Microsoft upgrades Office.

What you need is a lifeline. A way to do your work faster. Not massively, but enough to take the pressure off.

Enough to swing the pendulum back in your favor.

Enough to claw a few hours of personal time back again. 

First, A Little Flashback History

Way back in the day when the “Graphical User Interface” (GUI) was created, it was meant to replace text-based command line codes.

GUIs did this through graphical images (icons) that looked like files and folders on your screen and all you had to do was position your pointer arrow on top of the icon using a “mouse” and double-click it to open the file.

It was absolutely genius and few people saw the potential of its impact on not only computing but society at large.

Take a look at this 2-minute movie dramatization that tells the story of the GUI innovation.

VIDEO: Steve Jobs visits Xerox
YOUTUBE: kantaton
LENGTH: 2:42
Summary points:
  • Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center created the graphical user interface
  • A lot of times, ivory tower execs are fucking clueless and just don’t get it
  • Apple got a deal of century from Xerox
This image-based format was a boon to non-technical users, aka the general public. The user didn’t need to memorize and type out commands to do things. All they needed to do was “point and click” - that’s it.

This made using the “operating system” super easy for everyone. It brought computing to the masses.

Today, all computers use GUIs as the main way to interact. It’s Microsoft Windows for the business world and Mac OS for creative types.

As computers got more capable, programs got more complex and what was a simple menu started to grow larger and larger every year. It’s like how we went from a simple coffee shop menu to the Starbucks 20-foot wide billboard of coffee choices.

Windows and Office programs have gotten so packed out with menus, sub-menus, sub-sub-menus, etc. that you can’t find specific commands or functions easily. You end up wasting a ton of time hunting all over the place.

The solution?

It’s come full circle. It’s back to the keyboard. Only this time it’s for shortcuts. And, it’s how you can make your work life just a bit more productive and less frustrating.

It’s about doing more with less stress each day.

How Keyboard Shortcuts Save Time

The keyboard and the mouse are the main ways you interact with and control your computer. And, it’s been that way for decades and probably will be that way for several more decades until we can be “jacked in” like Neo in the Matrix.

The good news is that you don’t need to be techie to work your way around the desktop. In fact, you’re an expert already. Everything’s just a few mouse clicks away.

The challenge is that there’s just so much more shit to navigate through and programs have gotten so much more complex from increased functions and capabilities that it’s getting harder and harder to find and do stuff quickly.

Windows and Office have been around a long time and Microsoft has spent a lot of time and money making their products easier to use.

They know that users get frustrated with growing menus, sub-menus and a dizzying number of buttons, sliders, checkboxes, etc.

So, one of the ways that Microsoft is addressing this is via keyboard shortcuts for common actions and commands. We’re sure you already know the famous ones: our old friends copy (ctrl+c) and paste (ctr+v).

To give an idea of how much effort Microsoft has put in, here’s a count of the number of keyboard shortcuts there are in the main Office apps.

Excel = 311
Word = 315
Outlook = 356

The magic part is that shortcuts save time. This time adds up.

The problem is the pesky mouse does a lot of desk miles. It probably does more miles on your desk than you do on the treadmill.

If you’re typing, every time you move your hand to use the mouse you lose a little time, like a couple of seconds. Then, working the mouse and cursor to hunt and search for actions on the menu adds to that.

For example, even highlighting a word and clicking the bold button on the menu with your mouse takes 2 or 3 seconds. If you do a little math, you’ll see how much time you’re wasting.

Wasting 2 seconds every minute.

One full 8 hour day has 480 minutes.

You waste 960 seconds (2 x 480) or 16 minutes every workday.

With 240 working days a year, that brings the total wasted time to 3,840 minutes (16 x 240) or 64 hours in a year.

And that’s for only one mouse action. The total goes through the roof if you count every single time you use your mouse instead of a keyboard shortcut.

It’s not just time you save. It’s saving that little bit of frustration from having to hunt for the command. And that little bit can help you when you’re about to lose your shit.

The number of menu commands in all Office products is humongous. Your mission is not to memorize every single shortcut key - that’s impossible. The aim here is to get the most common ones memorized just like ctrl+c and ctrl+v.

It’s like the abbreviations you use when you’re speedwriting and taking fast notes. You know the most common acronyms and abbreviations.

The same can happen here.

If you spend just a little time learning the most useful shortcuts, you will save time, swear-jar money and even a bit of your sanity.

Keyboard Shortcuts Make You Look Like Pro

When working in a small team, people notice the small things you do as you work. If you are nominated as the typist, your colleagues will quickly realize that you are able to go faster because you use keyboard shortcuts.

Instead of mousing up to the toolbar and down again, or worse, scrolling backwards to delete a misplaced capital, you just do it in a single keyboard action.

After a few times they will stop and ask: “how did you do that?” You may even be tempted to give a wry smile as you slowly demonstrate the keystrokes.

The truth is that using keyboard shortcuts makes you look smart, boosting your personal brand at work.

Even subtle shortcuts, like Ctrl+B, make a difference. When you combine that with Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow to select a whole word (to the left) you look like a pro.

Any time colleagues notice you hitting ninja keyboard shortcuts they will often ask you to show them. Their reaction is a mix of surprise, reverence and admiration. 

The Most Useful Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts all work the same way - press and hold one key, then tap a second key. The first key is the modifier. It changes the behavior of the next key.

Most use a combination of two keys but there are also a growing number of versions that use a three-key combination that make your fingers feel like a game of Twister.

Use these often enough and they’ll become second nature.

Windows Operating System Shortcuts

This is the main operating system of the computer. It’s the desktop where everything is including all the programs, settings, files, etc. Windows has quite a few shortcuts and they do make life easier.

We’ve listed the most common and useful ones here. Give each one of these a try right now. It’ll be an enlightening little exercise.

The “Windows” key is the key in the lower left area of the keyboard that looks like four squares.

Win+E = Open File Explorer

Win+L = Lock your computer

Win+D = Show desktop

Win+Tab = Show open apps

Win+Up = Maximize window

Win+Down = Minimize window (2x to hide)

Win (press once) then type = Search on computer

Alt+Tab = Switch apps

Alt+F4 = Close all apps

Universal Keyboard Shortcuts

These are core keyboard shortcuts that work in all Microsoft Office programs and should be at the top of your memorization list. Everybody uses these functions every single day at work.

When you use these shortcuts with your left hand while working the mouse with your right hand, you’ll be lightning quick. It’s like chopping food with your right hand and simultaneously sorting it with the left.

Ctrl+A = Select All

Ctrl+X = Cut

Ctrl+C = Copy

Ctrl+V = Paste

Ctrl+Z = Undo

Ctrl+Y = Redo

Ctrl+S = Save

Powerpoint Keyboard Shortcuts

Here’s a crazy, totally unverified, factoid about Powerpoint - it’s estimated that about 30 million Powerpoint decks are made on a daily basis worldwide. That means somebody, somewhere on this planet, at this very moment that you’re reading this is making a Powerpoint presentation.

You’re part of this count too. And, if you can incorporate a few of the shortcuts below, you’ll be adding to the count evermore.

CTRL+M = Insert new slide

CTRL+D = Duplicate slide*

Ctrl+B = Bold

Ctrl+I = Italic

Ctrl+U = Underline

Ctrl+E = Center text

Ctrl+L = Justify left

Ctrl+R = Justify right

Ctrl+Shift+> = Grow text

Ctrl+Shift+< = Shrink text

Ctrl+Up = Move a slide up*

Ctrl+Down = Move a slide down*

Ctrl+Shift+Up = Move slide to the beginning*

Ctrl+Shift+Down = Move slide to the end*

*Click a slide first

Google Chrome Browser Shortcuts

Google’s Chrome browser is the market leader for web browsers. It’s got tons of capabilities and functions on its own. And if you consider the tons of other browser extensions, it can do a lot of other things that you never knew even existed.

However, for now, these shortcuts are just focusing on the core browser functions.

Ctrl+N = New browser window

Ctrl+T = Open New tab

Ctrl+Shift+T = Re-open last tab

Ctrl+Shift+K = Duplicate tab

Space = Page down 1 screen

Shift+Space = Page up 1 screen

Ctrl+J = Open downloads

Ctrl+H = Open history

Ctrl+D = Bookmark

Ctrl+ “+” = Zoom in

Ctrl+ “-” = Zoom out

Ctrl+0 = Reset zoom

Word Keyboard Shortcuts

There’s really only one word processor in town. And, it’s Microsoft Word. They pretty much have a lock on the market for standard document development software.

Remember that fucking annoying talking paper clip mascot thingy called Clippy?

That was the exact antithesis of shortcuts.

Use these and thoughts of Clippy will never come to mind.

Ctrl+B = Bold

Ctrl+I = Italic

Ctrl+U = Underline

Ctrl+E = Center

Ctrl+L = Justify left

Ctrl+R = Justify right

Ctrl+Enter = Insert page break

Shift+F3 = Cycles through cases

Shift+F5 = Go to last edit point

Ctrl+D = Open fonts dialog

Ctrl+K = Add/edit link

Ctrl+H = Search & Replace

Ctrl+Shift+> = Grow text

Ctrl+Shift+< = Shrink text

Ctrl+Shift+A = Change to all uppercase

Ctrl+Shift+K = Change to all lowercase

F7 = Run spell check

Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

Of all the standard Microsoft Office programs, Excel is the most complex in terms of features, functions and capabilities. Excel is a powerful spreadsheet program that can do a whole lot more than you think. Most of us are only just scratching the surface of its capabilities.

However for now, forget about complex macros and pivot tables. This is all about the core shortcuts to help you wrestle with spreadsheets and numbers.

Ctrl+O = Open workbook

Ctrl+W = Close workbook

Alt+H = Go to the Home tab

Alt+N = Go to the Insert tab

Alt+P = Go to the Page Layout tab

Alt+A = Go to the Data tab

Alt+W = Go to the View tab

Alt+M = Go to Formula tab

F4 = Repeat last action

Shift+F11 = New sheet

Alt+”=” = Calculate sum of a column

Ctrl+9 = Hide selected row

Ctrl+0 = Hide selected column

F2 = Edit a cell

Shift+F2 = Add/edit a comment

Outlook Keyboard Shortcuts

Email dominates our world and Microsoft’s Outlook is the main player here in the corporate email world.

If you can master a few of these shortcuts, you’ll be able to zip through email just a little bit faster than usual.

Ctrl+1 = Go to Mail

Ctrl+2 = Go to Calendar

Ctrl+Shift+I = Go to Inbox

Ctrl+Shift+F = Advanced Search

Ctrl=Shift+R = Reply All

Ctrl+Shift+A = Create an appointment

Ctrl+Q = Mark as read

Ctrl+U = Mark as Unread

F9 = Send/receive email

How To Train Yourself To Automatically Use Shortcuts

Now you have the list of shortcuts, the best tip is to choose just one and practice it. Don’t move on to the next shortcut until the current new one is memorized like copy/paste.

Start with one shortcut and use it every single day for a week, maybe even two weeks.

This will trigger your finger muscle memory through repetition so it will stick. It’s just like how your fingers can reach for and use the turn signal blinker without thinking about it.

Once you master that shortcut, choose another shortcut from the list. After a while you will have a whole arsenal of keys at your fingertips.

Wanna practice live online?

Check out ShortcutFoo. This is a website where you can train yourself. Think of it as an online dojo for practicing your ninja shortcut skills.

It’s actually pretty damn fun - give it try!

Here’s the Excel Dojo.

Here’s the Word Dojo.

Start out at level 1 and practice, then fight against another ninja to test your speed and skills. Warning - it’s definitely a time-wasting, cyberloafing, fun distraction.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts & Kick More Ass At Work

Working in any modern business with technology is often taken for granted. People assume everyone knows how to use Microsoft Windows and the Office Suite to be productive.

Sadly that is often simply just that - an assumption.

MS Office is a feature-rich product with more bells and whistles than a shop full of toy trains, called Bells and Whistles. It takes time to master all of the MS Office programs.

To tame it and get the most efficient use out of it, using keyboard shortcuts is essential.

Once you practice them and improve your skills, they will become automatic behavior like commuting. You just do it without thinking. It becomes second nature to you.

Now, instead of slaving away for hours fixing case and capitalization errors manually, you’re instantly zapping each one with the Shift+F3 keyboard shortcut. It’s all done in a matter of minutes instead of the entire day.

Mental fist pumps ensue. You gotta celebrate small victories like this all the time.

This saves you (and the company) at least several hours on just this one document. That’s got to be worth the effort.

Now, imagine finding more of these time-saving shortcuts. You’ll be getting in the zone and kicking even more ass.

If nothing else you will get a little kick of self-satisfaction.

Plus, winning back some time means you can have more “me time” in your life, improve your work-life balance and even make your job more fulfilling and awesomer.

So, get at it today and start with just one shortcut.

Feel Better,

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