Although it may be hard to believe now, there was a time when PC users would pick up a mouse and ask, “what does this do?” In the early days of computing, when there was no graphical interface, keyboards ruled the roost whether it was for entering information, changing settings, opening and closing documents or starting and quitting programs. But as Windows became more common, so did the mouse. It was just easier to use for people who weren’t experienced with computers.
Keyboard shortcuts are still built into most programs and operating systems, though. While you might be used to controlling some applications with the keyboard (such as the Ctrl and C command in most applications for copying text) it seems that fewer people know how to control Windows itself without a mouse. That’s a shame because using the keyboard is often easier than using the mouse; it introduces different movements, helping to prevent repetitive strain injury (RSI), makes it possible to use a PC even if the mouse breaks down and, best of all, it’s fast. In this feature we’ll show you how to do just that.
Let’s start with some basic navigation. We’re going to be using Windows XP Home Edition for this article but many of these keyboard tips and tricks will work just as well with Vista.
Have a close look at your keyboard. Touch-typists may not be as aware of the individual keys as those of the hunt-and-peck user but it’s a pretty standard typewriter-style layout with a set of extra function keys along the top, a separate keypad on the right (usually called the numeric keypad) and a bunch of editing and navigation buttons between the two main areas. Either side of the space bar along the bottom there’s also a selection of keys that can be combined with various others to get at some Windows features quickly and easily; we’ll get to those a bit later on.
To start, find the key with the Windows logo on it (at the bottom left-hand side of the keyboard) and press it once (some very old keyboards don’t have this key, so instead, hold down the key marked Ctrl and press the Esc key). This opens the Start menu. Let’s experiment a bit by using the arrow keys to move the cursor around the menu entries (it’s actually a highlight, but we’ll continue to call it the cursor for ease of reference).
In XP, pressing ‘up’ once takes the cursor to ‘Turn off the computer’, while pressing it again takes it sideways to ‘Log off’; press ‘up’ again and it will move to the ‘Run’ option. Thereafter pressing ‘up’ will move it up the right-hand menu and then, when it’s reached the top, down to the bottom of the left-hand menu. Keep pressing ‘up’ until the top left-hand menu item is highlighted and then press ‘up’ again; the cursor returns to the ‘Turn off the computer’ option.
In Vista, press the Windows key and then the right arrow to access shut-down and hibernation modes. Pressing up will take you into the list of recently used programs and Press the Esc key to close the Start menu.
Try launching a program like this press the Windows key, find the All Programs menu item and then press the right arrow key to open the submenu. Now go down to Accessories and press the right arrow again, then go down to Calculator and press Return to open the program.