Over the years we have seen many advances in user input devices on our computers. The invention of the mouse forever changed the way we get our daily tasks done, and along the way we have seen trackballs and newer devices, such as the Leap Motion device.
The one that really hasn't changed a whole lot is the keyboard. We still need them, still want them, and they still work. They have tried to take them away, even make them virtual, but they still exist and most of us still use them every single day.
The great thing about keyboards is that developers are always finding better and more convenient ways to use them. The following shortcut tips will likely help you with your everyday computing tasks and that's great news for everyone. We're not talking about the most used shortcuts of all here (CTRL+C to copy, CTRL+V to paste and CTRL+X to cut), we're talking about some that are a little more obscure but still very useful.
First, let's look at Windows users. Have you ever walked away from your keyboard (especially at work) and come back to your desk only to find that if you left Facebook open or some other application, a co-worker or family member has posted something or done something to your computer as a prank? Lock them out! Pressing the Windows key + L will lock your computer immediately.
Have you ever started using your computer and discovered weird characters coming out where normal punctuation normally lives? For example, pressing the forward slash (/) results in a foreign looking symbol, but the rest of the keys seem okay? You have likely pressed CTRL + SHIFT together by accident and have enabled a special mode. Simply press CTRL + SHIFT again and your keyboard will return to normal.
In newer versions of Microsoft Word, pressing the ENTER key results in a new paragraph where the spacing between paragraphs is greater than the spacing between individual lines. This is great for general writing, but what if you are trying to format a resume or entering an address? The gap between each line can be more than you want. Did you know if you press SHIFT + ENTER instead of just enter you will get single line spacing instead of paragraph spacing. Very handy.
Holding down the ALT key and pressing TAB brings up your current list of running applications and lets you switch between them. Continue to hold the ALT key down as you tap through the programs by pressing TAB again and again. It can be much quicker especially for applications that sometimes don't open traditional windows and don't appear on your task bar.
For you Mac users, I've got a few handy shortcuts as well. If you want a quick way to put your display to sleep (without shutting the computer off), simply press SHIFT + CTRL + Eject. My personal favourite is the ability to capture the current screen to a file with pressing Command + SHIFT + 3. You can even choose a part of the screen to capture by pressing Command + SHIFT + 4.
For Linux users, tips are tougher because you can have different graphical user environments active but here are a few that might work for you (with KDE and GNOME). ALT + F1 opens the system menu, which you can then navigate with the keyboard if your mouse is not working or too far away. CTRL + Z is undo the last operation, and CTRL + SHIFT + Z is redo (in case the undo didn't undo what you wanted it to).
What are your favourite keyboard shortcuts? Almost every single program has them, so consider learning them by looking closely at the menu options within your most often used programs. You will find the shortcuts within there, or within the built-in help. A little bit of research can save you a lot of time in the long run. Like pressing CTRL + A to select all, and then read this article again. Click.
Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm. You can reach him via-email at email@example.com or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.