There may be no clearer sign of a computer novice than the failure to use keyboard shortcuts.
My mom, for instance, has been using a computer regularly for only a few years, and it can be painful for a laptop jockey like me to watch her at work. For instance, to print, she slowly drags her mouse to the toolbar while whispering to herself "file, print."
I don't want to intrude, but c'mon: There's a faster way to do that.
Alex Glazebrook has taught many older newbies the wonders of keyboard efficiency as director of training and technology at Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), a group that creates programs to empower senior citizens. And he assures me that everyone can benefit from learning keyboard shortcuts—as long as they have a patient teacher.
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"You have to remember that people haven't had the luxury of growing up in a digital age," Glazebrook says. "You have to think about it like they're learning a new language."
It really doesn't matter how old you are. Students who learn a few keystroke shortcuts end up loving the speed and feeling of empowerment, Glazebrook says. He has recommendations for shortcuts everyone should know, regardless of their experience level. We've also added a few of our own.
This list is a great starting point, whether you're trying to speed up your own computer work or help a friend or relative gain new skills.
There are dozens of keyboard shortcuts available for your Mac or Windows PC. And the two platforms share them. Most require only a swap between Ctrl (for Windows) and ⌘ (for Macs).
The simplest of these require users to press Control (Ctrl) or Command (⌘) along with just one other key. For instance: Ctrl or ⌘ along with P to print, C to copy, V to paste, and S to save.
But even these can be difficult to remember. If you're coaching a friend or relative, Glazebrook advises you to give him or her plenty of context. For instance, show how using the commands to copy and paste can help move text around in an email.
Printing out a list of keyboard commands can also be very helpful, especially the commands that require the user to press more than two keys at the same time.
New Windows and Tabs
If you're looking at a web page in a browser, you can open new windows by depressing Ctrl or ⌘ plus N. That's a fairly common trick for the computer-savvy, but many users don't know that it also opens new windows in Mac's Finder and File Explorer on Windows. (The same combination opens fresh files in Microsoft Word or Excel.)
Swapping out the N for a T will create tabs in the same window. And yes, this also works with Mac Finder and Windows File Explorer. Creating tabs helps desktops from becoming too cluttered with open windows.
Now that you've opened a lot of new windows and tabs, there's also an easy way to hide them, either to clean up the clutter or to preserve your privacy when a nosy co-worker ambles by.
On a Windows machine, the combination is the Windows key + M.
For Apple users, hold down ⌘ + Option + H + M.
Looking through drives and folders for documents is a time-consuming task, especially if you have hundreds (or thousands) of files.
If you know the name of the file you’re looking for, a quick Windows key + S on a PC will pull up File Explorer (or summon Windows's virtual assistant, Cortana). Pressing ⌘ + Space on a Mac opens a search window that lets you hunt through your entire computer, no matter what application you're in.
Searching for specific text inside a document or on a web page is slightly different. Use Ctrl + F on Windows computers, or if you're on a Mac, depress ⌘ + F. (If you're on the computer's desktop rather than inside a particular window, those key combinations will call up the Mac Finder.)
When you see a juicy social media post that's sure to be taken down soon, you’ll be glad to have screen shots in your arsenal. They're even more useful for jobs like recording transaction numbers if you've placed an online order, or getting a snapshot of an online chat with a sales rep.
There are two kinds of screen shot. First, you can take an image of your entire work area or desktop. If you're running Windows 10 on a PC, press the Windows Key + Print Screen. On older PCs, you may need to press the Windows key + Ctrl + Print Screen or Windows key + Fn + Print Screen instead.
On a MacBook, hold ⌘ + Shift + 3.
The other kind of screen shot captures just a portion of the screen. On a Mac, press ⌘ + Shift + 4, and then use your mouse to drag open a box around the section you want to include in the image. The screen shot will be taken when you release the mouse.
On Windows computers, you do the same thing by opening the built-in Snipping Tool.
When your operating system hits a snag, it’s usually because of an unresponsive app.
When waiting it out doesn’t work, close the troublesome application by using Ctrl + Alt + Esc on a PC; this will open Task Manager. On an Apple computer, the key combination is ⌘ + Option + Esc, and the box that opens is labeled Force Quit Applications.
This is also a good way to see a list of apps currently running and using up your computer’s memory.
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