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I am constantly stunned by how few people use keyboard shortcuts, because I've always felt that people who have internalized a core set realize a significant productivity boost.

  • How do I get better at recognizing which of my own activities are best done via keyboard shortcuts
  • How can I train myself to use them and make them unconscious habits?
  • How can I replace frequently used actions by keyboard shortcuts (probably a combination of good resources for looking up existing shortcuts and tools to create my own).

Update: I've significantly updated the focus of the question based on some excellent advice posted to meta.

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7  
Not a real question imho but a discussion topic... Unless this is a community wiki of shortcuts but then it is still too broad since there are different OSes, different applications etc. –  Dmitry Selitskiy Jul 26 '11 at 7:08
    
@AdamWuerl: I think it's worth combining the shortcut keys into one post; a lot of the less up-voted posts here are marked as low quality by the system and aren't really salvageable on their own... –  Tom Wijsman Aug 23 '11 at 11:15

22 Answers 22

up vote 26 down vote accepted

For this imo the unbeatable weapon of choice (Windows-only) is

AutoHotKey

It will boost your productivity. E.g. i open all my program windows by hitting CTRL+P (for PDF viewer), CTRL+F (for firefox), ALT+SHIFT+G to search a marked word in any Program with Google Scholar...and so on. Endless possibilities and huge user and scripts base.

You can also re-define any program specific shortcut to your own wishes to avoid shortcut conflicts of different software or make a self defined shortcut having the same function in different program (mostly developers try to bind shortcuts to distinct functions - e.g. SEARCH - but often shortcuts for this basic/similar functions differ)

Some examples:

~LButton & XButton2::AltTab
~LButton & XButton1::ShiftAltTab

for switching between open programs in your windows taskbar, just put it in the autohotkey.ahk script, needs 5 button mouse

#ifWinExist, Firefox
^!f::WinActivate,  Firefox
return

ATLGR+F will bring Firefox to front

A nice collection of basic configurable shortcuts is

http://www.heise.de/software/download/activaid/24593

based on autohotkey and giving you shortcuts for translation, searching, music player....

It also makes it possible to scroll in every visuable window without need to activate it, very useful for multimonitor setups.

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Just like with for example a custom keyboard layout, the greatest drawback of your own is offcourse every time you use a computer where your shortcuts are not available, you'll be slower or make mistakes. And those are the moments where people are watching you :) –  Konerak Aug 4 '11 at 15:08
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you could have your shortcuts on your usb stick and online somewhere, so if you have either your stick or internet you can get them. (You can compile the script into .exe so it works on computers without autohotkey installed as well) –  Niels Aug 6 '11 at 9:54
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Can't stress this enough. I mapped Alt+J, Alt+K, Alt+L, ALT+I for the arrow keys (right, down,left,up) and as a coder, it's improved my efficiency tremendously. That's just one shortcut key. Put it on dropbox so you have it everywhere. –  Gabe Aug 13 '11 at 19:04
    
I still think this is a great answer to the re-focused question, but you may want to consider some edits as "Your own" no longer flows directly from the question and you may have other things you'd want to change as well. –  Adam Wuerl Aug 21 '11 at 20:20

Alt + Tab. And not spending your time on trying to look up any others.

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Alt tab is a good one. Maybe you could expand on your point for the later part? Are you saying shortcuts are a waste of time? Or that having to memorize a lot of them is negative productivity? –  Jeanne Boyarsky Aug 4 '11 at 23:59
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@Jeanne: I read it as "and you should spend time looking for others", he probably shouldn't have negated that sentence... –  Tom Wijsman Aug 6 '11 at 13:00
    
Tom. Yes. There a few ways that could be interpreted so trying to give Thomas the opportunity to clarity. –  Jeanne Boyarsky Aug 7 '11 at 13:20

IMHO besides the "normal" shortcuts for cut/copy/paste, switch windows or applications, etc. the most useful help is a tool which lets you define your own shortcuts and provides an interface to the Operating System.

For MacOS X there is Quicksilver (see http://qsapp.com/) which is, in my opinion, the most useful utility ever created. It is extremely flexible and lets you do nearly everything:

  • opening files by typing parts of their name — also by selecting which application should be used for opening
  • browsing directories or your iTunes collection or
  • launching applications (by typing parts of their name)
  • accessing the menu commands of the active application (or another one) by typing a part of their name
  • renaming/moving/copying files
  • launching user-defined scripts
  • accessing the contacts in the OS X address book quickly, and displaying/browsing their phone numbers, addresses, mail addresses, etc.
  • executing shell script commands
  • and many many other things enabled by special plugins.

all with the keyboard!

It also lets you define short keys for special commands, and makes a "ranking" of the mostly used commands itself which influences the sorting order.

Using Quicksilver is for me the biggest productivity boost — I feel that when working on other computers (Windows PCs or other Macs without QS) how important and useful it is for my workflow.


AFAIK there is nothing comparable for MS Windows. Launchy was also quite powerful, but I often had performance problems and it had by far not the large number of features like Quicksilver.
Here is a list of 10 windows "alternatives" to Quicksilver.

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Years ago, I remember watching a Google Tech Talk by Quicksilver's creator and I've wished there was an equivalent tool for Windows. There is however a LifeHacker article on 10 Windows Alternatives to QS –  Adam Wuerl Jul 24 '11 at 18:35
    
IMO Windows 7 now does most of what you list above: WIN+"fire"+ENTER and firefox opens, even files/scripts if you index them. Plugins are similar to windows gadgets. Is it a script language like autohotkey for Win/Linux or more a closed source program with plugins you can develop yourself like firefox? –  Hauser Jul 24 '11 at 19:23
    
@Hauser: hm, I don't know Windows7. Quicksilver is an Open Source application (no scripting language, but can launch AppleScripts like any other file) with many plugins. Will WIN+"fire"+ENTER also remember that you when searching "fire" mostly did not open firefox, but e. g. the "fi e r c e monsters" game and propose this as the first search result next time? The first link, Adam Wuerl posted in his comment shows an interesting presentation of Quicksilver's original creator, N. Jitkoff with many live examples of Quicksilver's power and flexibility. –  Martin Jul 24 '11 at 20:59
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On windows, I have sworn by Launchy for a number of years now. Can't imagine life without it. –  Vic Goldfeld Dec 15 '11 at 6:05

Ctrl+Shift left (or right) to select the last (or next) word, which you can then copy or delete,

Ctrl+Shift home to select the sentence up to the cursor, which you can then copy or delete.

It does take a while getting used to, though.

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My favourites are:

Ctrl + Delete: delete the word after the cursor

Ctrl + Backspace: delete the word before the cursor

Especially the last one is super handy: made a typo? Do the shortcut and the word is gone. IMO, if you can type fast, typing a word again is way faster than correcting your mistake.

It doesn't work in all software though (notepad for example) but it works in any decent software (Word, any browser, IDE's)

On the mac:

Alt + : delete the word after the cursor

Alt + or Control + : delete the word before the cursor

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Conventions

  • + means press and hold or press the keys together (at the end it means repeated pressing will repeat the command)
  • - means press the keys sequentially
  • / means multiple next keys work, potentially with different results

Copy/Paste

  • Ctrl+A select all
  • Ctrl+X cut
  • Ctrl+C copy
  • Ctrl+V paste

File management

  • Ctrl+S save
  • Ctrl+Shift+S save as
  • Ctrl+O open
  • F2 rename selected file

Navigation/selection/editing

  • Ctrl+Home move to beginning of document
  • Ctrl+End move to end of document
  • Ctrl+left/right+ move one word to the left/right
  • Ctrl+Shift+left/right+ select one word to the left/right
  • Ctrl+Delete delete the word after the cursor
  • Ctrl+Backspace delete the word before the cursor
  • Shift+Tab+ tab backwards
  • Shift+Home select line to left of cursor
  • Shift+End select line to right of cursor
  • Ctrl+Shift+Home/End select from cursor to begin/end of document

Windows

  • Win open the start menu
  • Alt+Tab+ switch between windows
  • Alt-   toggles menu focus to enable keyboard navigation (e.g. Alt-F to enter the File menu)
  • Alt+F4 Close Window
  • Win+E Open windows explorer
  • Win+ text +Enter search for anything matching the text. great to launch programs and open recent documents
  • Win+ "number" (AFAIK Windows 7 only) open application on position "number" in the taskbar
  • Win+L Lock screen
  • Win+D Return to desktop (minimize all windows)
  • Ctrl+Shift+Esc open task manager (with only one hand)
  • Shift+ Right-Click in explorer shows copy-path option
  • Win+ Left/Right Arrow moves the window to take the left/right half of the screen
  • Win+ Up Arrow full screen
  • Win+ Down Arrow windowed view if full screen, minimizes if pressed again

Linux (Debian / Ubuntu)

  • Win+C Mapped to open gnome-terminal
  • Ctrl+Shift+T Open new gnome-terminal tab
  • Ctrl+D Logout (and close the terminal (tab) if using a terminal emulator)
  • Ctrl+R Bash reverse history search
  • ! ! Bash reference to last command. Especially useful after forgetting to execute a command with sudo. Just type sudo !!
  • Win+Space Mapped to focus action of the deskbar-applet
  • Ctrl+Alt+L Lock screen

Firefox

  • Ctrl+T new tab
  • Ctrl+W close tab
  • Ctrl+Shift+T undo close last tab
  • Ctrl+L Jump to the address bar. When combined with the smart keywords makes for a lightning fast flow (e.g. Ctrl+L followed by g ubuntu will search for ubuntu on google)
  • Ctrl++/-/0 increase/decrease/reset zoom
  • Ctrl+F5 forced refresh

Gmail

  • j/k next/previuos message
  • g-i goto inbox
  • c compose new message
  • # delete message
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I use all these and think they're essential. Of course, there are a lot more I use in Windows and Visual Studio. –  a_hardin Jul 27 '11 at 14:26
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+1 your effort.. –  Soner Gönül Jul 29 '11 at 12:45
    
@Soner and FYI to those unfamiliar with SE, this is community wiki now so upvotes don't give rep, they just push the answer higher up when sorted by votes. –  Adam Wuerl Jul 29 '11 at 14:33
    
@Adam Thanks for clarification. Didn't know that! –  Soner Gönül Jul 29 '11 at 16:30
    
I sometimes use Ctrl+Tab to switch tabs in my browser quickly. –  muntoo Dec 9 '11 at 6:42

I have read all answers and have seen a lot of familiar shortcuts for different applications (and operating systems)

sidenote: windows key + x is great for Windows 8 by the way.

but I have stumbled upon KeyRocket to learn new shortcuts and am curious about your opinions. A similar product is KeyCue

I also have found keyboard jedi but that is more to run in the background if a keyboard jedi takes over your pc and you can see what keys he just hit.

here is a cheatsheet with all microsoft Word shortcuts

Eve is a similar application for OS X that lets you know when you've done something with the mouse for which there is also a keyboard shortcut.

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It's not keyboard shortcut, but clicking on tab with a mouse wheel, will close the particular tab. Keyboard equivalent is CTRL+W For opening new tab in browsers, use CTRL+T For reopening last closed tab in browser user CTRL+SHIFT+T

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Ctrl+Tab moves to next tab in your browser and adding Shift makes you go backwards. –  JP Hellemons Nov 16 '12 at 9:38

I'll go ahead and say vi keybindings, since no one will let the cat out of the bag.

It's actually something I've wanted to learn for some time now, but have only yesterday gotten knee-deep on all this vi/vim vs. emacs discussion reading, and today have started my path on to learn vim and then actually use it on top of emacs (and ESPECIALLY org-mode).

What I find amazing about vi is the paradigm of modal editing, lost on modern software. For me, a touch-typist, this provides so much more power over Ctrl/Alt keyboard shortcuts, and that much relief from finger strain too.

But since actually using vim has limited context and requires a leap of faith, I'll share some of my findings which bring the vi paradigm into modern software:

  • The sexy cross-platform code editor Sublime Text 2, which has been converting even hard-core TextMate users, has recently released the sexy-named Vintage Mode, providing vi modes/keybindings.

  • Google Chrome currently sports two user-created extensions that aim to bring vi-inspired navigation to our dear browser: Vimium, the more popular one, and Vrome. They are inspired by Vimperator which was available on Firefox, which in turn was the vi equivalent of the emacs-minded Conkeror web browser.

I really think browsing the web entirely with the keyboard ought to be, for the chief of computer users, the single most useful application of keyboard shortcuts in all of computer activity.

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There's also the [pentadactyl][1] addon for Firefox that transforms it into a vim-empowered browser. [1]:dactyl.sourceforge.net/help/pentadactyl –  Dalker Dec 19 '11 at 19:46

To train yourself to use keyboard shortcuts, unplug your mouse for a few days.

Not only will it force you to use keyboard shortcuts, but you will quickly find out where your applications require you to point and click, and give you an incentive to find alternatives. For example I use the Pentadactyl plugin for Firefox, which gives vim-like keybindings when browsing.

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+1 It will slow you down at first, but becomes worth it very quickly. Also, keep a "cheat sheet" of all the keyboard shortcuts (and ways you found of navigating) for each program all in one text file which you can quickly access with your keyboard, and keep adding to it... –  AndyHasIt Dec 13 '11 at 9:57
    
Good one. Remember, if you use Google services, e.g., Gmail, entering a question mark will popup a keyboard shortcut list in most Google apps. –  Charlie Wilson Nov 25 '12 at 10:45

My favorite are j and k, to move between items. It works in the original program (Vi), but also in Google Reader, Gmail and a few other programs.

Note that in the popular Google Apps, hitting Shift + / or Ctrl + / brings up a helpful shortcuts help screen =)!

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Thats new to me. Thanks. Maybe it would be neat if you could jump answers on SE with these sc keys. –  Simon Aug 7 '11 at 2:53
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@Simon: well, there's a script for SO, it could probably be adapted to any SE site. Personally I don't think SE needs it, since most question only have a couple of answers. –  André Paramés Aug 7 '11 at 12:28

Windows Snap: Wikipedia's Feature new to Windows 7 page says

  • Windows key + Left snaps the current window to the left edge of the screen.
  • Windows key + Right snaps the current window to the right half of the screen.

I tried this on a dual-monitor setup and that works. However there is a "middle" setting, if you are at the right it will first go to the "restore" size, then the next press will go to he left. Also these help:

  • Windows key + Shift + Left and Windows key + Shift + Right move the current window to the left or right display.
  • Windows key + Up maximizes the current window.
  • Windows key + Down if current window is maximized, restores it; otherwise minimizes current window.

From this Super User question.

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Some handy shorctucs that spare out a lot of right click menus:

  • Copy: Ctrl + C

  • Cut: Ctrl + X

  • Paste: Ctrl + V

  • Select All: Ctrl + A

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To get a path of a file in Windows Explorer:
Shift + Right-Click = "Copy as Path" in the context menu.

This is great built in command for windows 7 (all versions).
Lets you copy the path of any file to the clipboard in an easy manner.

enter image description here

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This does not work for me. And i dont see 'copy as path' anywhere either. (win7) –  Niels Aug 6 '11 at 10:26
    
Works for me on 3 separate Win7 machines. Hold Shift and right click any file/folder and you should see the above image. –  Simon Aug 7 '11 at 2:51
    
oh.. now i see it. Maybe i overlooked it.. Thanks anyway –  Niels Aug 27 '11 at 10:53

Eclipse Below are list of eclipse shortcuts which I use almost everyday.

  • Ctrl+D - Delete Line
  • Ctrl+Shift+R - Open Resource
  • Ctrl+Shift+T - Open Type
  • Ctrl+1 - Quick Fix
  • Ctrl+Shift+O - Organise import
  • Ctrl+L - Go to Line
  • Ctrl+space - Autocomplete
  • Ctrl+O - show class members. Pressing Ctrl + O again shows inherited members too
  • Ctrl+H - Loads Search Box
  • Ctrl+Shift+/ or Ctrl+Shift+C- comment block of code
  • Ctrl+Shift+\ - uncomment code
  • Ctrl+E- Menu for opened files
  • F4- Shows class hierarchy
  • F5 - step into
  • F6 - Step to next line
  • F7 - Step out of the method
  • F8 - Move to next breakpoint
  • F11 - Debug last run

References

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If you have Google Desktop, CTRL/CTRL (ie. hit double click the CTRL key) brings up a google search box, and you can paste or type something in. It's amazingly fast, since you can do a google search without picking up the mouse.

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Im a big fan of Google Desktop, specifically for this purpose, but I would argue that Windows 7 has killed the need for this anymore. Just tap windows key and search. –  Simon Aug 7 '11 at 2:54

Linux (Debian / Ubuntu)

  • Win+C Mapped to open gnome-terminal
  • Ctrl+Shift+T Open new gnome-terminal tab
  • Ctrl+D Logout (and close the terminal (tab) if using a terminal emulator)
  • Ctrl+R Bash reverse history search
  • ! ! Bash reference to last command. Especially useful after forgetting to execute a command with sudo. Just type sudo !!
  • Win+Space Mapped to focus action of the deskbar-applet
  • Ctrl+Alt+L Lock screen

Windows

  • Win+E Open windows explorer
  • Alt+F4 Close Window
  • Win+ text +Enter search for anything matching the text. great to launch programs and open recent documents
  • Win+ "number" (AFAIK Windows 7 only) open application on position "number" in the taskbar
  • Win+L Lock screen

Firefox

  • Ctrl+T new tab
  • Ctrl+W close tab
  • Ctrl+Shift+T undo close last tab
  • Ctrl+L Jump to the address bar. When combined with the smart keywords makes for a lightning fast flow (e.g. Ctrl+L followed by g ubuntu will search for ubuntu on google)
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for Windows I use: Windows key + index nr of tool on taskbar

for instance, if i have Firefox pinned as tirth app from the left on my taskbar:

windows key + 3 will launch Firefox

this is a default windows shortcut.

the rest of the shortcuts are already listed here.

in Firefox I use: pinning tabs as application tab and navigate to tabs by index with Ctrl + nr.

you cannot accidentally close application tabs in Firefox and they take less space also manage a lot of tabs with ctrl + shift + e to go to panorama.

ps. most ppl list alt + tab in Windows and ctrl + tab in Firefox but if you add the shift key, you can navigate backwards! PRO Tip!

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Ctrl+s will save you more time than all other keyboard shortcuts combined.

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If you want to jump in the deep end with text editing, try Vim (and vimtutor) for text-only documents (no formatting). vim.sourceforge.net –  Barbarrosa Jul 27 '11 at 5:39

The shortcuts that give me the biggest boost in productivity are those I use when navigating text.

Home / End - Move to the beginning or end of the current line

Ctrl+Home / End - Move to the beginning or end of the document

Ctrl+Shift+Home / End - Select text from cursor to the beginning or end of the document

Ctrl+Left / Right - Move by word

Ctrl+Shift+Left / Right - Select text by word

Ctrl+Delete / Backspace - Delete the word to the right or left of the cursor

Ctrl+A - Select all text

Ctrl+F - Search (in most environments, like browsers, text editors, etc)

I also have a bunch of custom AutoHotkey shortcuts and use FARR to launch applications quickly.

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F2 to rename a selected file or folder in Windows. It saves you the time-wasting and painstaking ordeal of "click-wait-click" to rename something.

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Good one. I'll try to remember this next time! –  John Jul 29 '11 at 16:50

Ones that cover the most frequent tasks within your most-used applications.
With any but these is takes more time to remember the shortcuts than it would to execute the action via the GUI.

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protected by Adam Wuerl Dec 12 '11 at 16:59

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