Best Keyboard Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier

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When you spend a good part of your day sitting on a computer, your productivity highly depends on how quickly you can move your fingers across a keyboard. Most people, even if they are not exclusively working on the computer, spend an average of 37 minutes per day on the computer. 

If you’re not in the habit of using shortcuts when typing on the computer, you’re probably averaging out a lot more minutes spent in front of a screen solely because of a lack of efficient functionality on the keys. And let’s face it, in a society in which efficiency is key, working quickly on a computer is a huge benefit. 

Keyboard shortcuts go back to the 60s, when computer technology was just starting out. Initial designs of the computer keyboard were made with telegraph operators in mind so that they could translate morse code quicker by typing in key shortcuts. 

It’s also important to note that, in the early stages of computer invention, only typewriters were available. The layout of the keyboard is based on the layout of original typewriter keyboards.

There is a lot of history behind the creation of computer shortcuts. Think about all the symbols, letters, and spaces we use when we write by hand—exclamation points, asterisks, percentage signs. The inventors that came up with the design of both typewriters and, eventually computers, needed a design that would enable them to include everything we used to convey speech. 

Before the mouse, shortcuts were the fastest way to accomplish a lot by doing very little. Even today, despite the fact that the computer mouse is still prevalent in the market unless tethered to a desktop computer, most people continue to use shortcuts when working on their laptops. 

It doesn’t matter if you have a Windows computer or a Mac. There’s a shortcut for you, no matter what.

Who Created Keyboard Shortcuts?

His name was Larry Tesler, and he is responsible for most of the keyboard shortcuts that we use today. Born in 1945, he quickly became a Silicon Valley pioneer by creating what he called “modeless editing”—a way to help users switch modes between writing and editing. 

Tesler revolutionized keyboard technology and shortcuts back in the 70s while he was a part of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The Xerox Research Center was a division of the company that formed the very famous copy machines used until recently. 

While there, Tesler aimed to make the computer experience much more user-friendly than it was at the time. He wanted users to be able to swiftly move through the various commands available on the computer and make the most out of the time they were spending in front of a screen.

Tesler wanted the keyboard to feel inclusive and not something that only his Silicon Valley peers could use with ease. Concepts like moving text through cut and paste, or being able to insert text in particular sections of your text by simply clicking on it, were his ideas. 

In fact, he was so dedicated to wanting to teach the next generation about his findings, that he eventually formed his own software company and prioritized the education of technology so that everyone could become more tech-savvy and embrace computers as the main aspect of our lives. 

Who Decided the Order of Letters on a Keyboard?

Shortcuts highly depend on the layout of the keyboard. Though there are mild variations with the layout, most computer keyboards look somewhat the same. 

The keyboard, as we know it, has a name—it’s called the QWERTY keyboard layout. Believe it or not, the keyboard layout that is still in use today was invented in 1874, when the now-defunct Remington typewriter first came into the market. 

Christopher Latham Sholes created the key arrangement to help with the logistics of the typewriter. You see, the keys on a typewriter are mounted on metal arms. The original arrangement of the keys had them placed with the second half of the alphabet in order on the top row, and the first half in order on the bottom row. When the keys were pressed too quickly, the keyboard would jam. 

Sholes decided it would be best to rearrange the keys to allow for the most common combinations of keys, such as “ST,” to be separated so that it would allow for faster typing with no jams. 

Top Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows

Though most keyboard shortcuts are pretty much the same, there are some slight variations between Mac and Windows computers. These are the top used shortcuts for Windows.

  1. CTRL+Z: Undo
    You can always fix any mistake by undoing the last change. Instead of having to click around or go through the menu options of your document, you can always rely on CTRL+Z. This combination of keys will quickly undo the very last change you made within the document or file.
  2. CTRL+W: Close
    Want a way to quickly shut down the browser, tab, or file? This shortcut will shut down the last thing you clicked on in a matter of seconds. It works just about everywhere on your computer.
  3. CTRL+A: Select All
    This shortcut is incredibly useful when working with documents, files, or design. By pressing on those two keys, you will be able to select entireties of documents or files in the blink of an eye. A lot faster than having to manually select everything with a mouse or on the touchpad.
  4. CTRL+C: Copy
    Instead of having to right-click on your mouse or double tap on the touchpad, you can just select the section or the file that you want to copy and press CTRL+C. This will copy the last thing selected until you paste it somewhere.
  5. CTRL+V: Paste
    This command will allow you to paste whatever you last copied or cut within a document or files. The cool thing is that you don’t have to paste anything right away. As long as you haven’t clicked anywhere else after copying something, technically you could go get a coffee and will still be able to paste the last thing you copied.
  6. ALT+TAB: Switch Apps
    This is one of the best shortcuts for Windows computers. It helps users switch apps quickly without having to click around. With this combination of keys, you can easily flip through all of your open windows. 

Top Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac

Keep in mind that the same shortcuts mentioned above can be used with Mac computers as well. The only change is that instead of pressing a “CTRL” button (which doesn’t exist on a Mac), you will press “Command,” instead.
However, there are some Mac-specific shortcuts that work well with Mac computers. Here are the best ones.

  1. COMMAND + M: Minimizing
    Mac computers basically look like an iPhone. If you want to minimize or “dock” the front app window, then this command will help you do so by helping you minimize the active app or browser. If you wanted to close all the tabs open, then the best shortcut is OPTION+COMMAND+W.
  2. COMMAND + Q: Quitting
    In Mac computers, when you click on the little red button on the corner, you’re just closing that window but it’s not quitting the entire program. If you want to close an app or program altogether, then this combination of keys will help you do just that.
  3. OPTION + COMMAND + ESCAPE: Force Quitting
    Whenever a program or file becomes unresponsive, you’ll want to force quit it so that you can either reopen it or move on to another task altogether. If a program is unresponsive, it slows down the entire computer. This is why it’s always better to close it and start over.
  4. COMMAND + H: Hiding Apps
    If you ever want to hide a particular window, this trick is the one to do it quickly. It’s also a great way to declutter your screen by only keeping one app active. This can also improve productivity when spending time on the computer. Sometimes hiding apps or closing them can help users regain focus.
  5. COMMAND + SHIFT + A/U/D/H/I: Opening Folders in Finder
    These combinations will make it a lot easier for you to open folders in certain parts of your computer. Things like Applications (A), Utilities (U), Desktop (D), Home (H), and iCloud (I) will be easier to manage and open when you need to look at something quickly. 

Considering how much time we all spend on the computer, whether it’s for entertainment, work, or school, having knowledge of all the best shortcuts for your computer can help maximize your experience in front of the screen. 

Hotkeys and shortcuts help users work faster and more efficiently. If you added up how much longer it takes to click around the computer instead of using shortcuts, you would be surprised at how much time it takes away from productivity and usability. 

Computers are here to make our lives easier. Mastering simple combinations of keys can really aid in making that happen for all users.