Windows 8 has incorporated perhaps the most significant interface changes since we first moved from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. With this in mind, a wealth of guides, tips and tricks have flooded the internet, some of which focus on making the Windows 8 experience more like Windows 7, others focusing more on making the most of the new interface, particularly on touchscreen devices.
Unfortunately, for those of us using touchscreen-less desktop PCs, many of the enhancements afforded by Windows 8 end up becoming hindrances. Today I’d like to talk about some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts that I use on a day-to-day basis to make my Windows 8 experience more…efficient. While most of these shortcuts were available in previous versions of Windows, they can really make an impact when used with Windows 8.
- Windows + L to lock your computer. I work with a hearty group of pranksters, and deal with some pretty privileged information at times. I’m also up from my desk a lot managing different things or putting out fires. I use Windows + L, utilizing the right windows key to lock my machine, which requires but a single movement and hand. Granted, it’s really not more difficult to press CTRL + ALT + DEL and then spacebar, but it’s nice to simplify the process.
- Windows + D to show the desktop. A good number of people are already familiar with this shortcut, whether it be to quickly minimize a Facebook game when the boss walks by or to clear clutter in a hurry. Nonetheless, it can be a very useful key combination, especially since “Show Desktop” is now a tile in Windows 8. Besides, it segues well into the next tip: the most efficient way to shut down/restart in Windows 8.
- ALT + F4 to shut down. Since we’ve lost the formal start menu, I’ve found that the quickest way to shut down is to give it the ol’ ALT + F4 from the Windows desktop, which will bring up the shut down options menu.
- Windows + R to run … almost everything. Personally, I tend to prefer keyboard shortcuts whenever they are more efficient than clicking on menus, and honestly, that’s most of the time. For the variety of applications and applets I use daily, I find Windows + R indispensable. For example, I use it for everything from opening folders (c:\Program Files (x86)\etc.) to opening Office apps (powerpnt.exe) to opening Device Manager (devmgmt.msc).
- CTRL + scroll wheel to change folder views. Ok, so this one is not a keyboard-only shortcut, but I still find it useful nonetheless. Clicking through drop downs and folder menus can be a pain. By holding CTRL and scrolling you can change icon size and change views. The cool part is this can be used in both folders as well as the desktop. If you’re messy at times (like me) this can help create more space for icons on your desktop.
- Windows + LEFT/UP/RIGHT to snap windows. I’ve been using multiple monitors for quite some time now, and often need to compare things side-by-side. If for example, I’m comparing 2 spreadsheets side-by-side (which, by the way, is easier to do if you launch a 2nd instance of Excel: Windows + R, “excel”) I want each sheet to occupy exactly half the space on my monitor.
Unfortunately, if I’m working on my right monitor, I can’t click and drag the spreadsheet to dock on the left with the mouse alone because it will just drag onto my secondary monitor. By using Windows + LEFT to dock left, Windows + RIGHT to dock right and Windows + UP to maximize (and Windows + DOWN to minimize), you can easily move and dock windows to your heart’s content (and look really cool doing it at the same time).
- Windows + E to open explorer. Sometimes, you just want to go through your folders. Windows + E opens up the familiar “My Computer” window with no fuss, even when you’ve got tiles on your screen.
- CTRL + Z can save your life. When I used to game, I went by the name Ctrl-Z, namely to talk smack like “when I’m through with you, you’re going to wish you could Ctrl-Z the whole thing”. Now that that phase of my life is (mostly) over, I still use CTRL + Z in a variety of contexts. Of course, I use it regularly within documents, spreadsheets and presentations, but I also use it when I misclick in Outlook and drop an email into the wrong folder or accidentally delete something in explorer. Never leave home without CTRL + Z.
Naturally, with just 8 tips, most of which aren’t actually specific to Windows 8, I haven’t even begun to cover all that is possible with the almighty keyboard. To those that are seeking to learn more shortcuts, I offer unto you the following link: http://bit.ly/1btz9iE 😉