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Top 25 most useful keyboard shortcuts for Windows

Organisation and productivity go hand-in-hand. It's hard to have one without the other.

Lately, I've been thinking about how and where I picked up certain organisational habits and best practices that I use every day.

Almost all of them were learned. I picked up a lot of them at one particular office job where I worked with two very sharp and organised women. They would teach me different skills by simply doing whatever it was I needed to learn while I looked over their shoulders. I kept fastidious notes. I wrote out lists of the things I needed to do, and referenced them over and over throughout the day, while I was working, until I had memorised all the steps. When I hit a block, I asked for help or looked up a solution online when it was available, annotated my notes, and got back to work.

I believe in notes.

I also believe in keyboard shortcuts.

Those notes I took were full of keyboard shortcuts. I wouldn't know half the keyboard shortcuts I use today if I hadn't kept the notes, referenced them while working, and practiced them over and over again.

When we need to get work done, we can't always stop, bookmark what we're doing, and research the problem or a solution on the spot. It interrupts the flow. One of the most effective ways to learn a skill and develop a habit is through repetition.

This article is all about giving you the tools you need to master 25 essential keyboard shortcuts. Get organised and learn them, and you'll find yourself much more productive. The Windows shortcuts I've picked operate predominately at the OS level, although a few work across many programs, and five are specific to browsers, where computer users tend of spend a lot of time.

Perhaps you know some of these keyboard shortcuts already, in which case you'll only need to learn a few new ones. But if you're not a "power user" and find yourself limping along with a mouse, print out this list of shortcuts (or copy them by hand on a new piece of paper, as writing often reinforces learning), highlight the ones you think you'll use most, and keep that paper next to your computer until your new skills are down pat.

Do note that while my list focuses on default shortcuts, you can change the defaults as well as create your own.

25 keyboard shortcuts

Note: Single letter keys are shown capitalised, but you do not have to hold Shift unless it's specified. You also don't have to type the plus sign – the plus sign just means push the keys on either side of it at the same time.

Commonly used OS-level shortcuts

1.Alt + Tab (toggle between programs)

2.Windows button + D (go to the desktop)

3.Windows button + Tab (show all active windows in taskbar – or cycle through Modern UI apps with Windows 8)

4.PrtScn (save screen capture to clipboard; "paste" the image into an image editing program to save it out as a file)

5.Windows button (opens applications menu – or Start screen with Windows 8)

Browser shortcuts

6.Ctrl + T (open a new tab)

7.Ctrl + Shift + T (reopens the tab you last closed; works multiple times)

8.F5 (reload page)

9.Backspace (go to previous page; works multiple times)

10.Ctrl + Tab (cycle between tabs)

Commonly used shortcuts in most applications

11.Ctrl + Z (undo last operation)

12.Ctrl + Y (redo last operation)

13.Crtl + O (open file)

14.Crtl + S (save)

15.Ctrl + W (close active window or file)

16.Crtl + Q (quit application)

Copy-and-paste delight

17.Ctrl + A (select all in active window; i.e. select all text on page)

18.Ctrl + X (cut to clipboard)

19.Ctrl + C (copy)

20.Ctrl + V (paste)

Find, select, and navigate text

21.Ctrl + F (find; helpful if you're searching for a particular word on a website or document)

22.Ctrl + Shift + down arrow (select until end of line)

23.Ctrl + Shift + up arrow (select until beginning of line)

24.Ctrl + Home (move cursor to top/start of document)

25.Ctrl + End (move cursor to bottom/end of document)