10 Computer Shortcuts: Obvious to Techies but Unknown to the Rest (Plus: New World Record)

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I’ll cover my head in shame: I only discovered keyboard shortcuts about a year ago. There, I said it.

Here are a few shortcuts that take out excessive mouse use and — cumulatively over thousands of computer movements per week — save hours and hours.

There a million and one “shortcuts,” but learning them all takes forever. The headache savers below are those I use almost every time I touch a computer. Though self-evident to most techies, I hope a few Luddites like me will find them a revelation. If using a Mac, use the Cmd key instead of Ctrl…

For Firefox (get off of the slow and virus-prone Internet Explorer):

Ctrl-K - Takes you directly to the search box at the upper right, where you can search Google, Amazon, and more with one click (Enter)

Ctrl-L or F6 (latter PC) – Takes you to the URL field to type in a new web address (Hint: just type in the name of a company or person — no “www” or “.com” — and hit enter to find their website, if it exists)

Ctrl-T – Opens a new tab

Ctrl-D – Bookmarks the page

Ctrl-+ – Increases font size on any webpage

Ctrl-[-]- Decreases font size

Ctrl-0 [zero] – Returns font to original size

For Gmail:

First, go to “settings” to the upper-right of your inbox and turn on keyboard shortcuts. There are a lot of them, but there are my faves:

c - compose a new message
tab + return/enter – send message
u – return to inbox (or previous conversation list)
r – reply
a – reply all
f – forward
e – archive

and my favorite of all:

# – delete message

What are your favorite keyboard or computer shortcuts?

Put your computer enthusiasm into a comment and then shut the beast down for the weekend :)

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###

Related links:

The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now

12 Filtering Tips for Better Information in Half the Time

Chapter 6 – The Low-Information Diet: Cultivating Selective Ignorance

Odds and Ends:

Congrats to Joe Ceklovsky for his new world record: 600-lb. bench press at 148 lbs. bodyweight! (video here)

I love the sport of powerlifting and have worked with Joe for close to two years. He is not only one of the strongest humans I have ever seen (which is saying a lot — here’s another friend), he is humble and a testament to a sport where success is still measured in performance and not the size of your paycheck. Here is his e-mail to me:

“I have some more news for you. I competed yesterday and broke the record again twice. I hit 575lbs. and then I did 600lbs. which is 4.06 times my bodyweight, which — as of right now — is the biggest pound-for-pound bench press in the history of powerlifting. I also attempted 620 and got it about 3/4 of the way up. This is something I have been aiming for since you did the very first article on me for Powerlifting USA. I thought you would like to know that the goal that you & I discussed in that phone conversation finally has been achieved. I look forward to speaking with you soon.”

Congratulations, Joe! This will go down in the history books. More than 4x bodyweight? Unreal.

Motley Fool article with The 4-Hour Workweek: A Millionaire’s Lifestyle for the Rest of Us

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92 comments on “10 Computer Shortcuts: Obvious to Techies but Unknown to the Rest (Plus: New World Record)

  1. I’m going to be posting my top 10 shortkeys for macs/OS X tomorrow. I think the world is started to moving exponentially towards these advanced machines.

    Jose

  2. Tim, a lot of your blog articles display wrongly on my computer. I use Mac- which could be the reason?
    For example, on the “Not-to-do list: 9 habits…”, one of the paragraph reads:
    The answer to overwhelm is not spinning more plates—doing more—it’s defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.
    A lot of these †are scattered around, and although I can make sense of it, it is quite distracting. Perhaps someone in Bangalore or Manila can fix this?
    Keep up the good work, you have changed my perspective forever. I owe you big time.
    Many thanks, Daniele

    ###

    Hi Daniele,

    Thanks for this reminder. I know about this, as I’m using a Mac these days, and this error drives me nuts. I am completely unsure of why this is happening, as the ” and so on (perhaps that just displayed incorrectly? Should be a quotation mark) appeared perfectly initially.

    I’ll check it out again. Anyone out there have ideas on how to fix the source of this, not just go in manually and change the odd substitutions?

    Thanks!

    Tim

  3. I strongly second Jen’s comment above about TextExpander. The single most useful tool on OS X, I think. The trick is to really study what you repeat when you’re writing, and turn them into shortcuts. Long words, sentence fragments, sentences, paragraphs or entire page-long blocks of ‘boiler plate’ can be saved as tiny shortcuts, so typing ‘iurl’ expands to http://www.instarmusic.com or whatever.

    This one app bridges the gap between the Ferrisy ‘magic auto-reply’ and having to write custom-crafted emails. Many communications for me are similar,but with a few mods – so using TextExpander shortcuts give you a tool-kit of frequently used text elements to build a quick email.

    Some types of communications are better when crushed down to 5 sentences, but lots aren’t (i.e. ‘tell me about your products’ or ‘tell me about your band’). This tool lets you provide lots of content in your messages without the slog of typing it all.

    Second minor tip on OS X – almost nobody I know enables multi-finger dragging on their trackpad – it’s awesome! You can scroll down web-pages, or ‘pan’ left to right by putting two fingers down instead of one. This trackpad feature is so handy I loathe using a mouse now.

    - Karl

  4. I have one more: this is more of a Google tip than a keyboard shortcut.

    Tip: include the word of a site you want to search along with your keywords in your google queries – that way, you can skip going to the site in question to start your search. You ‘focus’ the search by including the domain.

    Example: If you want to search,say, Craigslist listings for a particular product you could go to Craigslist and do a search as usual. OR, you could just enter a Google search for “craigslist gretch guitar” and you’ll get the same results in a single step. The results are better in fact because the search is across multiple craigslist sites.

    Same logic applies to Ebay, Flickr, etc. Very handy.

  5. Speaking of the rest of us. Tim, what are you thoughts on everything produced from the tech community. Personally I think that the rest of us could use some deeper insight into many of the assumptions made by those deemed “techies”!

    If only they required techies to take advanced writing and journalism, we might all be “techies”.

    Great post!

    regards,
    Part rest of us, part Techie

  6. Off Topic, but quick question:

    Do I remember a comment in your book about Vertical Systems International? (aka VSI | Dave West).

    Please ignore this comment if I am mistaken.

    If I am correct, I just found it coincidental that I discovered both your book and VSI in the same week… VSI/Dave lives 3 doors down from me. Dave died suddenly of a heart attack last week. Condolences to anyone who knew him.

    Tanya

  7. Tim, you haven’t scratched the surface! If you’re on a PC, try activewords ( http://www.activewords.com/ ) It just might change your life! The system uses keywords, that you can type anywhere, in any application, and activate automatically or using a special hotkey of your own choosing.

    You can get a 60-day free trial to the program, which can launch websites, insert replacement text (including entire letters) pull up applications, browse to folders and open documents. There’s even a handy calculator that makes an approximation of how much you’ve saved based on your use of keywords. The license lets you install it on every PC you own, and there’s even a handwriting tool for use with tablet PCs.

    I’m just a customer, but as you can tell, I’m a convert, too.

    Regards

    Matt

  8. Not a keyboard shortcut but related to Firefox/Gmail: Google calendar, while a wonderful program is web based so it doesn’t work offline, right? Wrong.

    Thunderbird (Firefox’s email client cousin) has a calendar component available called Lightning available at:

    http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/

    Add to this a plugin to download and upload your Google Calendar data (so any updates done via the web go to your local calendar and vice versa) and you can now use your Google calendar offline (you will need to connect periodically to synchronize it of course). Provider for Google Calendar:

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/4631

    A tutorial on setting this up is available here:

    http://bfish.xaedalus.net/?p=239

    And you can of course include other calendars that are shared with you, thus you can see your calendar and coworkers, online and offline!

    • @Kurt Seifried-Taylor

      Your post sounds very interesting but the third link you posted about the tutorial is broken.

      Where can I find another tutorial?

      with regards

      John

  9. Tim,

    Individual keyboard shortcuts are great ways to save time. You can also go one step more and string together sets of keyboard shortcuts to do entire routines like sending a message without ever touching the mouse.

    I’ve pulled together a set of routines for doing things like sending messages and creating appointments or tasks, along with a large collection of individual Outlook keyboard shortcuts at: http://www.living-with-outlook.com/keyboard-shortcuts-to-send-mail.html

    –Bill

  10. The post showed up fine in my rss reader (thunderbird)

    Here is my list of favorite shortcut keys:
    alt-tab: switch between open applications
    shift-alt-tab: switch in reverse order
    ctrl-tab in navigator: switch between tabs
    windows r: open run box
    windows m: show desktop

    Enjoy ;-)

  11. Hi Tim,

    I have read only your first chapter (and I am Dutch by the way), and one of my first assignments is to contact you (being part of celebitry in the meantime with 99% chance of little social contact with normal people like me), as I thought I could read all the other chapters, but why should I if instead you and I can meet (during some sailing or other non-working related activity) and share your views with mine – as this will further enrich your life, as it probably does mine?

    Wim Gommeren – Zaandam – Netherlands (Office work, lot’s of travelling but good paid)

  12. Hi Tim,

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for writing The 4-Hour Workweek. I can’t thank you enough for it.

    The only thing I implemented so far is the email autoresponder. That was the most liberating feeling I experienced in years. That is, after I got over the hard part of forcing myself not to check email.

    I’m reading your book for the second time and I’ve decided to do an experiment: follow your advice in the book word for word. I figure the worst thing that could happen to me won’t be any worse than what I’ve already experienced so I really don’t have anything to lose. I plan on logging my escapades on a website. I’ll post the reactions, results, etc. to everything I implement or try.

    I graduated from Columbia University–in New York City–in May with a degree in philosophy (focus on Tibetan Buddhism) and currently I work in digital media production for a prestigious TV channel. The exposure’s been great but after a month, I conquered the learning curve and they can’t offer me anything more advanced at this time.

    Not only am I extremely bored and find my job utterly meaningless, but I absolutely can’t stand the 9-5 slavestyle (I call it slavestyle because it’s not my idea of a lifestyle). I’m going bonkers after 7 years of having had relative control over my schedule while being in school. Working at the TV channel 9-5 has driven me to the brink of suicide (well, almost).

    Objectively, for a 9-5 life, I have the creme de la creme of jobs given the industry and department. I sometimes wish that I could just be happy being a slave in the system like everyone else. But, I haven’t been successful in conforming myself so I finally decided to face my fears and make another major life change.

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit every country and territory in the world (including outer space) so that’s what I’ll do: trip around the world and fly into outer space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic–or go up with the Russians or one way or another, experience outer space. At the moment, my plans consist of getting rid of as many material possessions as possible, storing the rest in a few bins in my brother’s basement, living in airport business lounges (since my AMEX gives me access) when I’m broke and need a roof and food, creating a sufficient remote cash flow to finance my dream life (how exactly I’ll do that, I have no clue), and doing all the other things I’ve always wanted to do. That’ll include picking up more languages, continuing to train for amateur boxing competitions (with the goal of turning pro), stunt flying (I got my pilot’s license when I was 18), skydiving, and enjoying life, etc. I’m giving myself 3 months to hit the road.

    To people not like me, this sounds crazy (“What the #&%^$#! You’re throwing away your glamorous job at XYZ channel!????!!!???”) but I’m a crazy person and this has me more psyched than anything since graduating. Or in years and years, for that matter. It’s an adventure almost on par with escaping the Amish.

    In your book, you occasionally mention doing case studies on people and mentoring people. Would you mentor me in this adventure?

    I’d be forever grateful and happily split whatever profit I make from it. (There’s GOTTA be a way to generate cash flow from this adventure but I have the absolute worst karma in history when it comes to money so maybe you could steer me in the right direction?) In addition, I’ll introduce you to the inside life of the Amish and even teach you the Amish language if you’d like. I know you can experience basically whatever you want in the world but I doubt you’ve experienced Amish culture from the inside.

    I escaped when I was 15. I’m the oldest of 11, a female and from a small community. It was no easy thing to orchestrate a successful departure, one that I planned for over 4 years from the time I was 11. Where I’m at currently is not where I want to be. I didn’t leave the Amish and bust my butt to get an Ivy League education and experience what little of the world I have experienced just to end up stuck and miserable in another robotic Fritz Langian Metropolistic system. I’ve had and have a wonderful life by the average American’s standards–experiencing things that make even my financially wealthy friends envious–but it’s still not satisfactory. I want to truly live. I want to be free.

    Here’s my contact info:

    [removed]

    If you’re not interested in mentoring me, would you be willing to recommend me to someone else?

    I would very much welcome any feedback, advice or suggestions you have regarding my leap into the unknown.

    Thank your for your consideration and again, thanks a million for writing this book. It’s good to know that I’m not the only insane sane person out there.

    Sincerely,
    Torah

    ###

    Hi Torah,

    I unfortunately don’t do any mentoring or coaching at the moment due to sheer volume, but I am interested in the Amish. To be continued…

    Thanks so much for sharing,

    Tim

  13. People have mentioned Firefox bookmark keywords, but I don’t think anyone has mentioned Smart Keywords(http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/smart-keywords.html). In any text input box used for searching you can right-click and choose “Add a Keyword for this Search…” After creating the smart keyword, you can use it in the location bar to do your search rather than having to go to the site first. For example, if you create a smart keyword called “amazon” for Amazon.com’s search input box, then you can just type “amazon Ferriss” in the browser’s URL location bar to search Amazon.com for Tim’s book. This is really useful for sites you might search regularly, such as amazon, IMDB, eBay, etc.

  14. It’s awesome to so many useful tips and tricks for windows. In windows you can switch between different programs with the alt tab which we’ve covered.

    With a Mac you can do apple tab to switch within programs, BUT you can also do apple ` which switches between windows of the same program.

    This can save a ton of time with multiple windows of multiple programs open.

    I think Quicksilver is an amazing time saver for Mac system.

    http://www.blacktree.com/

    If you want to go beyond shortcuts to specific productivity issues you might want a technology coach.

    Seth Godin mentioned this in his blog. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/a-shortage-of-d.html

  15. Not a keyboard shortcut but I simply can’t use a mouse without a middle button anymore:

    - opens links in a new tab
    - closes tab / windows

    also for they keyboard: start m to go to the desktop

  16. AH!!!!!

    Heres something that makes your MAC run faster. I did this while i was getting some tutoring from a mac Genius. Go to utilities and then to go to disk utility and then hit verify permission. This basically takes 2 mins and is the equivalent of defragmenting on your apple.

    Jose

  17. Tim-

    Re: weird characters showing up. I assume you’re using a different program to write up drafts of your posts, and then copy/pasting? I’ve had this happen before when a word processing program uses “fancier” characters (such as opening/closing quotes instead of the plain ol’ tick marks, or proper “em” dashes, etc). You can still display those on your site, but they have to be replaced with special little codes.

    From a great little article at A List Apart:

    “Don’t ever trust the 8-bit representations to be correct, because they almost certainly won’t be. The biggest problem is that many web browsers assume that 8-bit characters refer to the local character system, translating your curly quotes or dashes into Greek or accented Latin characters on other platforms.”

    http://www.alistapart.com/stories/emen/ (scroll down to “Newspapers of (broken) record”)

  18. For those of you using the “slow” ctrl-f for searching, try “/” instead. I dislike the search-when-i-type-automatically, since sometimes I am trying to type in a field, and miss the focus (or the site purposely directs me elsewhere, even worse) and then the page starts scrolling around since it thought I was searching.

    For those of you without a middle button, you can use ctrl-click to open a new tab in firefox. (I think that works without an extension, though I always have tab mix plus installed – it comes with an insane amount of customization if you like that sort of thing).

    Thanks for the tip on ctrl-shift-t, I am shortcut weenie, and that was the only shortcut given here that I don’t use. Very nice.

  19. A great little Windows program called ShortKeys http://www.shortkeys.com allows you to create shortcuts that apply across all applications. For example, 4 keystrokes to enter my email address anywhere instead of 26 – this is a program I wouldn’t be without. There’s a free version, but I’ve used the paid version at $19.95 for years.

    My favorite shortcut in Word is the F4 key. It repeats your last action – whether as simple as applying text formatting, cutting text, or implementing a series of actions like selecting table rows, changing font size, color, adding borders – the one F4 stroke applies the whole series of actions.

    Great post and comments!

  20. nice entry,

    Alt the left and right cursor keys works well for going forward and back to webpages in FF.

    it looks like shift plus rolling the mouse will does the same thing.

    thanks for the tips everyone.

  21. One of the little known shortcuts (even for nerds) I use regularly are bookmark keywords (in Firefox) and strategically named favorites in IE.

    In Firefox, when you create a bookmark, you can enter a keyword for easy access. For example, when you bookmark http://fourhourworkweek.com/blog you can set its keyword to be ‘tim’. Next time you use Ctrl L to get to the location bar you can just type ‘tim’ and the browser will load the Four Hour Work Week blog.

    The really lesser known incarnation of this is in IE. You can add the site to your favorites, which will give it a name based on the title of the page, then rename the favorite to be ‘tim’. Next time you type tim in the location bar, IE will look first in your favorites for a bookmark named tim and load it if found.

  22. If you need to commonly do things on your computer that don’t come with built in shortcuts, you can try out a program called Direct Access from Nagarsoft (http://www.nagarsoft.com/). The program lets you assign your own shortcuts to various actions including replacing text and starting applications. The interesting part is that you can type the keys into any application that takes keystrokes and then hit your hotkey and it will do what you told it. I bought the program over a year ago and I couldn’t be happier.

    Disclaimer: I am not associated with this product or company, other than having purchased it and sent some emails back and forth with the owner (I’m also a programmer, so we talked about programming).

  23. y’all have covered most of the standard keyboard shortcuts, but if you wanna increase your character’s ninja powes even more, gotta learn vim and FF’s vim addon: vimperator. learning curve is significant, but time saved down the road is much more significant.

  24. dear sir ,
    as i want to ask you as a questions regarding the shortcuts key ab- out the computer for the general purpose only which i can’t use my hands to my mouse respectively………………..????

  25. hi, how r u? this shortcut really helped me and let me tell u that my favorite shorcut is shuding down the computer which double press on windows key then a press on u.

    I have a request from u to sent lots of useful shortcut in my email add, please.

  26. I am a keyboard junkie, and always trying to find new, helpful keyboard shortcuts. Many good ones were mentioned here. One I don’t think I saw mentioned, that is one of my faves, is ALT+SPACEBAR+X, which maximizes the selected window.

    Also, the often-ignored Run dialog (opened via WINDOWS+R). A great way to use this dialog to its full potential is to make your own run commands. What you do is make a shortcut to the item you want to open (a program, directory, whatever). Then rename the shortcut to what you want to type in the run dialog to launch it. All you have to do is put the shortcut in C:Windows and you’re done. Open the Run dialog and type the name of the shortcut, and off it goes!

  27. I use my own custom-defined emacs-like text-editing keyboard shortcuts in all cocoa apps. And I navigate among interface elements, tabs, windows, apps, desktops, etc. – all with my keyboard. I’m obsessed with interfaces that don’t torture me. I’ve tried all Windows interfaces, several linux window managers, and Sun. OS X lets me get more stuff done. And it only took me a few weeks to become a keyboard ninja in OS X because it is well designed.

  28. Hi friend(s),
    I have a document saved in my pc which is all typed in small and capital letters both….I want them all to be converted into Capital letters only…So please tell me the trick for it…Thank You

    • @ VaibhaV It’s quite easy .Follow the given steps:
      1. Open the required document.
      2. Then select all text area to be capitalised
      3. Then press Ctrl+Shift+A.

      After this your work must be done…….