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Introduction to Keyboard Productivity

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What Keyboard Productivity Gets You

It takes most of my coworkers 15 seconds to open Internet Explorer and navigate to a website. I can do it in 3 seconds. Every time.

"Ok, 15 seconds?! Who cares!" you might say to me. Well, when you work at Microsoft, you expect to work with the best. Now donít get me wrong, my coworkers are some of the smartest people Iíve ever met, but some of them are absolutely horrid when it comes to using their computers productively.

But that's just me and my company. For you, imagine how much time you save when you multiply 12 seconds of savings over every similar task you do during an 8- or 10-hour shift at the computer. If you only do 200 such actions in 8 hours (I think thatís an underestimate), youíre saving 2400 seconds every work day.

You're saving 40 minutes a day! That's 3 1/3 hours a work week. 3 1/3 hours you could have spent reading blogs, chatting around the watercooler, reading a book online, or a variety of other activities that cost your employer money.

Shortcut Keys: The Basis of Keyboard Productivity

So how do you start saving time by being more productive with your keyboard? Shortcut keys.

A shortcut key (or keyboard shortcut) is a set of keys pressed at the same time. For example, you might push the Ctrl key and the S key at the same time to form the Ctrl+S shortcut key. (The Ctrl key is usually at the very bottom left of your keyboard. There's another one below the Enter key, too.) Here, the Ctrl key is called the modifier key and S key is the action key. You can remember that you're supposed to push them together because of the + sign.

The other common modifier keys are Win, Alt, and Shift. The Win key is the one with the Windows logo on it, in the same row as the Ctrl key. The Alt key is also in the same row.

Typically, the Shift key is used in conjunction with either or both of the Ctrl or Alt keys, because Shift+S is actually the same as typing a capital S. For example, you might see a shortcut key like this: Ctrl+Shift+S, which means to press all three at the same time.

Keyboard Combinations

A close cousin of shortcut keys are keyboard combinations. They are so similar that, outside of this article, we typically call them both shortcut keys. While a shortcut key is a set of keys pressed at the same time, a keyboard combination is a shortcut key followed by another key.

For example, the keyboard combination to close a file in Microsoft Word is Alt+F C, which means that you first press the Alt+F shortcut key, release it, then hit the C key. The reason for this is that the Alt+F shortcut key is the shortcut for opening the File menu. The action key C then chooses the Close menu item.

In the coming artcles, you'll learn how to use keyboard shortcuts, the most common ones out there, and more!

-Ben