This month Networking delves into making life easier for the inexpert typist and the non-grammarian when using Windows and Microsoft (MS) Office. I’m a big fan of using keyboard shortcuts, auto-correction, macros, and a couple of Windows tools to avoid errors and to speed up my work.
I first began using keyboard shortcuts when I created them for commonly accessed file folders and files. My roster grew from there. In this column I will describe some of my favorites. They are in no way meant to be comprehensive, but they may inspire you to develop your own. So let’s get right to it!
To quickly access files, folders, or applications, make use of a shortcut process that you’re probably already familiar with. One way to do this is by right clicking somewhere on the desktop to open the desktop menu. Scroll down to ‘New’ and select ‘Shortcut’ to open the shortcut wizard. Type or browse to the item you’d like the shortcut to point to, create a name for the new shortcut, and you’re done. The shortcut will appear on your desktop.
You can also change the icon and create a way to use the shortcut with a key combination. To do this, simply right click on the new shortcut and select “Properties.” Use the ‘Change Icon’ button to select a new icon. You can also see an option to select a combination of keys to create a keyboard shortcut you can run at any time. These combinations typically involve the control key, or “ctrl,” the “alt” key, and the “shift” key, along with letter or number keys.
I use shortcuts for the files, applications, and folders I access every day. I created one for Outlook (I use ctrl+shift+o) and to open the browser to the Google search page (ctrl+alt+g).
Frequent MS shortcuts and Tools
To keep the list of my favorite MS shortcuts at a reasonable length for this column, I’ll pick just a few from several MS Office areas. I’ve been amazed that the more I shortcuts I use, the more I can remember. I didn’t expect that to happen!
For quick access to various Outlook functions, use the control key and numbers. While in Outlook, use ctrl+1 to pull up the email pane, ctrl+2 to open the calendar, ctrl+3 for contacts, ctrl+4 for tasks, and ctrl+5 for notes.
Other shortcuts I frequently use in Outlook are shift+ctrl+m, which opens a new email message from anywhere in Outlook; shift+ctrl+a, which opens a new appointment in calendar; and shift+ctrl+c, which opens new contact screen.
To check for new mail, press the F9 function key to update and sync your mailbox and the mail server.
To save, close, and send an email message, use alt+s.
To reply to all, use alt+l.
To open the address book from any Outlook screen, press ctrl+shift+b.
One of the two most frequently used shortcuts for me in Excel is to automatically size a column. Click the column header (on the column letter) to highlight the entire column. Move the cursor to the right edge of the column header until it changes to an icon made from a vertical line with horizontal arrows pointing outward on each side of the line. Double-click on that icon and the column automatically sizes its width.
My other frequent shortcut doesn’t sound all that useful, but I end up using it often. To find the last entry in a column, click any cell in that column, then hit the control and the down arrow key (ctrl+?). This takes you to the first open row.
To highlight any sentence, click anywhere in the sentence, hold the control key, and left click. From there you can move, copy, or delete the sentence. You can highlight a single word by placing the cursor in the word and double-clicking.
To quickly resize a font, highlight the text you want to change and use ctrl+shift+> to increase font size or ctrl+shift+< to decrease it.
I also like to set my own styles for headers, bullets, quotes, and regular text fonts. This is easy to set up. First, click on the little down arrow in the Styles menu section in the main Home menu. That opens the style dialog box. In the lower left corner is an icon for New Style. Before going there, choose attributes such as the font, size, color, bold, and italic styles, and leave your cursor somewhere in the middle of the text you’ve just formatted. Then click the New Style box and it will show the configuration.
Be sure to select a new name for the style. I always put JK at the beginning of the style name so all of my styles are listed together.
In the lower left corner you can choose to make this new style available to all new documents or just the current document. Then click the Format button (lower left corner) and then Short Cut Key to create a shortcut to apply the new style while creating a new doc. The dialog will tell you if the shortcut key you select is already in use. You may have to try several combinations to find an unused keystroke combination.
Finally, a word about macros: Macros record your keystrokes. They’re great when you need to repeat a series of keystrokes over and over or for files that are saved inside too many subfolders to find easily.
For example, I created a macro to give me a horizontal line. I use it all the time to separate notes and thoughts on the page. The horizontal line is located in the borders section of the Home menu. In the Paragraph menu section, click on the little down arrow in the borders button. You’ll see the horizontal line option on the list near the bottom.
To create the macro, click on the Developer main menu tab and then Record Macro in the Code section. Be sure to create an obvious title. This is because when trying to remember what you assigned to a button in the menu, it’s better for the rollover text to say “Horizontal Line” than “Macro #23.”
At this point you can assign a shortcut and/or a menu button. I used alt+h to plop in a line when needed. When you say OK at this point, you’re in record mode, and your keystrokes are being recorded. When the task is completed, click on Stop Recording and, voilà, the new macro is ready for use.
MS Office Shortcuts
You can use the following shortcuts in any MS office application:
Use ctrl+F1 to show or hide the top menu bar. It gives you more document room on the screen. Ctrl+F2 (or ctrl+p) will show print preview and allow printing configuration.
If you are cutting and pasting a lot, open the clipboard list. From the ‘Home’ menu, go to the Clipboard menu area and click on the little arrow in the lower right hand corner. Here is where you can see all the copied items in the clipboard. To paste an entry from this list, place your cursor in the document location where that you want to paste and left click on the clipboard entry to be pasted.
The clipboard entries will be available in other MS Office apps as well. For example, I recently had to send hundreds of individualized versions of an email message. I had the base message copied to the clipboard as well as the email title or subject line. It was much easier to choose from the list than to go through the many individual ctrl+c and ctrl+v operations.
Although I probably don’t need to mention them to most readers, I also use common shortcuts such as ctrl+c and ctrl+v for copy and paste, or ctrl+b and ctrl+i to make the highlighted text bold or italic.
Every website is sized differently. I typically look at a site at 150% magnification. I use ctrl++ (the control key along with the plus sign) to zoom in and ctrl+- (control key and the hyphen key) to zoom out. Ctrl+0 takes me back to my normal 150%. The most common reason for using these shortcuts is that some sites need to be viewed at 100% to see everything properly formatted.
Other Windows Shortcuts
The following shortcuts are useful for controlling the behavior of Windows.
Alt+g brings all of your gadgets to the forefront. For example, I’ve got weather and calendar information gadgets running. When I need to verify the date, I press alt+g.
The ÿ (Windows logo key) + Pause key combination displays the System Properties dialog box. Note that Pause is also the Break key, and that the Windows logo key is usually to the left of the space bar.
If you are using two monitors, use ÿ+shift+left arrow or right arrow to move an active window from one monitor to another.
Pressing the ÿ and the left or right arrow key resizes the active window to exactly half the screen. When I’m copying files from one location to another, it’s easiest to have two Explorer windows open, one on the left (file source), and one on the right (file destination). Then it’s easy to drag and drop.
From File Explorer, use the F2 function key to change the name of a file or folder. Click on the file or folder you want to rename, then press F2 to type in the new name.
Pressing ÿ++ (the Windows logo key and the plus key) enables the built-in screen magnifier. To turn it off, press ÿ+ESC. I use this all the time to see the details of a schematic, picture, fine print, and web page details. The magnifier pops right up and follows your cursor. You can find more details in the accompanying sidebar, but I mostly use the basic function. It’s much easier than continually resizing the screen or changing font. While Internet Explorer has its own zoom function, sometimes it’s easier to temporarily use the magnifier.
Other useful combinations include ÿ to open the Start Menu (the program launch bar), ÿ+D to show or hide the desktop, and ÿ+R to open the Run box (to use CMD command line tool, for example).
The following are some of my most frequently used auto-correction shortcuts.
- Axx — Aramark Healthcare Technologies
- comm — communication
- enx — encryption
- hcx — healthcare
- info — information
- iow — in other words
- itx — Information Technology
- JKX — Jeff Kabachinski, Director Technical Development
- Mco — much obliged
- org — organization
- tcx — technology
- TDx — Technical Development
- vtx — virtualization
- w+ — wireless
I first used the auto-correct function in MS Word. It started when I was writing about virtualization. I’m not the greatest typist or speller, and spelling the word virtualization turned out to be a speed bump while writing this particular article. That’s when I got the idea to misspell it deliberately and add an auto-correction so I wouldn’t have to worry about fixing it. The system only knows what you tell it, so I said that vtx was a misspelling of virtualization. I knew enough to try to be sure my abbreviation didn’t match anything in the English language. It worked so well that I began to add other misspellings, such as intc for interconnectivity and iop for interoperability. You can see other examples of how I use auto-correction in the accompanying sidebar.
To configure auto-correction, click on the File menu item in the upper left corner of the MS Word screen. From there, scroll down to Options and select Proofing. At the very top you’ll see AutoCorrect Options. From there, you’ll see where to enter the “correction” you want to make.
Be sure to enter the correct version in the Change-To box, since that’s what you’ll get every time you use the new correction. I once misspelled a correction and didn’t notice it until I finished writing the document—which wasn’t very funny at the time! Also be sure to use key combinations that don’t exist in the English language. I’ve had strange things pop up in the middle of words before. It can be amusing, but time-consuming to fix!
Make Shortcuts a Habit
You may find some unexpected benefits to using shortcuts. After a while using them myself, I noticed that I started to use my auto-correction codes as shorthand when taking handwritten notes, such as hcx for healthcare and dvx for development.
I don’t often go back and delete any of my shortcuts, so my list keeps growing. I’m pretty amazed that I remember them (most of the time). Try a few and see if you don’t get hooked!
Jeff Kabachinski is the director of technical development for Aramark Healthcare Technologies in Charlotte, NC. For more information, contact editorial director John Bethune at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sidebar: The Windows 7 Magnifier
There is a magnifying glass you can use in Win7 to enlarge a portion of the screen or the entire screen. The easiest way to enable the magnifier is to press the Windows logo key and the plus sign simultaneously (ÿ++). The magnifier will pop open to its previous settings. Once you get used to it, it can be quite useful for looking at just a portion of a web page with tiny type, a detailed schematic in Adobe, or the small print in a contract.
After you enable the magnifier, the hot keys below become active. The hot keys work while magnifier is turned on, and you can also click on the magnifying glass icon to get to the magnifier menu bar.
There are three modes for the magnifier:
- Full Mode—magnify the entire screen (ctrl+alt+f). Note that the screen will auto scroll as you move the cursor to the edge.
- Lens Mode—open a magnify window that follows your cursor around (crtl+alt+l). By clicking the magnifying glass icon, you can get to all the controls, such as to make the magnifying lens bigger or smaller (as mentioned below, you can also use ctro+alt+r to resize the lens).
- Docked Mode—keep the magnified piece “docked” off to one side (ctrl+alt+d) and it will magnify whatever you’re pointing to.
It does take a little getting used to, but once you settle on your favorite mode, the magnifier gets very useful! I recommend using the lens mode to get started.
Other magnifier hot keys include the following:
- Alt+ctrl+spacebar to show the mouse pointer location while in magnifier lens mode
- ÿ+plus sign to zoom in or ÿ+minus sign to zoom out
- Ctrl+alt+i to invert colors (it can be handy to invert the colors of what’s in the magnifier, making it easier to distinguish what’s being magnified)
- Ctrl+alt+r to resize the lens (most useful in lens mode)
- ÿ+Esc to exit the magnifier
- Ctrl+alt+arrow keys to pan the magnifier in the direction of the arrow
I most often just use ÿ++ and the magnifier follows my cursor. I use ÿ+ESC to close the magnifier. I find this to be a quick and easy way to get a closer look at something without resizing fonts or screen size.