Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ahhh, The Joy Of Shortcuts.

Yes, I'm getting lazier as I get older. Or maybe I'm just getting tired of repeating the same unnecessary steps over and over and over ad nauseam. Whatever the reason may be, I've become increasingly dependent on a variety of keyboard shortcuts for my Windows OS. A lot of this is probably due to the fact that I now use a laptop instead of a desktop computer and I hate using the touchpad mouse on laptops. I use shortcuts to start my most commonly used applications, to close windows or shut down applications and to perform numerous tasks in whatever browser I happen to be using at the time.

Many people know about the more common keyboard shortcuts used within a browser like Ctrl + C to copy, Ctrl + V to paste, Ctrl + R or F5 all by itself to refresh a web page but most don't know about the shortcuts you can use to open an application. That may have something to do with the fact that you have to create some of them. No worries, it's easy. You'll need to locate a few folders in your computer; your "Windows" folder which in Vista is quite easily found at C:\Windows via My Computer, and the folders containing the executable (icon you click to start the application) for the applications requiring a shortcut. You may find some of the icons right on your start menu.

As an example, I got tired of navigating through the Start menu to open Microsoft Word or Excel, or even a specific Office document which I had need to access quite frequently. So I went through the Start menu, right clicked the icon for Microsoft Word, hovered on "Send to" and selected "Desktop (create shortcut)". I wanted it to have a simple name, easy to remember and easy to type (you'll see why in a minute) so I right clicked the shortcut newly created on my desktop and renamed it "w", for Word. The last step was to drag that shortcut into the Windows folder. Now it's much simpler to open Word, I simply push and hold the Windows key while pushing the "R" key to bring up the Windows Run prompt, type the letter "w" and press the enter key. I repeated the process for Excel with an "x" shortcut. Now I can open my two most commonly used Microsoft Office applications without having to scroll and navigate my way through any menu or folders.

If you've got a specific document or folder you access frequently and would like to create a shortcut for those, the steps are identical. Just navigate to the folder containing the document or folder for which you'd like a shortcut, right click the item and start the process with "Send to..." exactly as previously described. Rename the shortcut then drag it into the Windows folder and you've got another time saving shortcut ready for use. This also has the benefit of not leaving an icon on your desktop meaning your desktop won't be so cluttered, and some of your most used apps will be less obvious to anyone looking at your screen.

One last trick, a shortcut which will automatically open the Chrome browser in Incognito mode. Create the shortcut on your desktop the same as described above, and rename it to whatever you like. I used "cc", having already used "c" to open Chrome normally. Right click the shortcut link and select "Properties". Select the "Shortcut" tab in the Properties window and look for the "Target" information. Click into the text box then use the right arrow key on your keyboard to get to the end of the target location, it should end with chrome.exe or possibly with chrome.exe". Make sure the cursor is at the very end of the target location then use the space bar to add a space, then add --incognito then click the OK button. Go ahead and drag that into the Windows folder too and now you can easily open Chrome in Incognito mode by using WIndows + R, typing the name you gave the shortcut then pressing your Enter key.

In Vista, possibly other Windows systems as well, there are also built in shortcuts related to the taskbar. The taskbar is the small bar at bottom of your screen which contains the Windows "Start" button, buttons corresponding to all open applications, your clock, etc... Part of this, the section at far left containing the Start icon and a few other icons used to open some applications, is called the Quick Launch toolbar. Any icons in this toolbar have a built in shortcut, at least in the Vista operating system. For example, the icon for the Chrome browser is the third icon in the Quick Launch toolbar, so I can press and hold the Windows key while pressing the 3 key then releasing both.

Give both methods a try, see how they work for you.

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