Time to Buy More Mousetraps

by - Story: 19597

If your hand cramps up from heavy mouse usage, there are a few things you can do about it.

1.Buy a mouse with a more ergonomic design (http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGGL,GGGL:2006-10,GGGL:en&q=ergonomic+mouse)
2.RICE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RICE), or at least Rest
3.Use keyboard shortcuts instead

Today I’m going to let you in on one of the best kept Windows secrets: You don’t need a mouse to navigate Windows programs. Yes, it can be easier and more convenient with a mouse, but you don’t need one, and sometimes it’s actually easier without a mouse.

What are shortcuts?
Shortcuts are key combinations. You need to press at least two keys at once to activate a shortcut. Usually you press the Alt, Ctrl, or Shift key in combination with a letter or another key. For instance, if a shortcut is written as Alt+T, you press the Alt key and the T key at the same time.

Another common set of combinations for Windows users involves the Windows key and a letter. The Windows key has a little picture of the windows flag on it, and sometimes it also says “Start”.

Besides all those, you can find out what shortcuts are available to you in any Windows program by looking for underlined letters in the program’s menu. Ctrl+A is a common shortcut in many Windows programs. Pressing those keys together will “Select All” text (and maybe graphics, too) in an open document.

What are the good ones?
Well, the frequently used ones are:

Ctrl+C to copy selected items
Ctrl+V to paste the copied items
Ctrl+X to cut selected items
Ctrl+A to select all
Ctrl+Z to undo your last action (I sometimes need a shortcut like that in Real Life.)

One of my favourite (and apparently little-known) shortcuts is Alt+Tab. That combination cycles through the open applications on your computer. So if you have a window with email and another window with your browser, and another window with your word processor open, and you’re clicking all over the place trying to find the window you want, try Alt+Tab to cycle through. When you get to the window you want, stop pressing the keys and that window will come to the front.

The Windows Key
I said that shortcuts are key combinations, and usually that’s true, but the Windows key is a shortcut all by itself. Press it now, and it should bring up the Start menu. You can press it again at any time to dismiss the menu, but don’t do it yet. While you have that Start menu open, have a look at it.

Notice how the letter P is underlined in “All Programs”? Type a P until “All Programs” is selected, and then press the Enter key. Your menu now lists your programs and programs groups. You can use the up arrows and down arrows now to navigate through the list, and the Enter key to start the programs once you’ve navigated to them.

Are there shortcuts I should avoid?
I strongly suggest avoiding Ctrl+Alt+Del (also known as “the three-fingered salute”) unless you really do want to activate the Task Manager. Do it once for the Task Manager, do it twice to restart your computer. Careful!

Alt+F4 is usually not a good idea either. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ALT-F4_Scam)

How am I ever going to be able to remember all that?
No big deal! You can have a look at the Microsoft Knowledge Base article that lists shortcuts, here: http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/keys_general.mspx?mfr=true, or you can go to Windows key ~> H and type in “Microsoft keyboard shortcuts” and Enter. Tab down to “Full-text Search Matches” and then tab to “Windows keyboard shortcuts overview” and hit Enter. You can save that article by using the Alt+F combination!

So even if shortcuts give your brain a workout, they should give your mouse-hand a bit of a break. Thank you to everyone who wrote with comments, questions, and suggestions. I will do another “answering the email” column soon. I appreciate all the feedback please keep it coming. And don’t forget you can browse the column archives any time at http://rlis.com/column.htm.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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