How to speed up Word with your keyboard

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You can make any program on your computer run faster if you can tell it what to do more quickly. This tip is all about using the keyboard to get to things faster than the mouse.

Faster word processors

Do you use the bold button on the toolbar instead of finding it in a menu somewhere? Ever think abut why you click one button instead of choosing Format - Font... Because the single button is faster. The bold button is right there in front of you. What if there was something even faster? Even closer to you?

Of course what I'm getting at is the keyboard. It's right there in front of you and you can do bold without even breaking your typing pace. The quickest, easiest keyboard shortcuts will get you the most time saving, so that's what we'll focus on right now.

Bold

Ctrl - B

Underline

Ctrl - U

Italic

Ctrl - I

Page Break

Ctrl - Enter

Cut

Ctrl - X

Copy

Ctrl - C

Paste

Ctrl - V

Find

Ctrl - F

Save

Ctrl - S

Open

Ctrl - O

Remember these 10 easy ones and you can save all kinds of time.

More is not always better. I'd only bother taking the time to learn other keyboard shortcuts if they meet these criteria:

  • easy to remember (print starts with 'p' so Ctrl-p is easy to remember)
  • easy to reach (closing an application with Alt-F4 is one of a few exceptions to this rule)
  • easy to learn (if you have to search help files every time you want to use Shift-F7 to get a synonym, then you haven't really saved yourself any time)

When you're looking for keyboard shortcuts, you can find a list in the help files of most applications. Try the index on the help menu and look for shortcuts or accelerators. An easier way to find them is with tooltips or menu items. This is a feature that is turned off in Microsoft Word by default for some reason. To turn it on, just go to Tools - Customize - Options and check both "Show ScreenTips on toolbars" and "Show shortcut keys in ScreenTips."

With this feature turned on, Microsoft Word will tell you what the keyboard shortcut is for any toolbar button just by putting the mouse pointer over it. Try it out. Put your mouse over the open toolbar button and you'll see a tooltip pop up that reads "Open (Ctrl-O)." Similarly, when you pick the help menu, you'll see shortcuts like F1 shown to an item on that list. ("F1" means the key next to the escape key on the top-left part of your keyboard - not the separate keys "F" and "1".)

Just remember, even a slow computer spends most of its time waiting for us to start typing. Keyboard shortcuts are a good way to reduce that waiting time and get more out of any computer.