If you spend a lot of time preparing documents on a computer, work faster and eliminate some frustrations by using "hotkeys" or "shortcut keys" -- simple keyboard combinations.
The hotkeys for Macintosh and Windows computers are different, so for the purposes of this article, we'll focus on the Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer browser. For a nicely categorized list of Mac keyboard shortcuts, see http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=75459.
It's amazing how many mouse moves and clicks we make working on a computer. The mouse is a wonderful invention, but sometimes not the best option. Just ask the word processing professionals in your office if they find it more efficient to keep their hands on the keyboard -- and off the mouse -- as much as possible. Many of them will say, "yes." Hotkeys also take some repetitive stress off your mouse-clicking hand.
So how can you use hotkeys?
To copy and paste a graphic or a block of text:
Mark the graphic or text you want to copy. With most Microsoft Windows software, you can highlight a graphic or text block by placing the cursor at the beginning of the block with the mouse. Then, hold down the left mouse button and move the cursor over the block.
Alternatively, you can select a block following the cursor location by pressing the control and shift keys and moving the cursor with the arrow keys.
You also can use the keyboard to select all the text on your screen by pressing the control and "A" keys.
Copying and pasting is the next step.
Windows programs, including those in Windows Office, allow you to initiate cut, copy and paste functions with the right mouse button. Rather than pressing the right mouse to bring up the "Cut/Copy/Paste" menu, you may find it easier to press the control and insert keys to copy the marked block to the clipboard or to move the cursor to the insertion point with the mouse (or the keyboard arrows) and press the shift and insert keys to paste the selected text.
These keyboard combinations may be performed with the right hand only (or with the left hand on the right-hand side of the keyboard.) To do the same thing with your left hand, hit the control and "C" keys to copy (or the control and "X" keys to cut) and control and "V" keys to paste. These moves work in any Windows-based program and in forms on many Web sites.
The Logo Key
Consider adding the oft-neglected Windows logo key at the lower left-hand corner of your keyboard to your bag of tricks. This orphan key possesses special powers. Hitting it makes the Windows Start menu pop up. Say you are typing in Word and want to open another program. Pressing the Windows logo key is easier than using your mouse, moving the cursor to the Start menu and left clicking.
Similarly, if you want to look for something in Windows Explorer without interrupting your work, just press the Windows logo and "E" keys to open Windows Explorer on top of your existing work. You can also use these keys to open the File Search window, if you want to look for a particular file.
Want to return to the Windows desktop (say, to open another program) while working in a program in Windows XP? No need to minimize all the open windows to see the desktop. You can eliminate this annoyance by just hitting the Windows logo and "M" keys. The active programs go to the taskbar, and your desktop appears. (In Windows Vista, it appears on the dialog box that you open with the Alt and Tab keys.)
When you next open your favorite Windows application, check out this feature: At the top menu bar, the text describing each menu item has one letter underlined. For example, in Word, the "o" in Format and the "E" in Edit are underlined. These are called "access keys." The beauty of these keys is that you don't have to remember which ones to press. Just use the Alt key to make the underlined menu text character appear.
Pressing the underlined letter when you hold down the Alt key gives you quick access to the desired pulldown menu. Those menus also have underlined letters for access keys. For example, to make the "Font" menu appear, bring up the "Format" menu with the Alt and "o" keys and continue to hold down the Alt and "F" keys.
Of course, with the mouse, you don't have to remember anything, but clearly, hotkeys have their benefits. As I write this text in Word, to get a word count, I merely press the Alt and "T" keys (for "Tools") and then the "W" key (for "Word Count.") It's quicker than clicking on "Tools" with the mouse and then clicking on "Word Count."
Yet another Windows key function is the menu key at the lower right-hand side of your keyboard. It performs the same operation as clicking the right button on your mouse. The Windows key brings up a menu of editing functions related to the program you are using. Press the escape key to get rid of the menu. While this menu appears, just press the key for any underlined letter to bring up that function.
Other Windows Stuff
And that's not all! Pressing the control and "F" keys brings up the "Find/Replace/Go To" dialog box in Windows Office applications. Pressing the control and "Z" keys undoes the last action performed. If you open a Web page with annoying background sounds, just hit the escape key to silence them.
In Word, pressing the control and end keys carries you to the bottom of the page and pressing the control and home keys returns you to the top. And the same combination of keystrokes takes you to the first and last slides in a PowerPoint presentation.
Formatting a word or a block of text is easy with Windows Office programs (not just in Word.) Place your cursor on the desired word, or mark the text block, and press the control and "I" keys for italics, the control and "B" for bold or the control and "U" keys for underline.
For a convenient tabulated list of all Windows hotkeys, go to www.helpwithpcs.com/tipsandtricks/keyboard_shortcuts_windows_xp.htm. You can keep this Web site in you browser (on a tab in Internet Explorer V. 7) as a quick cheat sheet until you learn the hotkeys that are most useful for you.
Here are some handy techniques that will facilitate your browsing with Internet Explorer (for Windows only):
- To go to your default homepage from any Web page, press the Alt and home keys.
- You can navigate back and forth through a Web site by using the Alt and right and left arrow keys. These combinations move the screen to the next and previous Web pages on the Web site you are viewing.
- Moving up and down on a lengthy Web page is easy. The control end keys take you to the bottom of the page, and control home carries you back to the top. You can move up and down -- one screen of text at a time -- with the control and page down keys and the control and page up keys. This type of page movement is actually quicker and more precise than using the slider at the right side of the Web page.
- If the print on a Web page is too small for you to see comfortably, you can zoom in and out in Internet Explorer V. 6 or V. 7 (IE7) by pressing the control key while you scroll up and down with your mouse. In IE 7, you also can increase text size with the control and plus keys and decrease it with the control and minus keys.
- Often, when using a browser, you may want to conduct a word search of the Web page that you are viewing. To open the search box, simply press the control and "F" keys.
- And rather than hunting for the print menu with your mouse, you can print the page you are looking at with the control and "P" keys.
You can find a well-organized list of Internet Explorer hotkeys at www.helpwithpcs.com/tipsandtricks/keyboard_shortcuts_explorer.htm.
Another source, with sophisticated hotkey functions, is "The Keyboard Lover's Guide to IE7" on the IEBlog at blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2006/02/08/527702.aspx.
With a little experimentation, you will find hotkeys that help you work more efficiently. Try it. You just might like it!
Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley -- a respected connoisseur of software and Internet resources wealth management advisors use to further their practices.
Kelley is a lawyer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo. and is of counsel to the law firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Neb. He is the co-author of Intuitive Estate Planner Software (Thomson - West 2007). He has served on the governing boards of the American Bar Association Real Property, Probate and Trust Section and the American College of Tax Counsel. He is a past regent and past chair of the Committee on Technology in the Practice of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
Trusts & Estates has asked Kelley to provide his unvarnished opinions on the tech resources available in the practice today. His columns are edited for readability only. Send feedback and suggestions for articles directly to him at [email protected].