I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts (see here, here, and here, and here). While they may take some time and effort to learn, I’ve found that they’ve greatly increased my productivity. Searching, pointing, and clicking a specific area on a screen can be slow (see Fitts’ law), but using your keyboard is always precise.

Yes, no, maybe so


Next time you see a dialog box prompting you to save or not, pay attention to the underlines, and press the letter that is underlined. In the dialog box above, you can press Y for yes (Save it), or N for no (Don’t save it).

If underlines aren’t supplied, you can also use the Left/Right arrow keys, or Tab/Shift + Tab to select a button. Then, press Enter or Space to click it.

Launch applications from the taskbar

You put your most-often used programs on the Windows taskbar, so that you can access them quickly. Using your mouse to click these items defeats the purpose. Next time, try WinKey + #. This key combo switches to the selected program, launching it if it needs to.

Bonus: WinKey + Shift + # will always launch a new instance of that program, e.g. a new Chrome window.

Navigate those forms

Next time you’re filling out one of those long forms, ditch the mouse. You can navigate between text boxes, check boxes, and dropdown menus all with the power of Tab (go forward), and Shift + Tab (go backward).

Selecting checkboxes and radio boxes

The Space bar, not Enter, will do the trick on this one. For radio boxes, use and arrows to change the selected radio.

Back to top without the link

Let’s say you’re scrolling down a long page, and you want to go all the way back to the top. Forget about burning out your scroll wheel. Just press Home.

To go to the end? Just press End. Now you can get some use out of these oft-unused keys.

Show the desktop

WinKey + D hides all your windows and shows the desktop. Want your windows back? WinKey + D again will bring them back just as they were.

Peek at the desktop

You can move your mouse all the way to the corner to peek at your desktop.

Or, you could press WinKey + , to do the same. When you release the keys, your windows will come right back to where they were.

Bring back closed tabs

So you accidentally hit Ctrl + W and close a very important tab. Sorry, you have to go back through History and find which page you were on. Just kidding! Try Ctrl + Shift + W, which will bring back closed tabs, starting with most recently closed. This shortcut also works on Chrome, which won’t warn you if you accidentally hit the Close button.

Unfortunately this does not work on Private Browsing mode, as your browser does not save your history.

Resize windows in a heartbeat

(For Windows 8 and up).

  • Win + Up: maximize window
  • Win + Down: downsize window / minimize window
  • Win + Left: Snap to left half
  • Win + Right: Snap to right half

These key combos have another feature after you press WinKey + . (period). Read on!

Move applications around

Perhaps Windows 8’s most notable feature is the split screen, where you can have two or more apps open.

Use WinKey + . to select an app. It will shrink down a tiny bit. Then, use WinKey + Up/Down/Left/Right to move it around the screen, minimize, or make it full-screen.

So you’ve got a lot of tabs open…

Try these nifty shortcuts. They work on Chrome and some other browsers:

  • Control + #: Go to the #th tab. e.g. pressing Control + 5 will go to the 5th tab from left.
    Note: In Chrome at least, Ctrl + 9 goes to the last tab, regardless of whether it is actually the 9th tab on the left.
  • Control + PgUp: Go to the previous tab. This wraps around the tab bar, such that if you’re at the first tab, using this shortcut will bring you to the last tab.
  • Control + PgDn: Go to the next tab. This also wraps.

See this post for all the details.

Unleash the power of YouTube

YouTube has so many keyboard shortcuts for watching videos, that you can ditch the mouse. Try the following tricks on the video below.

Next time you’re watching a video and you want to go to an interesting part, press a number 19. 1 = 10% mark, 2 = 20% mark, and so on. Pressing 0 will take you to the beginning.

Press , and go back 5 seconds. Press ? You guessed it, fast-forward 5 seconds.

If you’re watching a longer video, try J to go back 20 seconds, and L to go forward by the same amount.

The Home and End keys also bring you to the 0:00 mark and the end of the video, respectively.

When the video is paused, K will advance the video frame by frame. This is great for slow-motion viewing.

Pressing F will bring the video to fullscreen. Press F again to exit fullscreen.

To control the volume, use the Up and Down keys. M mutes/unmutes the video.

Press Esc to get rid of (most) popup windows

This one pretty much explains itself. Those annoying “Are you SURE you want to leave this site?” dialogs? Press Esc and you’re out.

… and to stop loading a web page!

Esc serves dual purpose in a web browser. While a page is still loading, pressing the key will stop loading the page. This is useful, for example, if you accidentally navigate off of the current page.

That weird button between Alt and Ctrl


You’ve probably wondered more than once what this does. It’s equivalent to right clicking with your mouse, and usually brings up a menu. The best way to know what it does is to try it.

Don’t be shocked if your keyboard doesn’t have this key. It’s disappearing from modern laptops and is unique to Windows operating systems.

Never underestimate the power of your keyboard! If you have any favorite keyboard shortcuts that you use on a daily basis, let me know in the comments.

Published by Geoffrey Liu

A software engineer by trade and a classical musician at heart. Currently a software engineer at Groupon getting into iOS mobile development. Recently graduated from the University of Washington, with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Music. Web development has been my passion for many years. I am also greatly interested in UI/UX design, teaching, cooking, biking, and collecting posters.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.