Time Bank Tips #2 – The Art of a Keyboard Ninja

Timebank Tips Banner-Recovered2

Words by Sean Douglas

For many dyslexics in the world of study or work, document creation can be one of the most difficult parts of their course or job. The process of converting our thoughts into text can be draining and with the need to use fiddly and precise mouse movements, tiredness and frustration can soon kick in. As a video editor I need to make a lot of precise mouse movements with in the applications I use. I learnt early on in my career, one of the bests ways to speed up my workflow and lessen some of the frustration was to master keyboard shortcuts. Doing so allowed me to focus more of my mental energy on the content I was creating, rather that getting the pointer in exactly the right place! To help you speed through some of the most common everyday PC tasks without your hands ever leaving the keyboard, here’s our top tips to becoming a keyboard Ninja!

  1. Renaming files:

We’ve all been there, trying to rename a file but failing to click on the exact spot that allows us to edit the text. We either click and nothing happens or we unintentionally open the file. To rename your files without the drama; highlight the file and press F2. Simples!


  1. Mouse free highlighting:

Highlighting text is another one of those tasks that requires precise mouse control. At times it can be fiddly and frustrating to get the exact selection you want. These next tips will give you quicker and more accurate control when highlighting text in your, documents, emails and web browser.

Letter by letter, line by line, ‘graph by ‘graph:

Holding down shift and using the arrow keys allows you to highlight text in all directions around your cursors current position. The left arrow will highlight a letter at a time to the left of your cursor. The opposite will happen if you hold shift and press the right arrow. Using shift and the up and down arrows will highlight a line at a time above or below your cursors position.

2_1Mouse Free Highlight - Single Character

To turbo charge this shortcut, add the Ctrl button to the combination (Shift + Control + Arrow), now the left and right arrows will highlight a word at a time. The up and down arrows will now highlight a paragraph at a time.

2_2Mouse Free Highlight - Word

Another variation on this is to use the Home and End keys in combination with the Shift key. Shift and Home will highlight everything to the left of the cursor on the line you are currently working on. Using Shift and End will highlight everything to the right.

2_3Mouse Free Highlight - Above Below

  1. The Big Three

Sticking to the subject of Word Processing, there are three functions that I constantly use. Bold, Italics, and Underline are functions we need at some point in almost every document. To access these functions, without using your mouse, simply highlight the text you wish to effect and use Ctrl + B for bold, Ctrl + I for Italics and Ctrl + U to Underline.

3_1 The Big Three

  1. Direct deletion:

On a PC there are a few ways to delete files and folders. Drag the item to the recycle bin or highlight the item you wish to delete, hit delete, then click yes on the dialogue box that appears. These are pretty convenient, but the issue with these methods is that the item is not fully deleted from your hard drive, it merely sits in a folder called Recycle Bin. This is bad on three fronts:

  1. Sensitive data that you may have thought you have deleted is still easily accessible.
  2. Having all of this unseen data is one of the easiest ways to eat away at your hard drive space.
  3. At some point you will have to make the time to go and empty your Recycle Bin.

To eliminate all of these issues, simply highlight the item you wish to delete, hold down shift + delete and click yes in the dialogue box that appears.

4_1 Direct Deletion

Please note deleting items with this shortcut means your files will NOT be recoverable and will be permanently deleted.

  1. Tireless toggling

If like me, you are always working on a bazillion documents at a time, it can get quite tricky navigating from one document to another. Rather than cluttering your screen with multiple windows, or minimizing documents and then struggling to workout which document is which, when trying to maximize, you can instead use Alt+F6 to toggle through the open documents in the application you are currently working in.

5_1 Toggling

  1. Window Cleaning

The desktop is a great place to store temporary files and quickly find items that you regularly use. There may be times when you are working with in an application but quickly need to reference your desktop. This can mean closing multiple windows only to have to open them again once you have the information you need. There is a simpler way.

Hold down the Windows button then the Space Bar to momentarily clear away your application windows and reveal the desktop. Your application will appear again when you let go of the keys.

6_1 Window Cleaning

If on the other hand you want to clear away your apps for a longer period use Windows+M to minimize all of your open windows. To get the windows back again, press Windows + Shift + M and every currently running window will pop open again.

  1. Open Sesame

To kick start your working session in the quickest possible way, you can open your applications at lightening speed by holding down the Windows key and a number button.

7_1 Task Bar Shortcut

The number button depends on which application you wish to open. The numbers correspond to the position of the applications in your Taskbar. For instance in the example below you would hold down Windows and 5 to open Firefox.

Fire Fox

  1. Listen to your keyboard

It can be frustrating on modern keyboards when there is no visual indication that you have pressed Caps Lock. This can be particularly frustrating when you are filling in a password box and can’t see what you are typing. The number of times I’ve been locked out of my account because of this. If you hold down Num Lock for 5 seconds you will activate “Toggle Keys” which emits a tone whenever Caps Lock, Num Lock or Scroll Lock has been pressed. There are two different tones, one for off and one for on.

8_1 Numlock Sounds

  1. Skipping Boxes, Options and Buttons

Filling in online forms can be a pain, but using the Tab button to whiz through fields can make things a bit speedier. However, it can be easy to get a bit trigger happy and progress further along the form than you intended. Instead of grabbing the mouse to get back to the place you wanted, hold down Shift and Tab to move backwards through the form.

9_1 Tabing

So there you have it, nine great ways to speed through your workflow like a Ninja! If you employ even a few of these shortcuts I guarantee it will speed up your workflow. There is a lot to remember so I would suggest picking one or two that would be most helpful for your particular workflow no end. Once you have mastered those come back to this post in a few months and choose a few more.

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