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Why You Should Know Your Shortcuts?

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In my training practice one of the biggest complaints we get is our persistence in requiring our students to know their shortcuts and to practice in class using the keyboards. To become truly effective and productive in using any of the Microsoft Office Applications you must know the shortcuts.

See, what many people don’t realise is that if you rely on using the mouse only, you waste an incredible amount of time because each time you want to use the mouse, you must first stop. Take your hands off the keyboard. You then go to the mouse and then use it. You stop using the mouse and then go back to the keyboard and keep typing. If you do this you will find that you are only 20% effective compared to somebody who uses the keyboard only.

Why? Well, it is quite simple. All the time spent moving from the mouse to the keyboard is lost time or non-productive time, so people who use the shortcut keystrokes exclusively will often be five times more effective then somebody who doesn’t because they don’t have that lost time moving from the keyboard to the mouse and back again.

In some jobs, like call centres you will find that knowing your shortcut keystrokes compared to not knowing them can mean the difference between keeping your job or not. I have noticed in many telecommunications call centres throughout Australia and overseas they are now converting their systems to windows based software. What they have also done in these jobs is set some key performance standards that are really quite amazing. For example one telco I know of, in their faults departments, require that all fault calls be actioned and concluded from the moment they take the call to the finish of the call within 3 – 5 minutes. This is an awesome requirement and many of the call centre staff who were not familiar with the shortcut keystrokes found their jobs were in jeopardy simply because they couldn’t get all the data into the system within the allotted time frame. Essentially it was found as I mentioned before that those people who were reliant on the mouse were only 20% as effective as those who used the keyboard exclusively.

So … What Shortcut Keystrokes Should I Know?

This is a challenging question as many of the common applications we use in today’s market place have different shortcut keystrokes. One thing I have learnt since my wife won an Apple computer is that many of the shortcut keystrokes we use in windows don’t correlate to other operating systems, but also in the same breath. Many Do!

Some of the most common keystrokes we do have in Microsoft Office are these

[Ctrl] + [N] – New Document
[Ctrl] + [O] – Open Document
[Ctrl] + [P] – Print Document
[Ctrl] + [S] – Save Document

[F7] – Spell Check

[Ctrl] + [X] – Cut
[Ctrl] + [C] – Copy
[Ctrl] + [V] – Paste

[Ctrl] + [F] – Find
[Ctrl] + [H] – Replace

[Ctrl] + [K] – Insert Hyperlink

What you will find is that the shortcuts I presented are the most common ones are the same regardless of which Microsoft Office Application you are working with.

One of the other things you will notice is that in many of the Microsoft Office Applications some of the shortcut keystrokes are similar.

For example in Microsoft Word to get to the start of the line you can press the [Home] key, to get to the end of the line you press the [End] Key. In Microsoft Excel to get to the start of the row you press the [Home] Key, to get to the end of your data you simply press the [End] Key. There are even similarities with other Microsoft Office Applications like Microsoft Access. In a table in Microsoft Access, to get to the first field of a record you press the [Home] key and to get to the end of the record you press the [End] key.

These similar shortcut keystrokes also apply in other non-Microsoft office Applications. For example if you are writing an email in Microsoft Outlook Express. You can get to the start of the line by choosing the [Home] key and you can get to the end of the line by using the [End]

The really cool part about many of the applications that run on Microsoft Windows is that the software development guru’s have maintained which shortcuts are used to do certain functions which means we users have a much easier time of it, learning the shortcut keystrokes.

Some of the more common shortcuts for moving the Insertion Point in Microsoft Office are –

[Home] – Moves to the start of the line
[End] – Moves to the end of the line
[Ctrl] + [Home] – Moves to the First Character first line of the document
[Ctrl] + [End] – Moves to the Last Character last line of the document
[Ctrl] + [Left Arrow] – Moves one word to the left
[Ctrl] + [Right Arrow] – Moves one word to the right
[Page Up] – Move up by one screen
[Page Down] – Move down by one screen

Learning the shortcut keystrokes for the Microsoft Office Application Suite should be mandatory for any computer training course. If you don’t know these keystrokes you will never be as effective as someone who has. Often when you go to job interviews or to recruitment agencies they will test you to see if you know these using systems like those from Self-Test Software. Many a time, I have heard stories where people have missed out on job opportunities simply because they were too slow during testing at the recruitment agencies.

The bottom line is this, if you want to be more effective in using the computer you must learn your shortcuts. If you know them, passing certification exams like the Microsoft Office Specialist program will be much easier as well.

Chris Le Roy is the Managing Director of One-on-One Personal Computer Training in Townsville Australia. He has written a number of Cheat Sheets that are available from his website to help you in learning your shortcut keystrokes. You can access these cheat sheets by visiting his website – He also has a daily Microsoft office Hints and Tips list which you can subscribe to by visiting –


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  • Posted On December 21, 2006
  • Published articles 283513

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