Have you ever been working on a proposal for hours only to delete half of it accidentally? Have you ever wasted a whole hour adding cells, rows, and columns to a spreadsheet? If only a magic button could undo your mistakes or help make your spreadsheet formatting task a little bit easier. Well, hold onto your keyboard because there is a magic button; in fact, there are many magic buttons. They’re called keyboard shortcuts. 

Our daily lives have more demands on our time than ever before, which is why electronics, such as computers, laptops, and mobile devices, have pre-programmed features and functions that will help you be more productive if you know how to use them. 

When was the last time you used a shortcut on your keyboard? Was it a moment ago? Was it the last time you had a word document open? Or maybe you’ve never heard of a keyboard shortcut before. If you are new to the concept, we’ve got a list of basic shortcuts that will dramatically improve your productivity once you learn them. And if you’re a professional at using shortcuts, we have a few extra ones for you too!

The Origin of Shortcut Keys

Shortcut keys are designed to make your use of the device more efficient and easier to use. In reality, most people don’t read the user manual nor take a class in computers, and therefore are entirely unaware of all the ways they could be saving time and frustration. 

Macintosh was the first company to define a standard set of keyboard shortcuts that worked across all platforms. Microsoft Windows later adopted the same shortcuts, with their own adaptations. Most keyboard shortcuts require two or more buttons to be used together. For example, on a Mac keyboard, the shortcut to “save” a file utilizes the command ⌘ button and the letter “s” (⌘+s), while other personal computers use the control button and the letter “s” (ctrl + s).

The Standard Shortcuts

The decision to create a standard set of shortcuts that worked the same across different applications made work more manageable and user-friendly. If the shortcut for saving work were ctrl + s in one application but ctrl + r in a different one, users would be confused and angry when their work was lost because they failed to remember the correct shortcut.

Whether you need to work with computers all day long or use them casually, there are several shortcuts you probably use, and there are others you may have forgotten about or never heard of. 

The Basic Functions

The following shortcut keys are basic functions that were part of the original Macintosh set and remain the same today:

Use ⌘/ctrl + o to open another file.
Use ⌘/ctrl + p to print a file or screen.
Use ⌘/ctrl + s to save a file.
Use ⌘/ctrl + n to create a new file.
Use ⌘/ctrl + a to select all the text in a window or document.
Use ⌘/ctrl + f to open the “find” window.
Use ⌘/ctrl + z to “undo” the last action.
Use ⌘/ctrl + q to quit an application.
Use ⌘/ctrl + w to close the window in view.

Copy, Paste, and Cut
Three of the most commonly used shortcuts are for:

⌘/ctrl + c “copy” 
⌘/ctrl + v “paste”
⌘/ctrl + x “cut”

Rather than searching in the menu bar of each application for these three functions, you can efficiently perform these tasks with the press of a few keys. 

If you want to copy a section of text and paste it elsewhere, you need to begin by highlighting the text you want to copy, then use the ⌘/ctrl + c shortcut to copy it. 

Next, paste your copied text into another section or another document and use the ⌘/ctrl + v shortcut to paste it in. It’s important to remember that the “paste” shortcut only works on the most recently copied text. If you copy one selection and then a second selection, the paste action will only include your second selection, forgetting the first one. This is especially important to remember with the next shortcut, to “cut.”

Anytime you want to rearrange text from one place to another, use the ⌘/ctrl + x shortcut to “cut” that selection of text and then immediately “paste” it into the desired location. If you neglect to paste right away and then “cut” or “copy” another selection, the first one will be forgotten. The good news is you can use the ⌘/ctrl + z to undo your mistake until you recover the missing selection, but you won’t be saving any time.

It’s important to note that you can only “cut” and “paste” within a working document or file. You cannot “cut” text out of a published website or pdf file nor “paste” text it. 

Stylizing Text

Another set of commonly used shortcuts are for quickly styling text in a document, file, or email. Memorizing these three shortcuts can save you significant amounts of formatting time. 

Use ⌘/ctrl + b to make your text bold.
Use ⌘/ctrl + i to italicize your text.
Use ⌘/ctrl + u to underline your text. 
More Shortcuts
Use ⌘/ctrl + y to repeat the last action.
Use ⌘/ctrl + shift key + z to redo an action.
Use ⌘/ctrl + z to undo an action.
Use ⌘/ctrl + m to minimize the active window. 
Use ⌘ + tab (MAC) and alt + tab (Windows) to toggle between open windows.  

Practice Leads to Productivity

When you first start using a new shortcut sequence, it may feel awkward or slow, but the more you use them, the sooner the shortcut will become muscle memory, and you’ll barely think about the keys to press and your fingers will automatically find them. Our list of shortcuts is by no means all-encompassing. Each operating system has its own set of unique shortcuts as well. 

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