Monthly PC Tips

Navigate Your Computer With Your Keyboard

January 2014 – by Per Christensson

Many of us have become accustomed to using a mouse to operate our computers. After all, the mouse was the original input device that made the graphical user interface possible. Still, in many cases, the good old fashioned keyboard provides a more efficient way to navigate your desktop.

Both Windows Explorer and the OS X Finder allow you to begin typing a filename to highlight the associated file on the desktop or in the active window. For example, typing "my doc" could be a quick way select a file named "My Document.docx". In Windows you can simply press "Enter" to open the selected file or folder. In OS X, pressing "Enter" (or "Return") will allow you to change the filename. You can open selected files and folders in OS X by pressing Command+O.

If you don't feel like typing filenames, you can use the arrow keys to navigate through icons on the desktop or within an open window. If you want to go up a directory (also known as opening the parent directory), you can simply press Alt+[up arrow] in Windows and Command+[up arrow] in OS X. Similarly, pressing Alt+[left arrow] (or Command+[left arrow]) will open to the previously viewed directory and Alt+[right arrow] (or Command+[right arrow]) will go forward, just like going back and forward between pages in web browser.

Finally, if you're a Windows 8 user, you can simply start typing whenever the Start Screen is displayed to display a list of available apps. For instance, typing "ca" will display the built-in apps Camera, Calendar, and Calculator. Then use the arrow keys to select the app in the list you want to open and press Enter to open it. This feature works in many Windows 8 apps as well. For example, in the Windows Store, you can simply type a name of an app and press Enter to search for it within the Store.

By using these tips along with other keyboard shortcuts, you might realize you don't need to use your mouse at all!

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