How To Better Use Keyboard Shortcuts

July 12, 2021

As a long time computer user one of the things that has sped up my usage of my computer has been to memorize keyboard shortcuts. While graphical interfaces are great for discovery of features, repetitive execution of commands that are hidden in menus is often slow. You might already be familiar with keyboard shortcuts, but want to use more. Here are my tips and tricks for keyboard shortcuts so that over the next month or two you can become a pro with them.

The first step to using keyboard shortcuts is to learn them. You should start with things you do frequently, like printing documents or copying and pasting text. The reason is you will get more opportunities to practice the keyboard shortcuts. I usually pick one keyboard shortcut and try to learn it over the course of a week. It may feel like a slow pace at first, but over a month or two you will find these add up.

The second thing is to discover keyboard shortcuts. While many desktop applications have them, a thing people often are unaware of is web applications also have keyboard shortcuts. On most websites you can hit Shift+? for a helpful keyboard shortcut reference page. Try it on YouTube or GitHub! If you use a Mac the menu usually lists the keyboard shortcut next to menu commands. It will be a lot easier to interpret these if you can memorize the keyboard shortcut symbols for Control ⌃, Option ⌥, Shift ⇧, and Command ⌘ keys.

Finally it can be helpful to customize keyboard shortcuts and use patterns to make them easier to remember. Sometimes I remap a keyboard shortcut so the letter I hit with the modifier keys is the same as the command name. Other times I will remap conceptually related shortcuts so they share the same modifier key combination (Option + Command for example). This way even if I don’t entirely retain what the shortcut is, I can get partway there and guess the rest.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.