On Computing

Handy Shortcuts

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board


With thanks to PC World, here are more Windows tips for little known but at times very helpful shortcuts.

Copying text from a dialog window. Running up against an error message in Windows? No need to painstakingly transcribe the error code. Instead, when the pop-up is the active window, hit Ctrl + C on your keyboard, then paste the text into a document. The whole message is copied, so you can extract whatever parts of it you want from the text dump.

Quickly switching to a new app. If you have more than one window open for an app, you can hover your mouse over the program’s icon in your taskbar, then choose the correct window—provided you can make out which one it is from the tiny preview. An alternative that’s just as fast? Hold CTRL, then click on the app’s icon. You’ll cycle through all its open windows. I now use this exclusively when flipping between two open windows.

Double click on the icon to open a new iteration of a running app. For example, you can open two different instances of Google Chrome—the left is loaded with the main profile, and the right was started up with a secondary one.

Holding Shift while clicking with your mouse on a taskbar icon, opens a new instance of that app. It’s slightly different than opening a new window—for example, a second instance of Chrome lets you load a different profile while the first one is logged in. You could, for example, have two text files open at the same time in Notepad.

Making a Windows app full screen. While pressing Win + the up-arrow key will maximize any window, it doesn’t make the application full screen. For apps you install through the Microsoft Store, you can make them full screen by tapping three keys: Win + Shift + Enter.

Running an app with administrative permission. By default, apps don’t run with admin permissions, a security measure that restricts how a program can behave within Windows. To launch software quickly with elevated permissions, just hold Ctrl + Shift while double-clicking the app to open it. No need to right-click on the program’s icon or shortcut and then choose to run as admin.

Open a new window for a running app. Every app on your taskbar has a number assigned to its position—at least, for the first 10. You can make use of the keyboard shortcut that lets you open apps (or jump to them, if already open) pinned to your taskbar: the Windows key plus a number from 0 through 9.

Also, holding Win + Shift and then the number you want, opens a new window for that app. Note, however, that not all software supports this shortcut.

Quickly access the emoji keyboard. Want to insert an emoji (or more importantly, a kaomoji) into whatever you’re typing? Skip the online search and instead press Win + ; or Win + . on your keyboard. It brings up Windows’ on-screen emoji keyboard, which includes a kaomoji keyboard and special characters keyboard, too. Windows 11 also gets a GIF keyboard and direct access to the clipboard. ╰(*°∇°*)╯

Cure a black screen. Did your screen suddenly go blank, even though your PC was behaving normally beforehand and still continues to run? You don’t need to hard reboot immediately. Instead, first try pressing Win + Ctr + Shift + B on your keyboard. Windows will know you’ve encountered a black screen and will try to fix it for you.

Accessyour command prompt history. The Command prompt (“cmd”) keeps a history, and you can access that to see what commands you ran—and rerun them from that menu. All you do is tap F7 on your keyboard.

Open file properties. You could right-click on a file to access its properties, but why go through all that trouble? Instead, hold down Alt while double clicking on it.

Reboot directly to the troubleshooting menu. Sometimes your computer acts up, and you need to use Windows’ heavy hitting troubleshoot options like safe mode, startup repair, and system recovery. You can access them during boot by pressing F8 during startup—or more simply, holding Shift before restarting from the Windows power menu.

Reorder items in a list. This is actually a Word shortcut, though Google Docs also supports it. To reorder items in a bulleted or numerical list, just highlight it, then hold Shift + Alt while using the Up or Down arrow key.

As mentioned, a whole slew of Windows shortcuts exists. You’ll see some of the keyboard variety get mentioned often in best Windows keyboard shortcut round-ups, but lots of people still don’t use them daily.

Here are even more:

  • Win + Shift + S: Opens the Windows Snipping Tool for easy screenshots.
  • Win + I: Opens the Settings app.
  • Win + X: Opens the Quick Link menu (same as right-clicking on Start button).
  • Win + E: Opens a File Explorer window.
  • Win + Home: Minimizes all windows but the active one.
  • Win + Tab: Shows all open windows per monitor.
  • Win + H: Opens the Windows dictation menu.

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com