6 basic computer keyboard shortcuts to get you back a few minutes of your life

Everyone has a set routine of how they type and search on their devices, which is all fine and good. But what if I told you that it could be exponentially better?

With just a few basic tweaks to your routine, these keyboard shortcuts can buy you back the time you wasted on searching and copying and pasting at work.

In the long run, I have non-scientifically estimated that these tips can buy you back if not hours, then certainly frustration, in the course of your life. You’re welcome.

1. Search within a document or web page

Ninety percent of computer users do not know how to complete a simple search within their documents or a web page, according to a Google Search anthropologist. Ninety percent of people do not know how to search for a particular word or phrase online, in other words! I am going to right this wrong immediately.

Tap the Command button and then the F button if you are on a Mac computer or Control and then the F button if you are on a PC, and the portal to a searchable world will open.

For a more advanced search, Mac users get the gift of Spotlight Search. It allows you to search the vast directory of the web, your files, emails, and contacts all at once. Did you write down that statistic you need to cite in your presentation in an email, a Word document, or a Excel sheet? Don’t worry, Spotlight will find out for you. To access Spotlight Search, hit Command+Spacebar.

2. Copy, paste, highlight

Electronic literacy begins with understanding that you can master a text with a few short editing commands. If you want to be a quick editor of your words, knowing how to copy, paste, and highlight is the most basic information you should know.

Before you can edit text, you have to select it by holding down your mouse over the words you want. If it’s too much time to scroll through an entire treatise of an email, hit Command/Control+A to select all of the text at once. Then if you want to copy that text onto a different page, use Command/Control+C. If you want to paste that text, hit Command/Control+V. Use the Command button if you are on Mac, or the Control button if you are on a PC.

3. Soft return

Knowing how to create a single line break on a document makes formatting resumes a breeze. To create a single line break for your titles and headings simply press Shift+Enter or Shift+Return, depending on which kind of computer you have.

4. Style texts

This trick goes out to all my family members who are amazed how quickly I can dress up a document without having to move my computer mouse. Thankfully, many word processors use the same shortcuts, so these tips can apply across multiple platforms. Simply, highlight over the words you want to style and then follow these keyboard commands:




5. Screenshots

If you want visual evidence of a group chat conversation or an obscure document, there’s no quicker way than taking a screenshot on your computer. To take a visual receipt, PC users need to hold down their Control key and then press the Print Screen key. For Mac users, you hit the Command button, Shift key, and the number three in quick succession. (The screen shot will be automatically saved as a PNG file on your desktop with the filename starting with “Picture.”)

6. Em dashes

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me more than 25 years on this planet to realize a simple keyboard shortcut that has dramatically cut down my laborious workaround for making an em dash. I used to copy and paste an em dash from a separate document, not realizing that the power to more professional punctuation was under my typing hands all along. For Mac users, you must hold down Shift, Option, and Minus keys all at once. For PC users, hold down Control, Alt, and M-Dash.