Network Productivity Group

... a computer consultancy



Technical tip #63, March 14, 2005: Improved keyboard use

We are constantly disconcerted by folks we observe who tab to or click in a field, which then becomes highlighted.  Those folks then start to type, causing everything in the field to disappear.  They must then re-enter the entire field although some minor editing was all they needed to do.


When you first encounter a highlighted field there are four keys you can use that will not cause the field to disappear: left and right arrow and End and Home.  However, if you forget and press some other key you can USUALLY recover by stopping and pressing the ESC key.  Once the highlighting is gone you can use the arrow keys or mouse to move to any place in the field that you want to edit and type, delete, backspace, arrow, etc. to your heart’s delight.


While on the subject of keyboard use, it was the intention of the Windows designers to allow you to do anything you could do with a mouse with only the keyboard.  They tell us that at Microsoft they even have “mouse-less days” where everyone tries to go all day without using their mouse.  Likely story!  The objective, in any event, was to save one from having to move their hands from the keyboard to the mouse and vice versa.  It does make you more productive but sometimes it is just so much easier to grab that little sucker and click it!


Part of the magic is the “Windows” key (usually found between the CTRL and ALT keys).  It’s counterpart is the “Context” key (usually on the on the right side next to the Windows key).  The CONTEXT key is usually like a right click and what it does depends on the CONTEXT of where your cursor is.


We will confess to two favorites:  Windows + L (locks the machine and takes you directly to the log on screen).  But then we are constantly changing from limited to admin user and have to do this a lot.  The other is in WORD.  We highlight a word (hold down SHIFT and use the arrow keys), the hit the ol’ CONTEXT key and select Synonyms from the pop up menu.  When you’ve used CONTEXT about ten times it is nice to try “situation” or “milieu” for once.


We found at least two web pages that describe the Windows and to a lesser extent the Context key, one at Microsoft and almost useless, the other at and marvelously well done. 


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