Create an easy-access, keyboard-shortcut list

Leave your mouse on the pad and use your PC with only your keyboard--all with a little help from a do-it-yourself text file.

If I could remember any, I would begin this post with an anecdote about how wonderful a good memory can be.

Instead, I'll just tell you how to put all your keyboard shortcuts and Windows commands in a text file that you can open quickly via keystrokes, or keep minimized for even faster access. And you can do it all without grabbing your mouse.

Start by finding a list of keyboard shortcuts. The one Microsoft put together works for me. Select all the text on the page from "General keyboard shortcuts" to just above "Other information." Press Ctrl-C to copy the text to the clipboard. (That's one of the few shortcuts I can actually remember.)

Open Notepad by pressing the Windows key (or Ctrl-Esc) and N. You can also open it by pressing the Windows key and R (if necessary), typing notepad.exe, and pressing Enter.

Press Ctrl-V to paste the plain text into a blank file, and type Alt-F, A to open the Save As dialog box. Give the file a name--"shortcuts.txt" works for me. Just be sure to use the ".txt" file extension and save the file to your desktop or some other location that's easy to access.

Keyboard-shortcuts text file
Save a list of keyboard shortcuts as a text file for easy access. Microsoft

Now open the file in Notepad and either make the Notepad window inconspicuous so it doesn't block your work apps, or keep it minimized and Alt-Tab to Notepad when you need to refer to the file. To move or resize the Notepad window (without using your mouse, of course), press Alt-spacebar, S, and then use the arrow keys to adjust the window size.

If you need to create a custom keyboard shortcut to open Notepad, press the Windows key and use the arrow and Enter keys to navigate to the Notepad shortcut on the Start menu (All Programs > Accessories > Notepad). Press the context-menu--which is sometimes called the application key--and then type R. (Note that Shift-F10 opens this menu in some applications.)

Use the Tab and arrow keys to navigate to the Shortcut keyboard text box under the Shortcut tab. Type the keystroke combination of your choice (Ctrl-Alt-N is one possibility), and press Enter.

Add Windows' commands to the list
Be sure to add your custom keyboard shortcuts to your shortcuts.txt file. While you have the file open, add all those commands you always forget about when you want to use Windows' command line to open a program or system tool. Microsoft provides a list of commands to open Control Panel applets. You'll also find a bunch of Windows commands in an article I posted in January .

Do it quick, before you forget where you put your spare mouse.

Tomorrow: use Gmail as a network drive.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.


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