Brendan Enrick

Daily Software Development

Windows 7 Keyboard Tips

Anyone who would be reading my blog probably already knows that you can use the keys [alt] + [tab] to switch between programs running on your windows system. This functionality has been around for a while. There are a lot of new and beneficial keyboard shortcuts that you might not know. Some came with Windows Vista and some with Windows 7, but after some time using the new Windows 7 interface I deem a lot of these shortcuts to be essential.

Opening Applications Using the Keyboard in Windows 7

Opening an application takes a good amount of time if you don’t have quick easy access to a lot of applications. I believe keyboard access is essential. Certainly I use quick-launch still, but I use it in combination with a keyboard in Windows 7, because of a slight deficiency in the new taskbar.

Win-Search

Searching for the application is a pretty good one if you haven’t set the app as a quick-launch one. Just press the [Win] key and start typing. Windows will display the results grouped in the start menu and you’ll be able to select the one you want to open. This is quick, but there are faster solutions.

Win-Number

The quick-launch bar is faster than most people realize. This isn’t new to Windows 7, but is relatively unknown as far as I can tell. Try holding down the [Win] key and press the number starting from the left of the app you want to run. For the application closest to the start menu you would hold [Win] and press [1]. In my case 1 opens Internet Explorer 2 opens FireFox and 3 opens Chrome. The order doesn’t really matter, but the point is that I know the numbers for the apps I use most often and I don’t change those numbers so they’re easy to use.

Win-Shift-Number

Just like using Win-Number you can also hold [Win] and [Shift] and press the corresponding quick-launch number to open another instance of an application that is already running.

 

Quick-Launch

Someone is probably wondering why quick-launch is in this post talking about using the keyboard. Well it is here because quick-launch now requires the keyboard if you want to quickly and easily open a second instance of the same application. Since the task-bar and quick-launch are combined now if we click on an application that is already open all it does is bring that app to the front of the screen. To open another instance just hold the [Shift] key when you click on the icon and you’ll get a new instance.

Ctrl-T

This is another quick-launch related shortcut. By holding [Ctrl] and clicking [T] you will be selecting quick-launch items. When you get the app you want to open just click [Enter]. If the application is already open then you can use the shortcut I mentioned before this one in combination. Once you have the app selected just hold [Shift] and click [Enter] while selecting the desired application.

Switching Windows Using the Keyboard in Windows 7

We “multitask” when we use computers or at least we think we do. Since we don’t really multitask we get stuck context switching all the time. This can really drain our ability to get things done, so we should make sure the switch happens quickly. There are plenty of shortcuts in place to make this easier.

Alt-Tab

By holding down the [Alt] key and pressing the [Tab] key we are able to browse through the set of running applications. These applications will be displayed with thumbnails of what the window looks like so we can decide if it is the one we want.

Win-Tab

Similar to the previous one, holding the [Win] key and pressing the [Tab] key will allow you to cycle through the running windows also. This garners a different view. Instead of having thumbnails in a rectangle in the center of the screen we instead get a sort of diagonal cascading line of windows that have been shrunken a little bit smaller so they can line up. This view in my opinion is kind of neat, but I still tend to use Alt-Tab. If you expect to often have difficulty differentiating applications from a thumbnail then this view is probably better for you.

Ctrl-Tab

Those familiar with tabbed applications know this common method of switching between tabs. This is available in a large number of Windows 7 applications. Hold [Ctrl] and press [Tab] to switch between tabs in an application. This functionality exists in most web browsers and a handful of other applications.

Ctrl-T

Windows 7’s new taskbar has added a very new interface to Windows. To select apps in the task bar you can hold [Ctrl] and press the [T] key which will select the applications in the taskbar. Once on the desired application simple press [Enter] to select that app. If only one window exists for that app right now it will open. If there are more then you will then use the left and right arrow keys to select the one you want and then press [Enter] again to bring it to the front.

Win-Number

This is one of the ones I mentioned for opening an application, but if the app is already open using it will select the application. Just hold [Win] and press the corresponding number of the application. Also if you want to switch between windows of that application just press the number multiple times until the correct one is selected.

There is another window switching option I really want in Windows 7 and that is the ability to switch between the same type of application. By this I mean that if I have an Explorer window open I want to be able to switch between the current explorer windows with an easy works-for-everything keyboard shortcut. I understand that the ones I’ve mentioned work, but they are clunky if I know that I want to restrict to just one application type. Win-Number seems like it is the best, but some applications I don’t keep pinned to the taskbar so I don’t know their number.

If you know any more cool shortcuts or know of a way I can switch easily between the same application please post them in the comments.

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