22 killer keyboard shortcuts (and a challenge!) for busy educators

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Thursday, September 14, 2017

22 killer keyboard shortcuts (and a challenge!) for busy educators

Keyboard shortcuts can save minutes — which add up to hours and days. If you’re looking to save time, these shortcuts can help. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Hunting and clicking is so slow.

If you’re navigating your computer, laptop or Chromebook primarily by using your mouse or touchpad, you’re squandering valuable minutes every day.

The antidote: keyboard shortcuts.

In a simple experiment, TheKeyCuts blog found that more than 10 minutes a day can be saved with keyboard shortcuts. Over a year, that can add up to more than 40 hours — an entire week!

Whenever I do workshops and we talk about roadblocks to their goals, teachers almost always cite “time” as their biggest barrier. If I had more time, I could …

It’s time to reclaim some of that lost time!

Here’s your challenge:

1. Check out these keyboard shortcuts. Some are common (but you might not use them). Some are obscure. Some fit only to certain devices and operating systems.

2. Find the ones you don’t currently use that fit commands you use all the time.

3. Print out the keyboard shortcut reminder strip at the bottom of this post.

4. Tape it to your monitor or laptop.

5. Pick one shortcut at a time and start forcing yourself to use it.

6. When you get good at one shortcut, move on to the next one.

If you take the challenge, take a picture of your shortcut reminder strip on your laptop/monitor and tweet it, including @jmattmiller and #DitchBook in your tweet!

Now, on to the keyboard shortcuts!

Note: Often in shortcuts, the Control key for Windows/Chromebooks is used interchangeably with the Command key on a Mac. You’ll see “Ctrl/Cmd” in a lot of these. So use Control with Windows/Chromebooks and Command with Macs. 

The basics

If these weapons aren’t in your arsenal already, then let’s stock up! These are the most common ones that I use:

Ctrl/Cmd + C = Copy

Ctrl/Cmd + X = Cut

Ctrl/Cmd + V = Paste

Ctrl/Cmd + A = Select All

If you’re not using these, let’s just say that you’re catching up to speed. I won’t put these on the keyboard shortcut reminder strip, so if you need them, use an additional sticky note (of the color of your choosing!) and put it on your monitor.

Sketch by Wanda Terral (@wterral). More: bit.ly/cbooktips

Ctrl/Cmd + F = Find

Use this one all the time to find a specific word or phrase in a long document or web page.

I thought everyone knew about and used this one until I saw a quote that my friend Wanda Terral shared — 90 percent of American Internet users don’t know it! (Granted, this stat is from a blog post from 2010 by a researcher who has asked thousands of people about Ctrl/Cmd + F. So take that stat for what you will, but it’s very telling!)

Wanda has shared LOTS of beautiful sketches (like the one above) of similar tips for Chromebooks in this slide presentation (click here). Check it out!

Ctrl/Cmd + Z = Undo
Ctrl/Cmd + Y = Redo

The undo shortcut could have been included with cut, copy, paste and select all. But the lesser known shortcut is its fraternal twin, redo. If you undo something just a little too far, go back a character to Y to redo it!

Navigation shortcuts

Alt/Cmd + Tab = Switch windows

Switch quickly back and forth between programs (Mac) and windows (Windows and Chromebook). Hold in Alt/Cmd and keep pushing Tab to cycle through them.

Cmd + number = Switch tabs (Mac)

Let’s say you have five tabs open in your web browser. You’re in the fifth one (the one on the far right) and you want to quickly switch to the second one (second from the left). Command + 2 will do it in a snap. Use Command + the number of the tab open in your browser to make the quick switch!

Three-finger swipe = Switch tabs (Chromebook)

When I’m working with students or teachers who are new to Chromebooks, this one is sure to blow their minds. Put three fingers on the touchpad and slide them right or left to switch tabs effortlessly.

Ctrl/Cmd + W = Close a tab

Done with that tab? This shortcut closes it. Hold Ctrl/Cmd and click W multiple times to close lots of them out.

Ctrl + two-finger touchpad scroll = Zoom in on screen (Mac)

This shortcut was almost enough for me to want to buy a Mac. Place your pointer arrow where you want to zoom. Hold the Ctrl key and drag two fingers up your touchpad from the bottom slowly. You’ll zoom in on your pointer arrow. Drag them back down to zoom back out.

Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + T = Reopen a tab

This is one that gets gasps when I demonstrate to teachers. Ever close a tab accidentally and think, “Noooooo! What was I thinking?!?” Use this shortcut to resurrect closed tabs from the dead! It’ll even keep the back history (i.e. you’ll be able to click back to get to the pages you were on before).

BONUS USE: Do you have students with fast fingers, who close tabs before you can see what they’re doing? If you have to see what they were working on, get your fingers on their keyboard and hit Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT … lots of T’s over and over to reopen all of the tabs they’ve closed. Brilliant!

Text editing shortcuts

Ctrl/Cmd + K = Insert link

I use this one ALL. THE. TIME. (In fact, I didn’t have it on my original list and caught myself using it to create this blog post and thought, “Hmm … better include it!”) Highlight some text and use this shortcut to make it a clickable link.

Ctrl/Cmd + L = Highlight the URL of the site you’re on

For this one, think L = LINK. If you want to copy the link to the page you’re on, use this shortcut.

NINJA TRICK: SHORTCUT CHAINS. If you want to really, really save time, link several shortcuts together in chains. The link one above reminds me of a very powerful one …

Ctrl/Cmd + L + C + (highlight some text) + K + V = Highlight the link. Copy the link. Highlight some text and create a clickable link. Paste the link. Think of all of the mousing (is that a word?) and clicking and time you just saved yourself.

Ctrl/Option + right/left arrow keys = Jump from word to word
Ctrl/Option + up/down arrow keys = Jump from paragraph to paragraph
Ctrl/Option + backspace/delete = Delete words (instead of individual characters)
Ctrl/Option + Shift + right/left arrow keys = Highlight words
Ctrl/Option + Shift + up/down arrow keys = Highlight paragraphs

When you can move, delete and highlight words and paragraphs at a time, now you’re in massive time-saver mode. Now, highlighting an entire sentence can happen in two seconds (shortcut) instead of six or seven (mouse or touchpad). Once you master this one, you’ll use it without even realizing it!

Ctrl/Cmd + Enter = Submit/send

Sending an email? Submitting a comment or a form? This one doesn’t always work everywhere (i.e. comments in Google Docs), but it does work a LOT of places. I always try it because it takes less than a second to do, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll use my mouse or touchpad.

Ctrl + Shift + V = Paste as plain text

Isn’t it annoying when you copy something from a webpage and paste it, only to find that all of the formatting came with it? Your new text has a background color and a different font (with a different size and color). This is where adding the “shift” key to your shortcut is so valuable. You’ll paste your new text as plain text. Bonus: If you’ve already formatted your text the way you want it, pasting it this way will make your new text match what you already have!

What shortcuts do YOU rely on?

This is just my summary, and we’re only scratching the surface. There are TONS of valuable keyboard shortcuts. Would you add one (or more) in the comments below that I didn’t include? Thanks!

Keyboard shortcuts reminder strip

Print out this PDF. Cut out the keyboard shortcut reminder stripe and tape it to your laptop or monitor. (I designed it to fit below the screen of all of my devices — MacBook, Windows laptop, Chromebook — in hopes that it would fit yours too!) It has most of the shortcuts but not all. Feel free to use a sticky note to add your own!

There are two strips per page. Cut out the other one and share it with someone else … encourage them to go on the keyboard shortcut challenge with you!

Note: I used Ctrl in the strip to save space. Remember that if you use a Mac, you’ll use Cmd (the Command key) for all of these.

Use this as a reminder, and remember — pick one or two shortcuts. Force yourself to use them until they become automatic. Then add new ones to your memorized shortcuts.

Memory is magic. Don’t rely on the strip — memorize! Then you’ll use them when you’re not even thinking about them!

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

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  • […] out 22 killer keyboard shortcuts (and a challenge!) for busy educators for […]

  • Life Marbles says:

    These are really helpful for me!gonna save it

  • […] This week we are chatting about keyboard shortcuts and sharing this great resource from Matt Miller at Ditch That Textbook. Check out these great ways for you, and your students, to increase productivity when working digitally. Are you up for the challenge? We know you can do it! Check it out here! […]

  • Austin hystek says:

    i love this

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