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Essential Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows Vista

Sometimes, the easiest way to speed things up in Windows Vista is to use a few essential keyboard shortcuts, and Vista abounds with keyboard shortcuts.

Arguably the most important key combination is Ctrl+Alt+Del — the combination that’s used to bring up the Lock This Computer menu. Unless Vista is hopelessly hammered, that "three-finger salute" gives you access to the Windows Task Manager. If you memorize just one keyboard shortcut, it should be Ctrl+Alt+Del.

There are three other key combinations that every single Vista user needs to memorize. They work in practically every Windows program ever made. The Big Three shortcut key combinations below go back to the ancient days of personal computing, and, man, do they come in handy.

Shortcut Keys Every Vista User Must Know
Key What It Does
Ctrl+C Copies the selected items to the Clipboard
Ctrl+X Cuts the selected items to the Clipboard
Ctrl+V Pastes the contents of the Clipboard at the current cursor location

Sometimes, the shortest distance between two points or programs is a simple key combination. You’ll use the following Windows keyboard shortcuts over and over again.

Important Windows Vista Commands
Key What It Does Timesaving Bonus Info
Alt+Tab or Windows+Tab Once known as the “CoolSwitch,” holding down the Alt key and repeatedly pressing Tab cycles through all running programs. (With the Windows key, it’s known as Flip 3D.) This approach can be faster than using the taskbar if you don’t have many programs running. It’s also convenient if your machine freezes and you want to see if any other programs are available.
Shift Holding down the Shift key when you insert a CD temporarily overrides Vista’s attempts to run, play, copy, or otherwise automatically do something with the inserted CD. If you need to insert the Windows installation CD to retrieve a file, hold down the Shift key while you slide in the CD so you don’t have to close out of the installer’s starting screen.
Shift+Delete Permanently deletes an item — it isn’t placed in the Recycle Bin. Windows asks if you’re sure you want to delete the file.
Ctrl+drag Hold down the Ctrl key while you drag an item, and you make a copy. An alternative to this is the right-click drag combination, which is useful because it gives more options.
Ctrl+Esc Brings up the Start menu. Easy way to exit Windows if your mouse freezes.
Shift+F10 Same as right-clicking Shows the context menu at the current cursor location.

Windows Vista computers have a special key (called the Windows key). The Windows key has the same symbol on it as the Start button on the taskbar. You can use the Windows key in a variety of keyboard shortcuts that perform specific Windows-related tasks.

Keyboard Shortcuts That Use the Windows Key
Key What It Does Timesaving Bonus Info
Windows key Same as the Start button Brings up the Start menu.
Windows+E Opens Windows Explorer, starting at the Computer window, showing your drives Beats Start→Computer when you don’t want to dive for the mouse.
Windows+F Same as Start→Search In earlier versions of Windows, Search used to be called Find — thus, F.
Windows+R Same as Start→Run Many people find it faster to start Word by pressing Windows+R and then typing winword instead of click-click-clicking.
Windows+Tab Activates Flip 3D. (This is also brought up using Alt+Tab.) Holding down the Alt key and repeatedly pressing Tab cycles through all running programs.
Windows+M or Windows+D Minimizes all open windows so that you can see your desktop immediately. After you get that key combination down, you can take the desktop icon off the Quick Launch toolbar to give way to another shortcut.
Windows+L Brings up the welcome screen This is a good boss key. If the boss is coming, hit Windows+L and your game of Solitaire (or anything else) disappears. To get it back, just log on.
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