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PC World

How to keep your hands off the mouse

Working with the keyboard is often faster and less painful than using the mouse, especially if you suffer from a repetitive strain injury.

by the TipWorld staff

(IDG) -- You don't need to take your fingers off the keys to perform simple tasks. Working with the keyboard is often faster and less painful than using the mouse (especially if you suffer from a repetitive strain injury) for launching applications, moving and resizing windows, and navigating your system. Here are some magic keystrokes you might not be aware of.

Teensy weensy buttons

Every window displays three little buttons in its upper-right corner. When clicked, these buttons (from left to right) minimize, maximize or restore, and close that window. Everyone knows that, right? But here's a little secret for everyone who's tired of dragging the mouse all the way up to those tiny buttons. The following keyboard shortcuts take advantage of the Control menu, which is the icon in the left corner of the title bar:

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  • To minimize the active window, press Alt-Space, N.
  • To maximize the active window, press Alt-Space, X.
  • To restore the active window, press Alt-Space, R.
  • To close the active window, press Alt-F4.

Get a move on

To move the currently active window, type Alt-Space, M. A four-pointed arrow appears on the title bar of the active window. Depending on whether you want to move the window left, right, up, or down, press and hold the corresponding arrow key until the window outline reaches the desired destination. (Tip: You can use two arrow keys at once to move a window diagonally.) Press Enter to "drop" the window, or press Esc to cancel the move.

Just the right size

If the window you want to size is currently active, type Alt-Space, S. A pointer (or a four-pointed arrow) appears in the middle of the active window. Press the arrow key that corresponds to the side you want to adjust, then use the arrow keys to adjust that side. Press Enter to keep the change, or press Esc to cancel it.

The little key that could

If you've got a Windows key on your keyboard, take advantage of these keystrokes:

  • To launch Explorer, press Windows-E.
  • To open Find, press Windows-F.
  • To minimize all windows, press Windows-M (Shift-Windows-M undoes this).
  • To open the Run dialog box, press Windows-R.
  • To launch Windows Help, press Windows-F1.
  • To cycle through taskbar buttons, press Windows-Tab.
  • To open the System Properties dialog box (say, when you want to get to Device Manager), press Windows-Break.

Don't have a Windows key? No problem -- you can trick your PC into thinking you do, using the Keyboard Remap Kernel Toy, a free utility from Microsoft. Start by downloading the file from FileWorld (link below). Then move krnltoys.exe to a temporary, empty folder. Double-click the file, and it unpacks several files to your temporary folder. Right-click keyremap.inf and select Install.

Now open the Control Panel, double-click Keyboard, and select the Remap tab. Under Right-Hand Side, select the key you want to designate as the Windows key -- such as Right Alt -- in the left box. Then, in the right box, select Windows. Click OK.

Set up your own keystrokes

If you have an application that you open all the time, stop wasting time finding its Shortcut (or Start menu item) every time you want to open it. You can set up a keyboard combo to open that application from anywhere on your system, no matter how many windows you have open on screen. If you haven't already done so, create a Shortcut to the application in your location of choice. (You can bury it in a folder if you want -- you'll only need it to set up the keyboard combo.) Right-click the Shortcut, select Properties, and click the Shortcut tab. Click once inside the text box next to Shortcut Key, then type the letter you'd like to use in combination with Ctrl-Alt to open the application. (You'll notice that Windows fills in the Ctrl-Alt part for you.) For example, you might use "W" for Microsoft Word. Click OK, and your hot key is complete. Now just forget about that Shortcut (but don't delete it). Press the keyboard combo to launch the application.

This article was edited by Matthew Newton.

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