Tech@Work: Tips & Tricks for Windows

Spend less time at the computer; do more in fewer keystrokes.

September 1, 1999

Learning Windows 95/98 command shortcuts can make you a maestro of the computer keyboard--the shortcuts are useful in about 90 percent of the Windows-based programs on the market.

For example, to get to your desktop screen without closing programs or files, you can minimize each program individually. Or, you can simply press the Windows key (the one with the Microsoft Windows icon), to the left of the space bar in the bottom row of your keypad, at the same time as the M key.

  • E key to open Windows Explorer so that you can navigate all your documents
  • R key to run any program you choose (You’ll be presented with a dialogue box where you can type in the specific file you’d like to execute. If you need to install a program from your CD drive, type in "d:\setup.exe"--or whatever the installation manual specifies--and launch the program, without starting Windows Explorer first.)
  • F key to find any file on your computer
  • F1 key for the Windows help system
  • Tab key to cycle through the open programs on the task bar
  • Break (or Pause/Break) key to open the System Properties dialogue box to see how much memory you have, which programs you’ve installed, and how your system is configured

You can also press the Windows key at the same time as the

If you ever resize a photograph but aren’t happy with the outcome or accidentally delete information from a document, pressing Ctrl and Z will undo your last program command.

Not every program supports this shortcut. But some programs, such as PowerPoint, let you undo entire sequences of commands, one at a time.

Faster file management

Beyond simple shortcuts, there are several time-savers built into the Windows file management system.

When you need to print quickly, instead of starting the appropriate program, opening the file, and then printing it, click over the file in Windows Explorer with your right mouse button. That will access a speed menu--one of the options being print. For Word, Excel, and Notepad files, Microsoft Office will send the document to the printer without even opening it.

You can also use that menu to shave time off the simple tasks of renaming, deleting, or copying files.

Which Window to open?

Since you can run many different programs at the same time in Windows, how do you find out which are open?

The most common shortcut is holding down the Alt key while pressing the Tab key repetitively to cycle through all your open programs--MLS, contact manager, word processor, and so on.

A lesser-known version of this tip is to use the Ctrl and the Tab keys to cycle through open Windows within one program. Say you’re running Top Producer. You’re writing a letter, but you also have your address book, a CMA, and a contact record open. Use the Ctrl-Tab shortcut to jump to the desired Window. (Caveat: This function doesn’t work with all programs.)

The beauty of these shortcuts is that you can apply the time you spent interfacing with your computer to face time with clients and customers.

In addition to instructing GRI programs, Stephen Canale has spoken at hundreds of seminars in 45 states, covering subjects relating to real estate sales and technology. For more information on his products, newsletter, and seminars, visit

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