Using Keyboard Shortcuts to Boost Your Productivity

4 Ways to Kick the Mouse Habit and Save Time

I am not a big fan of computer mice. Every time I have to take my hand off the keyboard, it costs me a few seconds. This may not sound like much, but it adds up over the course of a day.

Instead, I like to keep my hands on the keyboard. With a little memory work and the right tools, you can boost your productivity and run circles around your mouse-dependent colleagues.

The trick is to use keyboard shortcuts. What are these? They are combinations of simultaneous key presses that perform specific actions that might otherwise require pointing and clicking multiple times.
Keyboard shortcuts usually require a combination of modifier keys (command, option, control, and shift) plus other keys—either a letter or number.
Here are four ways you can kick the mouse habit:

1. Learn System-Wide Keyboard Commands

For example, on the Mac, these keyboard shortcuts generally work in every program:

Command-, Set the application preferences
Command-A Select all text
Command-B Bold the selected text or turn on the bold style
Command-C Copy the selected text to the clipboard
Command-F Find text
Command-G Find next occurrence of text
Command-I Italicize the selected text or turn on italic style
Command-N Create a new file
Command-O Open an existing file
Command-P Print a file
Command-Q Quit the current application
Command-R Preview the elected document
Command-S Save a file
Command-T Show the available fonts
Command-V Paste the text from the clipboard
Command-W Close the current window
Command-X Cut (and delete) the selected text but places it on the clipboard
Command-Z Undo the last action

This just scratches the surface. You can find numerous online references with a complete list of shortcut keys. One of my favorites is the MacRumors: Guides. Windows has similar system-wide keyboard shortcuts.

2. Learn Application-Specific Commands

In addition to system-wide commands, each application has its own specific commands. For example, I live in Apple Mail. Common Mail shortcuts include:

Command-R Reply only to the sender
Command-Shift-R Reply to all
Command-Shift-F Forward message
Command-1 Goto inbox
Command-2 Goto outbox
Command-3 Goto drafts
Command-4 Goto sent
Command-5 Go to trash

Every application has its own unique shortcut keys. Usually these are listed in the applications documentation. It may be a little “geeky” to read through it, but I’ve found it worth the investment.

3. Use a Keyboard Application Launcher

This is what takes it to an entirely different level. Typically, on a Mac, you launch an application by clicking on an application in the dock (via the mouse) or going to Finder, selecting the Applications folder, and scanning through all the application files. With a keyboard launcher (like Keyboard Maestro), you can launch an application by typing a few keystrokes. Your hands never leave the keys. I have a keystroke combination for every program I use on a regular basis.

4. Use a Keyboard Macro Program

This type of program takes a few keystrokes and expands it into a word, a phrase, a paragraph, or even an entire document. I use TextExpander. When I type “;blog ”, the program replaces that text with the URL of my Web site: If I type “,addrh” (for address, home), it replaces the text with my home address.
The possibilities are endless. Basically, you can create a macro for anything you find yourself typing over and over again. TextExpander even comes with several preloaded sets of abbreviations, including spelling corrects and HTML snippets.
Every time your hand comes off the keyboard to grab the mouse, consider it a penalty. And while you're at it, think how you can create a keyboard shortcut using one of the methods above to avoid ever having to do it again.

Do you make extensive use of keyboard shortcuts? What tools do you use? How has it impacted your productivity?

Last modified on February 15th, 2022 at 12:35 pm

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