Windows Tips

After writing the ‘Things you never knew about Windows‘ blog entry, it got me thinking. There are loads of little subtleties to Windows that seem not to have been mentioned anywhere comprehensive, so I’ve taken it upon myself to collect a guide together.

Windows-key tips

Pressing the windows key on its own brings up the Start Menu — quite handy if you’re not too fond of the mouse (like me!). However, there are some other tricks you can do with the Windows key, by using it as a control key in combination with other keys. By using it as a control key I mean you press and hold the Windows key, then press the other key, then release the Windows key, just like you do when you press ‘control S’ or similar. NB these combinations are all valid on Windows 2000, and most likely Windows XP too; though XP might have additional buttons — let me know if you find any!

Key combinationEffect
Windows key-DHides all windows, and shows the desktop (like clicking the 'Show Desktop' icon on the taskbar if you have that enabled). Pressing Windows key-D again unhides all the windows. Very handy as a 'boss key'!
Windows key-EOpens a new copy of Explorer.
Windows key-FOpens the 'Search for Files and Folders' window.
Windows key-MMinimises all windows.
Windows key-shift-MRestores all windows (the opposite of minimise all).
Windows key-ROpens the 'Run' box (same as Start->Run...). Possibly the most useful key combination ever; I use this all the time to open folders and run programs. See the tips below.
Windows key-UOpens the Utility Manager, which allows you to configure Windows's Accesibility functions like the Narrator and Magnifier.
Windows key-Tab Windows key-Shift-TabPlaces the focus on the task bar at the next (or with shift, the previous) application. A bit like ALT-Tab, but instead of cycling in most-recently-used order, cycles in window order. Also once the focus is on the task bar you can then release the Windows key and use the arrow keys to move around, then the return key to select.
Windows key-F1Brings up the Windows 2000 help
Windows key- Pause/BreakBrings up the System properties window. Very useful for a quick keyboard-only way of getting to the hardware configuration of your machine, if for example your mouse packs in at an inoppurtune moment.

Other keyboard tips

Run dialog tips

A few tips with the ‘Run’ dialog mentioned above:

Explorer tips

A few quick tips for Explorer:

Mouse tips:

Keyboard tips:

If I’m not too lazy, I’ll be adding to this list as and when I remember the other myriad little tips that make using Windows that bit more manageable. Please also send in any tips you might have yourself, and I’ll add them here too.

Thanks to Malcolm Rowe and Nick Wright for their help in compiling this guide.

Filed under: Blog
Posted at 15:04:00 BST on 14th May 2005.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.