When you get a computer, besides the computer itself, the mouse is one of the most important tools you’ll use to navigate through your computer programs. Although it is important, it isn’t always the quickest or most efficient way to perform program applications or access the programs you need. Double clicking your mouse will open your applications, and allow you to access your start menu and other applications. Right clicking your mouse over highlighted text will give you options to copy, paste, or cut, but this isn’t always the easiest method. That is where hotkeys on your keyboard come in quite handy. Hotkeys are a combination of keys, or a single key, that perform certain actions. For example, CTRL-ALT-DELETE is one of the most well known key combinations, and pressing these keys will bring up your Windows Task Manager. This comes in handy if an application freezes and you aren’t able to close the program with your mouse. There are many other combinations of keys that perform useful functions, and you are also able to customize your computers hotkeys to perform specific actions that you use most often.
How to Assign Your own Functions to Hotkeys
If you decide to program your own hotkeys, the first thing you need to do is make a list of the programs that you use most often. You should pick only your favorite and most often used programs because the problem of assigning many hotkeys doesn’t lie in the amount of hotkeys you are allowed to assign, but in the number of hotkeys are you able to remember. You don’t want to have to try a number of combinations to find the right one, since by then it would probably have been easier to use the mouse to perform the action, defeating the whole purpose of using the keys as a timesaver.
The uses of hotkeys are only enabled on shortcuts to program files, not the executable files themselves. You probably already have some shortcuts set on your desktop, but if you need to create shortcuts to other programs, all you have to do is right click on the desired program and choose the “Create Shortcut” option. Then make sure that the shortcuts are located either on your desktop or in your Windows Start menu; otherwise your hotkey shortcuts will not work.
So, once you have all of the shortcuts to your desired programs made, you can then create hotkeys to make accessing them faster and easier. If you would like to set a hotkey to you’re My Documents shortcut, simple right click on the My Documents shortcut icon, which will display the properties menu, and select the Shortcut Tab. There might already be a shortcut for the application, and if there is, it will appear in the Shortcut Key field. To assign your own hotkey, click in the Shortcut Key field, and press any alphanumeric key that you would like to use to reference that program application. This will assign a hotkey of CTR-ALT and whatever key you choose, to access that program. When you’re finished, be sure you remember which key you assigned and click apply to enable your new function. Be aware that the CTRL-ALT series of keys is not usually necessary for assigning hotkeys. However, some keys are considered off-limits, as you will read about further on.
Conflicts with Hotkeys
If two separate applications are assigned the same hotkey, you will encounter some problems. For example: if you choose to give the application of Microsoft Outlook a hotkey shortcut of CTRL-ALT-0, and do the same for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Word would become the assigned application since it was the one that you wrote most recently. The Shortcut Key field in the properties window of Microsoft Outlook would still show that you assigned the hotkey to it, but pressing that combination of keys would open the other application. You don’t have to worry about accidentally assigning conflicting hotkeys to applications, because you are able to change them again and again anytime you wish. If you notice a hotkey isn’t opening the program you thought it would, simply go to the shortcut of that program application, right click, open properties, go to the Shortcut Key field, delete the existing hotkey combination, and enter your new one. Press apply, then okay, and you should be on your way.
What’s Your Function?
The hotkeys that you choose to apply don’t necessarily have to start with CTRL-ALT. If you prefer, you can choose to reassign the existing function keys to perform the tasks that you use most often. Function keys are the row of keys at the top of your keyboard labeled F1, F2, F3, etc. In different programs, these function keys are already assigned to perform specific tasks. For example, F1 is usually the help key, opening the help menu. In Microsoft Word, pressing the F4 key will repeat the last operation you performed.
Restrictions of Certain Keys in Microsoft Programs
If you are using the Microsoft programs, you will notice that there are certain shortcut keys that you cannot reassign. These keys have specific functions in programs and cannot be changed. For example, you cannot reassign keys such as ESC, ENTER, TAB, Spacebar, BACKSPACE, etc. The CTRL-ALT-DELETE function also cannot be reassigned since it is the default combination to open the Windows Task Manager and displays logon information.
Be sure that when you are assigning keys to perform specific functions, you do not make them too complicated, where you won’t remember them. If you are constantly guessing and checking the combinations of keys, then you are ultimately defeating the purpose of saving time in the first place. Play around with this, and get used to the hotkey combinations opening your programs, and enjoy the time you will save.