Keyboard Shortcuts – Back to the Future!


In the beginning there was the keyboard. Well strictly speaking there was the punchcard I suppose but we’ll start with the keyboard. To interact with the earliest PCs you only had your trusty keyboard and the command line prompt. Then in 1984 Apple changed everything with the Mouse – GUI combination.

Sherry Turkle argues in Life on the Screen that this shift was a significant one in that people no longer cared about how well the computer worked, or how customisable it is, but just wanted it to do things in a simple and well designed way. She saw this as a move from modernism to postmodernism, from deep interaction with the guts of a computer to a surface superficial interaction. I think there are parallels here with the iPhone Vs the rest, but I digress…

Like so many old technologies the keyboard is still around today (iPad and other tablets notwithstanding of course) and most people aren’t aware that you don’t actually *need* a mouse to do anything (certainly true in windows anyway). You can do everything with a variety of key strokes.

I still find many keyboard shortcuts very useful such as ctrl x, c and v for cut copy and paste and alt-tab to change between programmes. Or if you type a word such as google in the adress bar and press ctrl-ent is automatically adds the www. and .com (not sure how to add ac.uk though!). There’s a good list of shortcusts here (including mac stuff)

I asked on twitter for other people’s favourite keyboard shortcuts and @flashton2003 described ctrl-alt-del as “the parentheses around any session on work pc” which is poetic, if depressing.

So what are other people’s favourite keyboard shortcuts? Am I alone is persisting with the keyboard? Has anybody tried going without the mouse/trackpad for a while? Why are we *still* using QWERTY?!

Let’s ditch the mouse and, in the words of Gordon Brown “get real”.

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About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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One Response to Keyboard Shortcuts – Back to the Future!

  1. Steve says:

    On a Mac, Command + Shift + 4 is my favourite. It brings up some crosshairs to drag a selection and take a screenshot, automatically saves it to the Desktop when you do it. I still can’t get over how painful screenshots are on Windows and then you have companies selling software to do it, when it’s such a simple concept that should be built in to the OS.

    Also, Alt-Tab on a Mac brings up the running apps and you can left and right arrow between them, and if you are still holding Alt, press Q to quit them. Very useful each evening at knock off time

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