First Step with Keyboard Shortcuts

I’ve written about how keyboard shortcuts can boost your productivity when working with computers. The next step is – of course – putting it into action.

Most (if not all) popular applications have keyboard shortcuts to help you use them efficiently. Therefore, once you are inside the applications you can use those shortcuts to improve your productivity. It’s only a matter of familiarizing yourself with the applications’ keyboard shortcuts (how to familiarize yourself effectively, however, would be another post).

But before you reach that point, first of all you need to launch the applications. And this could be a big bottleneck, especially for applications which you launch often.

One of the slowest ways to launch an application is launching it from the Start Menu. This is especially true if the application is buried deep inside the menu hierarchies. For example, to launch Magnifier in Windows XP you must go through Start | All Programs | Accessories | Accessibility | Magnifier – a five-level depth! A better way would be to use a desktop shortcut or Quick Launch shortcut. But still, no matter what way you choose, nothing beats a keyboard shortcut. It would be best if you can use a keyboard shortcut to launch the application.

So how do you assign a keyboard shortcut to launch an application? Well, you need to install a utility for this purpose and my favorite utility is Winkey. I like it because it’s easy to use. You can customize your shortcuts through a user-friendly interface. Furthermore, with Winkey you can assign shortcuts not only to applications but also to files and folders. It means that you will be able to quick-open not only your applications but also your files and folders!

After downloading and installing Winkey, you can open it by pressing Win+F9 or double-clicking its icon in the System Tray. Next, you can customize your shortcuts by pressing Add, Remove, or Properties buttons.

To make the most of it, you should list the applications, files, and folders you use most often. They should be given priority to be assigned keyboard shortcuts. Then you should choose shortcuts which are easy to remember for them. For example, I use Win+O to open Outlook.

What applications, folders, and files should you assign keyboard shortcuts ?

Everyone has different applications they often use, but I think browser is one of them. So assign a shortcut to your browser. I assign Win+X to my Firefox browser (Win+F is not available because it is used by Windows to launch the Search window). For me, some other applications I often use are Outlook (Win+O, as mentioned above), OneNote (Win+N) and iTunes (Win+T).

For files and folders, I guess My Documents would be among those people use most often. So assign a shortcut to open it (I use Win+1). If you have any subfolders inside My Documents you use often, you can also assign them their own shortcuts.

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