Creating Keyboard Shortcuts for ANYTHING

A computer keyboard

If you’re a faculty member or a student, there’s probably a good chance that the object you touch more than anything else in your life is a keyboard. After all, the keyboard is instrumental for how we do portions of our research, teaching, and service. To cut down on the number of hours you spend with your keyboard, you might use text expansion tools to cut down on repetitive typing. But another option would be to learn to use the keyboard shortcuts so that you have to spend less time reaching for the mouse. While the time savings aren’t tremendous, they do add up.

I generally try to learn the basic keyboard commands for the software that I use most often in my work. Unfortunately, however, not every command in a given application will have a keyboard shortcut. For a long time, I just assumed that this was how the world worked, but I recently decided to ask the all-knowing Google if there was a way to change this. And it turns out, there is!

I found the solution to creating a keyboard shortcut for ANYTHING in two articles in the blog Lifehacker. One article covers creating keyboard shortcuts for Windows users and another works for Mac users. The solution for Mac users is especially simple: you can add shortcuts for anything within your system preferences. It takes all of 15 seconds to create one that wasn’t there previously. The Windows approach is more complicated, but Lifehacker clearly walks you through the process.

Now that I have the ability to make shortcuts to anything, I’ve decided to start standardizing some basic commands I use in different tools. For example, on different occasions I use bulleted lists in email, Word documents, blog posts, and in PowerPoint slides. I’ve now standardized that keyboard command in every one of the authoring tools I use. I decided to go with the same key strokes that work in Google Docs—Command-Shift-8—to keep things constant since I can’t change its shortcuts and since I use it as my primary word processing tool most days. (Did I mention that we like Google Docs around here?) I’ve similarly mapped the keyboard shortcut for making comments in a Google Docs document to my copy of Word. I reach for the mouse less, and I get my work done sooner. And that means I can get away from the keyboard faster.

What built-in keyboard shortcuts do you use regularly? What can you imagine doing with customized keyboard shortcuts? Let us know in the comments!

Lead image: Keyboard / Basheer Tome / CC BY 2.0

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