Expand Your Context in Windows with Shift-Right-Click

yellow keyboardOne of the fundamental design features of the Windows operating system is to provide multiple ways of accomplishing an action. Thus, many actions can be triggered from menu commands, icons or buttons, or by keyboard shortcuts. Users can thus choose the interface options they are most comfortable with. Because there are many paths to the same action built into the operating system, there are a lot of shortcuts or alternative ways of doing a task that many users might not be aware of.

I’ve been using Windows machines ever since my MS-DOS computer gave up the ghost back in the day. I’m not a Windows expert, but I consider myself to be pretty familiar with the operating system. If I don’t know how to do something, I can generally figure it out. But there’s still lots of shortcuts that I don’t know.

I was delighted to discover Shift-Right-Click a few weeks ago. On a Windows machine, right-clicking on a folder, file, or program shortcut typically opens a context menu that includes Properties for the item and a few things you can do to it, like open it in various programs or send it to another location.  (Left-clicking, on the other hand, typically just opens or runs the file, folder, or program.)

Shift-Right-Click expands the options available to you from the context menu.

A couple of the options I’ve found especially helpful from using Shift-Right-Click include:

  • Open Command Window Here: Inside Windows Explorer, the built-in file browser, navigate to a directory on your computer. With Shift-Right-Click | Open Command Window Here you can open a terminal window with your command line set to that location. Sure, you can get there from your root directory in terminal, but often it’s faster to do it this way.
  • Copy As Path: This option works in Windows Explorer and from program shortcuts. Selecting it will copy the file path of the item to your clipboard. If you’re working with file URLs on your machine, for instance, this can be very handy.
  • Show Windows Side by Side: If you have multiple documents open in a text editor, word processor, or spreadsheet program, and have the program minimized to the taskbar, the default behavior is to display small representations of each document when you hover the mouse over the program icon. You can then select the one you want to open, and work from there. Shift-Right-Click on that program icon instead, and you get the options of Cascade | Show Windows Stacked | Show Windows Side by Side.  These choices will maximize all the documents you currently have open in that program and arrange them according to your selection. This is very handy if you’re working in several related documents and want to be able to view them all at once without dragging and resizing windows manually.

Once you start experimenting with Shift-Right-Click you’ll find it useful in many other places in Windows as well, with options such as restore previous versions, run as administrator, and a vastly expanded “send to” list.

[Creative Commons licensed picture by flickr user robscomputer.]

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