What is a hotkey?

A shortcut key is a keyboard key that, when pressed alone or in combination with other keys, performs a function. Hotkeys provide convenient shortcuts to common tasks that are otherwise accessed through menu navigation. Users can also assign shortcuts to keys in many software programs using macros to create shortcut key functions.

Hotkeys provide computer users with convenient shortcuts.

Most operating systems have a library of hotkeys built in with many of them standardized to help users who may switch operating systems or use more than one platform. Software programs, including word processors, spreadsheets, and web browsers, also incorporate standard shortcut keys in addition to offering specialized program-specific shortcut keys.

A person can copy files by selecting them and pressing the ctrl and c keys at the same time.

For those running Microsoft® Windows® operating systems, holding down the Control (Ctrl) key while pressing the “C” key (Ctrl + C) copies selected text to the clipboard. Ctrl + V pastes the text into an available window. Ctrl + X cuts text and Ctrl + Z is the undo function. The F keys (F1 – F12) are commonly used by themselves, with F1 being the default shortcut for Help menus. On Apple® Macintosh® computers, the Apple or Command key replaces the Control key with the same key combinations that copy, paste, cut, and undo.

Using Ctrl + S to save a file is considered a shortcut key.

Some keyboards feature extra keys that are user programmable (although standard keys can be programmed as well). Macros can be assigned to these extra keys to create custom hotkeys. Custom hotkeys are especially useful in productivity software, debugging tools, and gaming applications.

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Hotkeys usually involve using the ‘Ctrl’ or ‘Fn’ key.

Programming a hotkey is quite easy. The process normally only takes a moment and essentially involves opening a macro program to record the sequence needed to perform the desired function. Recorded movements are assigned as a script to the chosen key(s). Pressing the hotkey from that point forward will activate the sequence, automating the function. In Microsoft® Word, for example, the macro program is available under Tools > Macro > Record New Macro.

To view existing hotkeys on your operating system, check the main Help menu (the F1 hotkey will take you there). Search for “keyboard shortcuts” or “shortcut keys / hotkeys”. Printing the list and keeping it handy can help you memorize the hotkeys you find most useful. Don’t forget to check your favorite software programs too, including your email client, web browser and productivity software.

Using hotkeys can improve productivity and reduce repetitive mouse movements that can contribute to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are continually using your mouse to perform a necessary task or function, consider looking up an existing shortcut key combination or creating your own.

Hotkey shortcuts may help reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive use injuries to the wrists.

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