Use the keyboard to switch between applications, launch Windows Explorer, lock your desktop, and access other handy features
The debate has long raged whether keyboard shortcuts or mouse clicks are a more efficient way to accomplish tasks, and of course the answer will usually come down to personal preference. However, if you're using a laptop keyboard frequently, you might find some keyboard shortcuts essential. In this Top Ten column, I'll share my favorite Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts let you work quickly and efficiently with your Windows desktop. Although some of these shortcuts provide a quicker way to perform the same actions you're able to perform using the mouse, others have no graphical equivalent. And while some of these shortcuts have been available in Windows Vista and Windows XP, others are brand new to Windows 7.
10. Windows key+Spacebar—The Windows key (Win)+Spacebar keystroke combination gives you a quick way to display your desktop. All open Windows are made transparent, and you can see the desktop underneath. However, you can’t interact with anything on the desktop. When you release the Windows key, the open windows become visible again.
9. Win+Home—This keyboard shortcut provides a handy way to quickly clean up your workspace. Pressing Win+Home minimizes all open windows with the exception of the currently active window.
8. Win+Number—The Windows key plus a number provides a shortcut to opening items in the Windows 7 taskbar. Press the Windows key together with the number that corresponds to the taskbar item you want to open, counting left to right. For instance, Win+2 opens the second taskbar item.
7. Win+(+ or -)—This keyboard shortcut can be handy during presentations because it lets you magnify the screen. Pressing the Windows key and the (plus sign (+) makes the entire screen larger with each iteration. Conversely, pressing the Windows key and the minus sign (-) makes the screen display progressively smaller.
6. Win+T—This keyboard shortcut is handy if you want to quickly scroll through the different items in the Windows 7 taskbar. Pressing Win+T cycles through the taskbar items, displaying the thumbnail image for each item. If you want to change which item you're currently working in, you can press Enter when an item is highlighted to switch to that item.
5. Win+Left arrow and Win+Right arrow—Although some of these shortcuts have been in previous versions of Windows, these two are totally new to Windows 7. They let you take advantage of the UI's side-by-side docking feature. Pressing the Windows key and either the Right or Left arrow key docks the current Window to the side of the desktop that corresponds with the direction of the arrow.
4. Win+L—This keyboard combination is super handy for quickly locking your desktop. Pressing Win+L locks the desktop and displays the Windows logon screen. To unlock the desktop, you need to enter your Windows password.
3. Win+E—Even faster than launching Windows Explorer by right clicking the Start button, pressing Win+E launches Windows Explorer, starting with the Computer view. From there, it's easy to navigate through the system's drives shown in the right portion of the Windows Explorer window to find whatever you're looking for.
2. Win+P—If you've ever needed to give presentations on multiple brands of laptops, you know how annoying it can be to search each different type of laptop for its external projector or monitor hot key. Windows 7 fixes that problem. Pressing Win+P displays the Presentation Display Mode window, which lets you toggle your laptop's presentation mode between Computer Only, Duplicate, Extended, or Projector Only.
1. Win+X—If you're running Windows 7 on a laptop, this keyboard shortcut is for you. Pressing Win+X displays the Windows Mobility Center, which lets you control a number of system settings, including the audio level, the power scheme, wireless networking, external displays, and the external projector. The Windows Mobility Center is also often customized by each OEM.