If you want to write efficiently, it helps to know some keyboard shortcuts. You might not use all of the ones on this page (not many people do), but even if you adopt just a few you will be able to zip around in your document and impress people with your editing skills.
Please note that our focus is on the PC version of Microsoft Word. However, we have added a few notes about Google Docs as well.
Let’s start with some general commands to open, save, and print documents, as well as get around in Windows.
Here’s a quick way to open a new document:
If you don’t want to lose your work, it’s good to save regularly:
Just watch out you don’t use this shortcut obsessively!
Get to the Print menu quickly:
Need to get to your desktop quickly? Try this shortcut:
Another thing that many people don’t know is that if you click in the bottom right of your screen (beside the date and time), you can also get to your desktop.
Let’s say you want to have two windows open, or you want to change the size of your window. Try press the Windows key and then use the arrow keys to resize the window.
Have some fun trying out all the different configurations.
Another cool feature is the ability to move quickly between open windows. Hold down the Alt key and press once on Tab to see all the open windows. You can select one with your mouse if you like.
Once you let go of the Tab key you will go to the previous window. Press repeatedly to move back and forth between open windows.
Let’s talk about how you can get around in your document. Obviously you can use the arrow keys for that purpose:
If you hold down “Control” while you use the arrow keys, you will be able to move either a word at a time (if you’re moving horizontally) or you can move to the beginning of each paragraph (if you’re moving vertically):
End and Home
Want to move to the beginning or end of a line? Press the Home or End key:
If you add “control” you can even jump to the beginning or end of your document:
If you need to find something in your document, use this shortcut to open the Search box:
Let’s review the various ways in which you can select text (and images) in your document.
It’s surprising how few people know that they can select all the text in their document all at once:
This command is especially useful for making sure you have consistent formatting throughout your work.
If you want to select smaller amounts of text, and don’t want to drag with your mouse, you can hold down Shift while you add lines or letters with the arrow keys:
If you want to select all the text from your cursor to the beginning or end of the line, try one of these two commands:
Next, if you want to be even more effective, try holding down the Control button and using the left mouse button to select multiple bits of texts from anywhere on your screen:
Note that just clicking the mouse button once will highlight an entire sentence, but nothing more. So be sure to click and drag at the same time.
Want to select entire words at a time (or lines if moving vertically)? Try this shortcut:
Note that if you use control, shift, and the up and down arrows in Google Docs, you will be able to highlight entire paragraphs.
And finally, here’s a really neat shortcut. If you want to select all the text in your document either before or after your cursor, try these shortcuts:
This is especially useful for longer documents!
Want to manipulate the text you’ve selected? Here are some great shortcuts.
Change your font to bold font:
Italicize the selected text:
Add some underlining:
Here are the commands you can use to Left Align, Center, Right Align, or Justify text:
Incidentally, while you have your text highlighted, you can also change the spacing by holding down Control and pressing 1 (for single spacing), 2 (for double spacing), or 5 (for 1.5 spacing).
Note that in Google Docs the shortcuts for aligning text are slightly different. They are Ctrl + Shift + L, E, R, J.
To insert a hyperlink quickly, use this command:
Of course you may first want to select the text to which you intend to apply the hyperlink.
If you press Shift and F3, you can change the selected text to one of three options: all caps, lowercase, or title case. Press this shortcut repeatedly to toggle between your options.
Experiment with this one to see just how versatile this option is. Note that you may have to also press the Function key (Fn) on your keyboard to enable the use of F3.
Note that this shortcut will not work in Google Docs.
Superscript and Subscript
Want to change a letter to superscript or subscript? Just select it and then use one of these commands.
If you wish to use these shortcuts in Google Docs, you’ll have to use Control + period (.) and Control + comma (,).
Editing often involves deleting or moving chunks of text (or images). Here are some ways to do so effectively.
Delete and Backspace
You can use the Delete and Backspace buttons to remove material before or after the cursor.
If you want to delete entire words at a time, just hold down the Control button:
Undo and Redo
One of most essential commands for a writer is the Undo shortcut. This is especially useful if you’ve deleted just a bit too much material and you want to bring it back:
Of course you can also go in the opposite direction and redo a change to your document:
Cutting and Pasting
Here are some great shortcuts for copying and pasting information.
If you use the “cut” shortcut, then you not only add the information to your clipboard, but you also remove it from the original (where possible):
If you want to copy information, but not remove it from its original location, then use the “copy” command:
After you have cut or copied information, you can use the “paste” command to insert it wherever your cursor is located:
Note that as soon as you paste text a little box appears that allows you to adjust the formatting. The default option is to retain the original formatting, but if you want to remove it or merge it, you can select one of those options.
So far we have mostly talked about commands in isolation of each other. However, once you master a few shortcuts, you will often find yourself using a number of them in quick succession.
Here’s just one example. Let’s say that you’ve copied and pasted a narrow column of text and the lines don’t extend all the way to the right margin. In this case you will want to move your cursor to the end of the line, press “delete,” add a space if necessary, move down to the next line, and repeat the process:
This is just one example of the ways in which keyboard shortcuts can make editing your work much easier.