Windows and Navigation Basics

What follows is an overview of some tips for navigating Windows, and some keyboard shortcuts to make your life easier.

Start Menu

The Start Menu displays links or shortcuts to every program that is installed on your computer. To open the Start Menu from anywhere, press the Windows Key. On most keyboards, the Windows Key is on the bottom row, second from the left. On older keyboards that do not have a Windows Key, you can use Control+Escape to open the Start Menu. The order of programs will be different on every computer. The most-used programs are displayed first. Because some programs may be hidden, in Windows XP, press "P" to jump to the All Programs menu. IN Windows 7 and Vista, press the Windows Key, press Up Arrow once, and press Enter when you reach the All Programs submenu. To exit the Start Menu, press the Escape Key located in the upper left corner of the keyboard.


The Windows Desktop contains links to many programs. You can also create shortcuts to programs or directories you use. Return to the Desktop at any time by either pressing Windows Key+D or Windows Key+M. When on the Desktop, you can use your arrow keys to move between items. You can also press the first letter to jump to that item. For example, press S until your computer says "System Access." Press S again and you will hear "System Access Mobile Network." To open a program or document, simply press Enter.

System Tray

The System Tray shows programs running in the background, such as Windows Live Messenger or an anti-virus program. To access the System Tray, press Modifier+F11. Remember, the Modifier Key can either be the Caps-Lock, Scroll-Lock, or either of the Insert Keys. Move between items with Up Arrow or Down Arrow Keys, or press the first letter, like W for Windows Live Messenger. Once you've selected an item in the System Tray, press Tab to move through options to single left-click, double left-click or right-click, and press Spacebar to activate the appropriate button. Note your command will be issued and the dialog will close.

The Taskbar

The taskbar is an area across the bottom of your screen, to the right of the start button. It contains icons representing all open programs on your computer. In Windows 7 and above, it also contains programs that you may access frequently, such as Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and Windows Media Player. You can access the taskbar either by tabbing to it from the desktop, or by pressing Windows+T. System Access will call it "Running applications toolbar", but it really is the taskbar. You can access the programs in the taskbar either by moving to them with the left and right arrows, or by pressing the first letter of the application's name. Once you've reached the application you want, you can press enter to start using it.

Help Balloons

Help balloons are pop-ups with messages about applications or the system's status. You will hear a popping sound that indicates that a help balloon has appeared, followed by the message. Press Modifier+B to click the message, read more information, or access settings.

Other Useful Windows Commands

To get help press F1. Use the Up and Down Arrow Keys to choose a specific category. Use the Right Arrow Key to expand categories and see the topics within, and Left Arrow to collapse. Once on the item of interest, press F6 to read the topic. When finished, press F6 to return to the list of help topics. When this is done, press Escape to exit help.

To rename a file, folder, Desktop shortcut, or drive, press F2 and type in the new name.

To search for files and folders, press F3. You can search for specific filenames, or file types like *.txt.

To close and exit most programs, press Alt+F4.

To move between open programs, press Alt+Tab. To move in reverse order, press Alt+Shift+Tab.

Manipulating Text and Files

To copy one or more items to the clipboard, press Control+C. To paste one or more items from the clipboard to a new location, press Control+V. To cut an item, i.e., remove it from one place, and put in another; first highlight the item or items and press Control+X, then go to the new location where you want the files or block of text, and press Control+V. To select all items, press Control+A. Then use the copy command with Control+C if making a second copy, or use the cut command with Control+X if moving items from one location to another. Don't forget to finish by pressing Control+V to paste.

Two important things to remember are: 1. Contents in the clipboard are overwritten every time you press either Control+C or Control+X. therefore, you can not keep adding items to the clipboard. 2. Clipboard contents are erased every time the computer is restarted.

To highlight multiple items for cutting, copying and pasting, use the Shift Key in conjunction with the Arrow Keys. Another important lifesaver is the Undo command, accomplished by pressing Control+Z.

Editing Commands

Control+Left Arrow moves the insertion point to the beginning of the previous word Control+Right Arrow moves the insertion point to the beginning of the next word Control+Up Arrow moves the insertion point to the beginning of the previous paragraph Control+Down Arrow moves the insertion point to the beginning of the next paragraph Control+Shift with any of the Arrow Keys Highlights a block of text Shift with any of the Arrow Keys Selects more than one item in a window or on the Desktop, or select text in a document.

Last modified December 10, 2014

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