Issue #11 September 2005

Keyboard shortcuts: Faster than the speed of mouse

Keyboard bindings: why use them?

My computer set-up is suboptimal. My desk is too high for me to type on comfortably. My workaround? I type with my keyboard on my lap. That puts the keyboard at just the right height and is kinder to my wrists. My mouse, however, has to sit on my desk. Using my mouse involves moving my hand a foot in each direction.

While this action might conceivably bulk up my arm muscles, I would rather not do my arm exercises while at my computer. Using the mouse is time consuming, distracting, and, most importantly, less ergonomic. While your computer may be better situated than mine, chances are you, too, would work faster if you did not have to use your mouse.

To minimize my mouse use, I learned many of the keyboard bindings for various applications. Many applications use similar bindings, making them even easier to remember.

I have compiled a list of keyboard bindings here for some of the more prevalent applications. Feel free to print them out and keep them next to your computer. It may take you a little time to remember them, but once you do, you will wonder how you ever did without.

GNOME desktop

The GNOME desktop has a set of keyboard bindings that work the same way for most of their programs. The GNOME project requires that everything done with a mouse should be possible with just the keyboard. The most useful GNOME keyboard bindings are shown in Table 1, “GNOME keyboard bindings”.

Tip:
Some keyboard shortcuts can be changed. To see a list of possible actions that can be bound to a shortcut, select Desktop -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts.
Tip:
If you are a frequent user of shell and Emacs key bindings, you can set your desktop to respond to the same keys by entering this in your terminal:
gconftool-2 -s -t string /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_key_theme "Emacs"
To restore to the default, enter:
gconftool-2 -s -t string /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_key_theme "default"
Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Alt-Space Brings up the window menu. Click on the window icon in the menubar.
F1 Starts the help browser for the current application. Select Help -> Contents.
F6 Moves focus to pane. If more than one pane is available in the application, cycles between them. No mouse equivalent.
F8 Moves focus to pane separator. If more than one pane separator is available in the application, moves between them. Once selected, the pane selector can be moved by using the arrow keys, the Page Up and Page Down keys, and the Home and End keys. Click and drag the pane separators.
F10 Gives focus to and opens the menubar. Click on the the menubar.
Shift-F10 If available, opens the context menu for the part in focus. Right click on the desired widget.
Ctrl-F10 In the file chooser, opens the context menu for the general area. Right click on a blank space in the file pane.
F11 Toggles full screen mode. Select View -> Fullscreen.
Ctrl-X Cut highlighted text. Right click on highlighted text and select Cut.
Ctrl-C Copy highlighted text. Right click on highlighted text and select Copy.
Ctrl-V Paste cut or copied text. Right click on highlighted text and select Paste.
Ctrl-+ Zoom in. Select View -> Zoom in.
Ctrl-- Zoom out. Select View -> Zoom out.
Tab Moves to next widget in window. Some widgets can be selected with a mouse click. Others cannot.
Shift-Tab Moves to previous widget in window. Some widgets can be selected with a mouse click. Others cannot.
Ctrl-Tab Moves to next widget in window even when a normal Tab does not work. For example, in a text entry box, Tab adds a tab space. Some widgets can be selected with a mouse click. Others cannot.
Ctrl-Space Select item in addition to previous selections. Ctrl-left click on the item.
Ctrl-Arrow Key Move focus without affecting selection. No mouse equivalent.
Ctrl-L Moves focus to the location bar. Click in the location bar.
Ctrl-Page Up Move to the tab on the left of current one. Select the tab.
Ctrl-Page Down Move to the tab on the right of current one. Select the tab.
PrtScn Takes a screenshot of the desktop. No mouse equivalent.
Alt-PrtScn Takes a screenshot of the window in focus. No mouse equivalent.
Ctrl-Alt-Tab Toggles focus between the desktop and individual panels.. No mouse equivalent.
Ctrl-Alt-D Hide all applications to show the desktop. Click the Hide all button located in the panel.
Table 1. GNOME keyboard bindings

Firefox

Although not technically part of the GNOME project, Firefox uses many of the keyboard bindings shown in Table 1, “GNOME keyboard bindings”. Supplemental bindings are shown in Table 2, “Firefox keyboard bindings”.

Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Ctrl-N Creates a new Firefox window. Select File -> New Window.
Ctrl-T Creates a new tab in the current Firefox window. Select File -> New Tab.
Alt-Left Arrow Go to previous page in your browsing history. Click Left Arrow in the toolbar.
Alt-Right Arrow Go to the next page in your browsing history. Click Right Arrow in the toolbar.
Alt-Home Go to the home page. Click on Home in the toolbar.
Ctrl-R Reload page. Click on Reload in the toolbar.
Ctrl-O Allows you to choose an existing file to show in the current Firefox window. Select File -> Open File.
Ctrl-W Close current tab. If only one tab is open in the window, closes the window. Select File -> Close Tab.
Ctrl-Shift-W Closes the current window. If only one window is open, Firefox exits. Select File -> Close Window.
Ctrl-S Prompts you for a file name under which to save the current page. Select File -> Save Page As….
Ctrl-P Prints the current page. Select File -> Print….
Ctrl-F Search in current page. Select Edit -> Find in This Page….
Ctrl-G Repeat the same search. Select Edit -> Find Again
Ctrl-U View the source HTML for the current page. Select View -> Page Source.
Ctrl-H Opens the History pane. Select Go -> History.
Ctrl-D Adds current page into your bookmarks. Select Bookmarks -> Bookmark This Page….
Table 2. Firefox keyboard bindings

Evolution

Because Evolution is a suite of applications, each component has its own set of keyboard bindings. Table 3, “General Evolution keyboard bindings” shows the generic Evolution bindings while Table 4, “Evolution keyboard bindings in the mail view”, Table 5, “Evolution keyboard bindings in the mail composition window”, and Table 6, “Evolution keyboard bindings in the calendar window” show the keyboard bindings for the mail component, the mail composition window, and the calendar component respectively.

Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Ctrl-N Creates a new email, contact, task, or appointment, depending on which view you are in. Click on New.
Ctrl-Shift-M Creates a new email independent of your current view. Click on the down arrow next to New and select Mail Message.
Ctrl-Shift-C Creates a new contact independent of your current view. Click on the down arrow next to New and select Contact.
Ctrl-Shift-A Creates a new appointment independent of your current view. Click on the down arrow next to New and select Appointment.
Ctrl-Shift-T Creates a new task independent of your current view. Click on the down arrow next to New and select Task.
Ctrl-P Print Click Print.
Ctrl-W Close current window. Select File -> Close.
Ctrl-Q Quit Evolution. Select File -> Quit.
F9 Send any outgoing mail and get any incoming mail. Click on Send/Receive.
Ctrl-F1 Change to mail view. Select View -> Window -> Mail.
Ctrl-F2 Change to contacts view. Select View -> Window -> Contacts.
Ctrl-F3 Change to calendars view. Select View -> Window -> Calendars.
Ctrl-F4 Change to tasks view. Select View -> Window -> Tasks.
Table 3. General Evolution keyboard bindings
Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Ctrl-Y Apply filters to selected messages. Select Actions -> Apply Filters.
Ctrl-O Open selected message in new window. Double click on selected message.
Ctrl-R Reply to sender for the selected message. Click on Reply.
Ctrl-Shift-R Reply to all for the selected message. Click on Reply to All.
Ctrl-F Forward selected message. Click on Forward.
] or . When the message list has focus, goes to next unread message. Click on the message.
[ or , When the message list has focus, goes to previous unread message. Click on the message.
Ctrl-K Marks selected messages as read. Click on the envelope icon on the left of the message line to toggle read status.
Ctrl-Shift-K Marks selected messages as unread. Click on the envelope icon on the left of the message line to toggle read status.
Ctrl-E Expunge deleted messages. Select Actions -> Expunge.
Table 4. Evolution keyboard bindings in the mail view
Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Ctrl-Return Send message. Click on Send.
Ctrl-S Save as a file. Select File -> Save.
Ctrl-Shift-L Spell check the email. Select Edit -> Spell Check Document.
Ctrl-Alt-A Add attachment to email. Click Attach.
Ctrl-Z Undo last edit. Click Undo.
Ctrl-R Redo edit that had been undone. Click Redo.
Table 5. Evolution keyboard bindings in the mail composition window
Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Ctrl-Shift-E Create a new meeting. Select File -> New -> Meeting.
Ctrl-Shift-P Create a new all-day appointment. Select File -> New -> All Day Appointment.
Ctrl-Alt-T Go to today's calendar page. Click Today.
Ctrl-Alt-G Go to a selected date on the calendar page. Click Go To.
Ctrl-D Delete selected appointment. Select Edit -> Delete.
Ctrl-E Purge all appointments from calendar before set date. Select Actions -> Purge.
Table 6. Evolution keyboard bindings in the calendar window

OpenOffice.org

Like Evolution, OpenOffice.org is a suite of different applications. Their shared keyboard bindings are shown in Table 7, “General OpenOffice.org keyboard bindings” while Table 8, “OpenOffice.org writer keyboard bindings” and Table 9, “OpenOffice.org Calc keyboard bindings” show individual keyboard bindings for OpenOffice.org Writer and OpenOffice.org Calc respectively.

These tables show some of the more important keyboard bindings. OpenOffice.org actually has many more. You can find a list of them in the help section for each application, which, if you check Table 1, “GNOME keyboard bindings”, can be started by pressing F1.

Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
Ctrl-O Open a document Select File -> Open….
Ctrl-S Save the current document. Select File -> Save.
Ctrl-N Create a new document. Select File -> New.
Ctrl-Shift-N Open the Templates and Documents window. No mouse equivalent.
Ctrl-P Print current document. Select File -> Print.
Ctrl-F4 Close current window. Select File -> Close.
Ctrl-Q Quit OpenOffice.org. Select File -> Quit.
Ctrl-Z Undo last edit. Select Edit -> Undo.
Ctrl-Y Redo edit that has been undone. Select Edit -> Redo.
Ctrl-A Select all. Select Edit -> Select All.
Ctrl-F Search in the current document. Select Edit -> Find & Replace.
Ctrl-Shift-F Searches again with the same string. In the Find & Replace window, click on Find.
Ctrl-Shift-J Toggles full screen mode. Select View -> Full Screen.
Ctrl-B Marks selected text as bold. Click B in the toolbar.
Ctrl-I Marks selected text as italic. Click I in the toolbar.
Ctrl-U Marks selected text as underlined. Click U in the toolbar.
Table 7. General OpenOffice.org keyboard bindings
Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
F2 Show the formula bar. Select Table -> Formula.
F4 Toggle data sources pane. Select View -> Data Sources.
F5 Toggle navigator window. Select Edit -> Navigator.
F7 Spell check document. Select Tools -> Spellcheck.
Ctrl-F7 Use the thesaurus for current word. Select Tools -> Language -> Thesaurus….
F11 Toggles the Style and Formatting window. Select Format -> Styles and Formatting.
F12 Start numbered list mode. Click the numbered list icon in the toolbar.
Shift-F12 Start bullet list mode. Click the bullet list icon in the toolbar.
Ctrl-D Marks selected text with a double underline. No mouse equivalent.
Ctrl-J Justify selected paragraph. Select Format -> Alignment -> Justified.
Ctrl-E Center selected paragraph. Select Format -> Alignment -> Centered.
Ctrl-L Align selected paragraph to the left. Select Format -> Alignment -> Left.
Ctrl-R Align selected paragraph to the right. Select Format -> Alignment -> Right.
Ctrl-Enter Create a page break. Select Insert -> Manual Break.
Home Move cursor to the beginning of line. Click on beginning of line.
Ctrl-Home Move cursor to the beginning of document. Scroll to beginning of document.
End Move cursor to the end of the line. Click on the end of the line.
Ctrl-End Move cursor to the end of the document. Click on the end of the document.
Table 8. OpenOffice.org writer keyboard bindings
Keyboard binding What it does Mouse equivalent
F2 Edit the current cell. Click in the input line.
Ctrl-F2 Open the Function Wizard. Select Insert -> Function….
F5 Toggles the Navigator window. Select Edit -> Navigator.
F7 Checks spelling in current sheet. Select Tools -> Spellcheck.
F9 Recalculate all the formulas on current sheet. Select Tools -> Cell Contents -> Recalculate.
F11 Opens the Styles and Formatting window. Select Format -> Styles and Formatting.
F12 Group selected rows or columns together. Select Data -> Outline -> Group….
Ctrl-F12 Removes grouping from selected rows or columns. Select Data -> Outline -> Ungroup….
Alt-Down Arrow Increase the height of the current row. Select Format -> Row -> Height and edit manually.
Alt-Up Arrow Decrease the height of the current row. Select Format -> Row -> Height and edit manually.
Alt-Right Arrow Increases the width of the current column. Select Format -> Column -> Height and edit manually.
Alt-Left Arrow Decreases the width of the current column. Select Format -> Column -> Height and edit manually.
Alt-Shift-Down Arrow or Alt-Shift-Up Arrow Set the row height to exact height of selected entry. No mouse equivalent.
Alt-Shift-Right Arrow or Alt-Shift-Left Arrow Set the column width to exact width of selected entry. No mouse equivalent.
Home Move cursor to the first cell in the current row. Click on the appropriate cell.
End Move cursor to the cell in the current row. The last cell is defined as the one in the last column with data. Click on the appropriate cell.
Ctrl-Home Move cursor to cell A1 in the current sheet. Scroll to the top and click on cell A1.
Ctrl-End Move cursor to last cell in the spreadsheet. Scroll to the end of the sheet and click on cell.
Ctrl-Page Up Show the sheet to the left. Click on the appropriate sheet tab.
Ctrl-Page Down Show the sheet to the right. Click on the appropriate sheet tab.
Table 9. OpenOffice.org Calc keyboard bindings

About the author

Rosanna Yuen is an avid computer user who often finds herself surrounded by computer programmers. She co-wrote AisleRiot and is a dabbler in the GNOME project. In her spare time, she reads, knits, and experiments in her kitchen.