Shave off seconds - save hours

It might seem like nothing—reaching for the mouse or trackpad to close a window or move the cursor takes only a fraction of a second—but it breaks your flow and accumulates to great swaths of time you can use to get the work done instead. Learning some general hotkeys (keyboard shortcuts) and adding some custom ones to your workflow will increase your productivity in an instant. I’m on Windows, but will include the Mac equivalents where it is available.

General Hotkeys

Cursor control

This will speed up your navigation in text and code editors by a lot. Every time you find yourself reaching for the mouse to place your cursor, it would probably be faster to navigate using keys.


Jump word-by-word

I sometimes see people hold the right or left key down to get the cursor to the desired place on the line. With Ctrl+left/right you will jump on word at a time instead which will be much faster. Combine this with Shift, Ctrl+Shift+left/right to mark the words at the same time (for deletion, move or copy/paste).


Jump to beginning/end of line

Self-explanatory but often overlooked. Home and End buttons on the keyboard will do this.


Jump up/down in the document

This is faster than reaching for the mouse and dragging your way down or using the trackpad. PgUp/PgDown

This is especially useful in browsers such as Chrome or Firefox. It works in most applications that utilize tabs though (VS Code, for example). Jumping back and forward, closing tabs, open the one you just closed

Close tabs

Windows: Ctrl+w

Mac: Cmd+w


Open most recently closed tab

This is useful when you use the above hotkey too fast.

Windows: Ctrl+Shift+t

Mac: Cmd+Shift+t


Next/previous tab

Windows/Mac: Ctrl+Tab (next), Ctrl+Shift+Tab (previous) You can also jump straight to specific tabs with: Ctrl+[number], for example, tab number 5 is: Ctrl+5. The last tab is always at: Ctrl+9.

Organize open windows

This will make you faster in setting up and organizing your desktop environment.

Close current application/window

Windows: Alt+F4

Mac: Cmd+q


Move your windows around

This is useful for splitting your working space to work concurrently in many applications at the same time. You might want Excel on one half on the screen and your text editor on the other, for example.

Windows: Windows button+direction key

For example, the Windows button and right will put the window on the right half of your screen and let you choose what to display on the other half: split screen


Open Explorer/Finder

Windows: Windows button+e

Mac: Option+Command+Space


Shift between open windows

Essential for jumping between open applications and windows.

Windows: Alt+Tab. Use Alt+Ctrl+Shift to get an overview of all open windows.

Mac: Cmd+Tab (switch between applications) Cmd+Shift+Tab (shift between open windows)

Functionality

Paste unformatted

I don’t think we need to go through copy/paste, but copy unformatted is often overlooked. Sometimes when you paste the text might bring the formatting from wherever it was copied from.

Windows: Ctrl+Shift+V

Mac: Command+Shift+Option+V

Settings

Change language/keyboard layout

This one is great if you write in different languages. It saves me a lot of time going between Swedish and English keyboard as the layout is different.

Windows: Alt+Shift

Mac: Ctrl+Space

Custom hotkeys

It starts getting really powerful when you customize the hotkeys to your specific use cases. Most applications will let you map keyboard combinations as you wish.

Start applications

I have Chrome at Ctrl+Alt+c, VS Code at Ctrl+Alt+v and so on. You set these hotkeys (in Windows) by right-clicking the shortcut to the application and select properties:

This lets me keep my desktop clean, as I don’t need to have shortcuts on the desktop, as described here:

empty desktop


Custom Search Engines

In Chrome, you can save time by mapping hotkeys to search functionality on your favorite sites. Right-click the address field and choose “Edit search engines…”:

search engines

For example, I have:

search engines

And by just typing “gr” and space I can instantly search Goodreads:

search engines

Those are a few of the hotkeys I use to save time. There are lots more. Make a habit of stopping for a second if you notice you reach for the mouse. There is probably a better way to do that!