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Essential Windows 8 Shortcuts, Clicks, and Gestures

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Windows 8 has a lot of cool features, but they’re hard to find - unless you know the secret keyboard shortcuts, mouse clicks, and touch gestures. In this article, author Michael Miller provides an invaluable reference to everything you need to know to use Windows 8 to the fullest.
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Windows 8 is much like previous versions of Windows—except it’s not. That is, you can do almost everything you used to be able to do, and then some, if you know the secret handshakes. Well, not really secret handshakes, but it seems like that, sometimes.

That’s because a lot of what used to be out in the open in Windows 7 and Windows Vista (and even Windows XP) is now accessible only by a touch gesture or keyboard shortcut or mouse movement. There are fewer “visual cues” to what you need to do, and more stuff you need to memorize. You can’t rely on whatever you want to do being located somewhere on the Start menu, because the Start menu doesn’t exist anymore.

So to get the most out of Windows 8 —heck, just to use it on the most basic level—you have to learn a series of shortcuts, clicks, and gestures. These aren’t always intuitive, and are often difficult if not impossible to remember.

Essential Keyboard Shortcuts

Let’s start with how to operate Windows 8 with your computer keyboard. Yeah, you might have a fancy new touchscreen PC (although you probably don’t), and I’m sure you’re a wiz with the mouse or touchpad, but more often than not, the fastest way to do any specific operation is to tap a key or two on your keyboard.

I say a key or two, because much of what you need to in Windows 8 is accomplished by pressing two keys together—what we call keyboard shortcuts. When you see a key combination, such as Windows+C, you can press both keys simultaneously, or press one then press the other (while still keeping the first key pressed, of course).

The following table tells you all you need to know.


Shortcut Keys

Close currently running app or window


Display Charms bar


Display context-sensitive options menu

Application (menu) key

Display Options bar


Lock computer


Open a program or document

Move to item with arrow keys, then press Enter

Open All Apps Window

From Start screen, press Ctrl+Tab

Open Windows Help


Return to Start screen

Windows key

Scroll down

PageDown or down arrow

Scroll left

PageUp or left arrow

Scroll right

PageDown or right arrow

Scroll up

PageUp or up arrow



Shut down Windows


View or switch to other open apps


Most of these keyboard shortcuts are self-evident; you know what the Alt key is, and the Tab key, and even the various function keys (F1, F2, F3, and so forth). Two keys, however, are unique to Windows PCs.

The Windows key is the key, typically on the bottom row of the keyboard, to the left of the spacebar, that has a picture of the Windows logo on it. This key is particularly important in Windows 8, as you press this key to display the Start screen, which in the lieu of the old Start menu, you use to launch all your apps.

Figure 1 Windows key.

The other unique key is the Application key. This key is also located on the bottom row of the keyboard, to the right of the spacebar, and has the image of a menu on it. For that reason it’s sometimes called the Menu key, although that’s not its official name. Pressing the Application key has the same effect as right-clicking an item with your mouse; it typically displays a context-sensitive options menu.

Figure 2 Application key.

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