Back in the good old days of computers, when everything was command-line/text based, the keyboard was the cream of the crop. However, now that everything has turned graphical (thanks a lot Apple), mouse users are ruling the world! Whilst the mouse has its upsides, they are virtually useless to a blind/visually impaired person. Think about it, what use is a pointing device if you can't even see where the device is pointing? Think of a typical Steve/Clive scenario where Steve is asking Clive to point at icons on the screen and click on them. Wouldn't you think that Clive, being blind himself, would be very highly frustrated by this?
Below is a list of 10 keyboard shortcuts that every computer user, blind or sighted, should know. This article was inspired by a recent OSFirstTimer video.
The Windows key is quite possibly the most powerful key of them all as it allows the user to access the driving force behind the Windows operating system, the start menu. The start menu houses all your programs, documents, settings, and just about everything else related to your Windows PC. Versions of Windows like Windows 7 and Windows 10 even include a search field on the start menu that allows you to search for items on your PC and even the world wide web. The Windows key works on Windows 95 and higher and is 2 places to the left of the space bar.
Pressing the Windows key and the D key at the same time allows you to access the desktop where all your shortcut icons are housed. It minimises (hides) all open windows at once, so there's no need to use the mouse to minimise each window individually. To return to the active window, press Windows + D again. This shortcut works on Windows 95 and higher.
The application key, which works on Windows 95 and higher and is 2 places to the right of the space bar, simply allows you to do a right click without using the mouse. For example, pressing this key while focused on a file will bring up a menu which will allow you to open, rename, delete and see the properties of that file. Pressing it on the recycle-bin icon will let you open and empty the recycle-bin, just like a typical right click would.
If you're using one of those lousy notebook computers, Shift + F10 is a great substitute for the application key.
The Windows + B keyboard shortcut, which works on Windows XP and higher, allows you to access the system tray which houses icons such as the clock, speakers, the mouse, antivirus/antimalware tools etc. The system tray (systray) is part of the Windows task bar and allows for quick and easy access to programs stored on your computer. Of course, the program has to be actively running for it to be available in the systray, though some programs, sometimes refered to as gadgets or widgets, can be pinned to the systray for easy access.
Windows + T works on Windows Vista and higher and lets you access the main Windows taskbar where all your currently running and pinned programs reside. Your system might already have icons pinned to the taskbar when you first run Windows after setup, such as your web browser and email client. This is more common on newer versions of Windows such as Windows 8 and Windows 10.
Some programs, such as text and audio editing programs, include a ribbon menu at the top of the screen that includes file, edit, insert etc. The Alt key allows you to access that ribbon menu. It can also be used as a modifier key to access certain parts of the ribbon, such as Alt + F for file or Alt + I for insert. The file menu allows you to open, save, import and export files. The edit menu allows you to undo (Control + Z), copy (Control + C), paste (Control + V) etc.
The Windows + R keyboard shortcut allows you to access the Windows Run box. This is a text field where you type the location of the file, folder or website you want to open, and press enter. The file, folder or website you typed into the field will then be launched automatically. The run box is commonly used to access items stored on secondary storage devices, such as programs stored on CDs or DVDs. The downside of the run box is that you have to know the exact location of the item you want to access. For old-school DOS users like me, this is no big deal however for fans of the fancy graphical user interface, it might just be easier to use the taskbar, desktop or start menu. Windows + R works on Windows 95 and higher.
Windows + E allows you to access My Computer (or File explorer for you Windows 10 users) where you can browse the drives, directories and files stored on your PC. You can use the up and down arrow keys to navigate and press the Enter/Return and Backspace keys to get into and out of directories.
Alt + F4 allows you to close a window. You can even shut down the Windows operating system itself with this command. Just press Alt + F4 while the desktop is active to display the shutdown dialog where you can shut down, restart, hibernate or put the PC to sleep.
See? The keyboard is a useful input device after all. Just remember that not everything on a computer is mouse-based. Who knows, you might even find it easier using the keyboard.