The F Keys. The F should not stand for forgotten.

Do me a favour will you, look at your keyboard.

I mean really look at it, examine it closely, and ignoring all the dust, crumbs and dandruff strewn over it, I want you to focus on those keys you never think to use, the Home key, the End key and the top row of F keys that you prop your pen against.

Well, it might simply be that you’re overlooking those keys because you don’t know what they do or realize how useful they can be.

Actually I exaggerate, some of them are useless on their own and and we shall ignore them like the dried up sneezes that also customise our keyboards, but as for the others, it’s at least worth knowing what they do.

Let’s start with The F keys, the F actually standing for Function, although you can function perfectly well without most of them.

But the ones most worthwhile are :

The F1 key – The ‘Help’ key. The button to press when you need a little guidance about the program open at the forefront of your screen. Mind you, for most programs it would help if there was another button to press to help you make sense of the help they so unhelpfully try to help with.

The F2 key – The ‘Rename’ key. Very convenient. Click on your target, press this button and you’re able to instantly rename that folder with those dodgy pics in it – VAT Receipts 09/10. (Note to my Mrs, only an example my dear, only an example.)

The F5 key – The ‘Refresh’ key. Used in tandem with any web browser. Handy for confirming the webpage you’ve loaded is the latest version, for reloading a page that mis-loads and for repeatedly stabbing angrily when a page is taking far too long to load.

The F6 Key – The ‘Transfer Focus To The Address Bar In A Browser’ key. Big deal you may think but handily removes that trip to the mouse to do the same thing and then back to the keyboard. My personal favourite and if it’d made sense to put this on top of the list I would have.

The F11 key – The ‘Full Screen’ key. If your TV had its menu perpetually at the top of the screen you wouldn’t put up with it, and you don’t have to when you’re web surfing. Hit this to make the top toolbar disappear and hit it again when you need it.

And as for those other keys you never use…

The Home key – This one is contextual and its effect will depend on the program you’re using at the time. But I’m only talking about web browsers here, so if you’ve scrolled to the bottom of a looooong webpage, hit this and whammo, you’re instantly back to the top again.

The End key – Guess what, this one does the opposite. Can’t face that long scroll to the bottom of a webpage, this will drop you there quicker than a mouse shaped breeze-block.

So now you know, and for F’s sake, clean all that crap out of your keyboard!

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Keyboard shortcuts to save you more than just time.

OK, more Keyboard Shortcuts for you now.

There’s no doubt that when you learn them they are a great way to navigate through your computer life.

The trouble is that there are so many different ones, they’re always presented as a job-lot of a hundred and, even if you could be bothered, it’s too confusing to learn them all.

Well not here, I’m going to be gentle with you and present just a small group of the most useful ones at a time.

Our first lesson will be about Browser Shortcuts and you know that you have to hit the combination of keys together don’t you, of course you do.

Alright then, have a practice with these…

  1. Ctrl + T will open a new browser tab for you
  2. Ctrl + Shift + T will re-open any tab you’ve closed during your current browsing session, back in reverse order from the last one you exited. Extremely handy if the wife walked by and you quickly had to close those Singles dating sites you were looking at.
  3. Ctrl + F allows you to find a word or phrase on a webpage like you can in a Word Program. Press the two keys, a little menu bar appears, tap your word into it and now every instance of it on the page becomes highlighted. Useful for targeting location information on a dating site for instance.
  4. Ctrl + K is a Firefox only one but it will immediately place your cursor into the browser’s search bar. For the times you need to look up a local address or restaurant and hotel information perhaps.
  5. Ctrl + Shift + Delete is another Firefox one but it will bring up a dialog box that allows you to delete your browsing history. Good for security, is a nice reset for getting the newest versions of web pages and absolutely bloody vital for keeping the wife from killing you.

Happy browsing people.

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Ctrl-Z – The Superman of all keyboard shortcuts.

Ok folks, hopefully this will be one many people will know about.

But if you don’t, oh if you don’t, are you going to feel pleased you stopped by. Your life changes forever right here.

Because in life there are certain events which shape us. Our formative years in school, our first love, our first heartbreak, our economy going down the tubes, that sort of thing.

But when it comes to computers, this is the biggie.

I remember when I found out about Ctrl-Z, it was like losing my computer virginity, choirs of Seraphim started singing the Hallalujah Chorus in my head. If I smoked, I’d have lit one up and spooned the keyboard.

And now my friend, this too shall be your epiphany.

Ok, are you ready, I’ll shall reveal what it actually does.

If you press the Ctrl key (bottom left) and the Z key TOGETHER (it’s cmd-Z on the Mac) you will go back a step, you will undo your last keyboard action, that thing you just did on your computer that you didn’t mean to, never happened!

And if you press them again, guess what, you go back another step, and then another, and then another.

(Oh, and don’t worry if you Ctrl-Z’ed past the point you meant to stop. Now just press Ctrl-Y and you’ll restore that last errant Ctrl-Z step, and then another, and then another…)

Bloody hell, that’s brilliant, and so simple!

Yes it is, because bombastic exaggerations aside it’s probably the most basic but most useful thing anybody ever learns about using a computer.

I’ve been in offices before where a whole section of staff didn’t know about Ctrl-Z.

Ok, it was the men who didn’t know.

But when I’ve explained its powerful beauty, above the excited exclamations of “Holy Sh*t, I didn’t know that”, I’ve heard the Angelic Host singing in their head as well.

At which point I quietly moved myself and my keyboard out of the way.

So now when you’ve just made a mistake in an email, copying and pasting in Word, entering data in Excel or writing a sentence in a blog and then thinking nah, that’s rubbish, you too can be like Superman in the first movie and reverse time.

Hitting Ctrl-Z won’t defeat an evil mastermind but believe me, it will save you from yourself.