Tasty Tip for Keyboarders

If you’re a keyboarder, or just like to do things faster than the mouse allows sometimes, here’s a handy tip.

I was installing a few virtual machines (Windows and Linux) that didn’t have mouse support because of limitations in the virtualization software. As a result, I had to do everything via the keyboard. I’ve gotten fairly adept at keyboarding in Windows, but not so much on Linux since I usually use a terminal.

But given that you can do almost anything from a terminal, I just had to open one on Linux using the keyboard. In Gnome (the default desktop environment on all three Linux distributions I installed), the two most useful shortcuts are:

Alt-F1 – Open the applications menu (arrow around to select one)
Alt-F2 – Run menu (type in gnome-terminal to open a terminal)

On Windows, the equivalent shortcuts are:

Windows key – Open the Start menu (then type p to open up the Programs)
Windows-R – Open the run menu (cmd to open a command prompt)

In virtually all GUIs, tab, shift-tab and the arrow keys will get you where you need to go. But there’s an even faster method.

Take a look at any application on your desktop right now. The most obvious one is your web browser, but any will do. Once you’ve picked one, hit Alt and look at the menu just below the title bar (most often File, Edit, etc). Notice how there is an underlined letter in each word? You can open any menu (or item in a dialog) with an underlined letter by pressing Alt-“underlined letter”. For example, in Firefox, the File menu has the F underlined. Hit Alt-F to open the file menu. Once a menu is open, type the underlined letter (without Alt) of the menu item. Arrow keys work too, but going directly to the menu item is faster.

And now you know how to use the keyboard to launch into ludicrous speed.

Have fun!

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