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42+ Text-Editing Keyboard Shortcuts That Work Almost Everywhere

backlit keyboard bokeh header

Whether you’re typing an email in your browser or writing in a word processor, there are convenient keyboard shortcuts usable in almost every application. You can copy, select, or delete entire words or paragraphs with just a few key presses.

Some applications may not support a few of these shortcuts, but most applications support the majority of them. Many are built into the standard text-editing fields on Windows and other operating systems.

Image Credit: Kenny Louie on Flickr

Working With Words

We’re used to the arrow, Backspace, and Delete keys working with a single character at a time. However, we can add the Ctrl key to have them effect entire words or paragraph at the same time.

Ctrl+Left Arrow – Move cursor to beginning of previous word.

Ctrl+Right Arrow – Move cursor to beginning of next word

Ctrl+Backspace – Delete previous word.

Ctrl+Delete – Delete next word.

Ctrl+Up Arrow – Move cursor to beginning of paragraph.

Ctrl+Down Arrow – Move cursor to end of paragraph.

Mac Users: Use the Option key instead of the Ctrl key.

ctrl key

Image Credit: Renato Targa on Flickr

Moving the Cursor

The Ctrl key can also be combined with the Home and End keys.

Home – Move cursor to beginning of current line.

End – Move cursor to end of current line.

Ctrl+Home – Move cursor to top of the text entry field.

Ctrl+End – Move cursor to bottom of the text entry field.

Page Up – Move cursor up a frame.

Page Down – Move cursor down a frame.

page up page down

Image Credit: Book Glutton on Flickr

Selecting Text

All of the above shortcuts can be combined with the Shift key to select text.

Shift+Left or Right Arrow Keys – Select characters one at a time.

Shift+Up or Down Arrow Keys – Select lines one at a time.

Shift+Ctrl+Left or Right Arrow Keys – Select words – keep pressing the arrow keys to select additional words.

Shift+Ctrl+Up or Down Arrow Keys – Select paragraphs.

Shift+Home – Select the text between the cursor and the beginning of the current line.

Shift+End – Select the text between the cursor and the end of the current line.

Shift+Ctrl+Home – Select the text between the cursor and the beginning of the text entry field.

Shift+Ctrl+End – Select the text between the cursor and the end of the text entry field.

Shift+Page Down – Select a frame of text below the cursor.

Shift+Page Up – Select a frame of text above the cursor.

Ctrl+A – Select all text.

You can use several of these shortcuts to fine-tine your selected text. For example, you could press Shift+End to select the text to the end of the current line, and then press Shift+Down to also select the line below it.

After selecting text, you can start typing immediately to replace the text – you don’t have to press Delete first.

shift key

Image Credit: James_jhs on Flickr

Editing

You can really speed up text-editing by using the Ctrl keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste text.

Ctrl+C, Ctrl+Insert – Copy selected text.

Ctrl+X, Shift+Delete – Cut selected text.

Ctrl+V, Shift+Insert – Paste text at cursor.

Ctrl+Z – Undo.

Ctrl+Y – Redo.

Formatting

Formatting shortcuts only work if the application or website you’re using supports text formatting. If you have text selected, the shortcut will apply the formatting to your selected text. If you don’t have text selected, the shortcut will toggle the associated formatting option.

Ctrl+B – Bold.

Ctrl+I – Italic.

Ctrl+U – Underline.

keyboard undo cut copy paste

Image Credit: Tess Watson on Flickr

Functions

These function keys are common to most text-editing applications. If you use them in your web browser, you’ll open your browser’s associated dialogs.

Ctrl+F – Find. This opens the find dialog in most applications to search for text — I’ve even seen it work in some applications that didn’t have a Find option in their menus.

F3 – Find next.

Shift+F3 – Find previous.

Ctrl+O – Open.

Ctrl+S – Save.

Ctrl+N – New document.

Ctrl+P – Print.

These keys work in most applications, but are particularly useful in text editors:

Alt – Activate application’s menu bar. You can use the arrow keys to select a menu option and the Enter key to activate it.

Alt+F – Open File menu.

Alt+E – Open Edit menu.

Alt+V – Open View menu.

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Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/4/12

Comments (30)

  1. bluelord

    Du-uh.. i mean our keyboard skills have de-graded so much that we need to teach people to use these shortcuts!!!

  2. ROCK

    disagree on Formating shortcuts, it depends on Language your sw is traslated (ex: Word in Portuguese Bold is Ctrl+N and Underline is Ctrl+S)

  3. Ken

    @Bluelord It has nothing to do with “Keyboard skills”… Most of these are about not needing to move your hand away from the keyboard to the MOUSE. Think about it, most are all “short-cuts” for things the mouse does. depending on your task / situation, the “little” time and effort it takes to move your had to the mouse and then move the mouse, and then get (some times on smaller screens) super precise in cursor placement, can really be distracting and a big waste over a long period of serious keyboard ninjary.

  4. Khara H.

    I am absurdly proud that I knew all of these. Almost as proud as I was to have discovered the function of that key on my keyboard that looks like a dropdown menu. It’s another invaluable one (at the bottom, between the right CTRL button and the left-arrow on my laptop keyboard) that lets you open the drop-down menu options in a program … so, basically, it’s a keyboard version of right-clicking. Thanks to that discover I almost don’t need a mouse at all, ha-ha!

    I guess the main “downsides” to these shortcuts are: a)I sometimes forget how to basically function with a mouse, b) I barely use the wireless mouse I bought (thank goodness for Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook making my mouse “not completely worthless, lol), and c) they don’t work in the “real world” … I can’t do all my shopping with CTRL+A …

    … Someday. Someday.

  5. Jim

    Khara – “I can’t do all my shopping with CTRL+A” – It took me a moment… Funny!

  6. cel

    Bluelord. Why are you even here looking at all this? Many are just learning to use their computers.

  7. Dave

    You didn’t mention my favorite! The Windows key in combination with the pause/break key-it opens the system properties dialog box.

  8. RobCr

    Could I point out one error in the above -
    THIS -
    “Mac Users: Use the Option key instead of the Ctrl key.”
    SHOULD BE -
    “Mac Users: Get a Windows PC.”

  9. Raagav

    Nice tips for the beginners. Now a days, beginners are as old as 3 years!!! :-)

  10. Shadow3641

    You guys forgot the most important one of all Alt + F4 it’s awesome!

  11. hariks

    @RobCr

    Could I point out one error in the above -
    THIS -
    “Mac Users: Use the Option key instead of the Ctrl key.”
    SHOULD BE -
    “Mac Users: Get a Windows PC.”

    And install Linux/Ubuntu on it :D

  12. snsd

    I love keyboard shortcuts! The 2 I didn’t know were using CTRL+DELETE to delete previous word and CTRL+DELETE to delete next word. Great find.

    The only one that puzzles me is this: in Gmail, CTRL+SHIFT+Left Arrow/Right Arrow does NOT select the word. In fact, the cursor doesn’t even move when you execute it. I know it’s probably outside of the scope of this discussion, but anyone have any workaround?

  13. Stephen

    Here is want I want — to the point that I will let anyone have this great idea if they just implement it!

    You know how you can select individual words in a body of text by double-click one word, then holding down CTRL and double-clicking the next, etc.?

    I want a program that lets me make multiple selections like that and then apply formatting to all of them at once.

    This would be great for editing a text, for example, that had multiple sub headings that you wanted in bold. You could select all of them, CTRL-B once — et vlan!

  14. spike

    one discrepancy that i actually find quite annoying is that in notepad, Ctrl + Backspace doesn’t work as expected -it actually types out the Delete character; basically a lack of implementation.

    @snsd: I just tried it, and it works fine in Firefox 12.0. You may have a browser issue; hard to say without detail.

    @Stephen: That works just fine using the method you described in Word 2010.

  15. Ron

    @bluelord Du-uh.. i mean our keyboard skills have de-graded so much that we need to teach people to use these shortcuts!!!

    Not everyone touched a keyboard for the first time and knew all the shortcuts like you my friend!
    So, you’ll have to bear with us & understand we are learning from knowledgeable people who are willing to teach.
    Articles like these also serve as reminders of information we’ve learned in the past and have a use for now. Because now we have more experience & understanding of our Computers,. allowing us to utilize more shortcuts, tips & tricks.

  16. ic

    @snsd: in order for Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right Arrow to work in a browser you’d need to select something first. That means you’d have to either highlight some text or double-click a word (using the mouse), for the “selection feature” to be “engaged”.
    I know it “defeats the purpose” of a shortcut having to reach out for the mouse first. But otherwise the (any) browser doesn’t know where to begin selecting the text from (what’s the starting point?).

  17. Citrus Rain

    What’s with the [Z/Y] key??

  18. Michael

    What about Ctrl + prnt scrn to take a screenshot capture, then Ctrl + v in paint to paste it?

  19. Michael

    Oh yeah, Ctrl + w closes Internet explorer, windows + r gives you run command, cams gives you command line, netsh at command line gives you…….never mind. This isn’t that kind of forum;{)

  20. Michael

    Cams = cmd, stoopid iPhone

  21. Flipperbrown

    Thanks for posting.Learning till death.And then some hopefully.I made a living before I knew how to use a computer and a better living now that I do.Howtogeek played a part in that.

  22. Ignacio Curiel

    @Citrus Rain I just noticed! Can somebody explain that to us?
    There are a number of pictures illustrating this article. From top to bottom:
    1. What seems to be a Mac Keyboard (looks like it is lighted from underneath)
    2. Zoom-in of the CTRL key
    3. Home-end/pg up-pg dn keys
    4. Zoom-in of the SHIFT key
    5. The bottom left side of a QWERTY keyboard. Notice the z/y key at the left?

    I love being an (older) geek. I am near 50 yo

  23. YoAisianMama

    Try Windows+Tab

  24. Sly

    To complete your article you can add the “keyboard shortcuts” for filling forms such as :
    - Tab to focus next field
    - Space to toggle checkbox / radiobox
    - Enter to submit form

    As Michael it seems to me you missed the very used Ctrl + w to close a window and as Shadow3641 the Alt + F4 to close an app
    The Alt + Tab and the Ctrl + tab too, to switch between windows for the first, and usually tabs for the second
    The F11 key to maximize the window is very useful too

  25. spike

    @Sly, Michael, others: Notice this is a text editing shortcuts article, not a form navigation, windows management, etc. Also, let me correct some errors, so at least the record is correct-

    -Ctrl + W does not close a window; in most browsers, it closes the currently active tab, and will close the current Explorer window. If you are talking about Windows Explorer or a browser with one tab open, only then does it close the window.
    -Alt + F4 does not close an app- it closes the currently active window or dialog box; not an app. If the app is only displaying one window/dialog box, only then will Alt+F4 close (or hide) the app. If an app is displaying multiple windows/dialog boxes, Alt+F4 only closes the currently active one.
    -F11 does not maximize a window. In most browsers, F11 toggles Fullscreen mode. To maximize a window, use Alt+Space+X. (restore is Alt+Space+R, minimize is Alt+Space+N)

  26. Abdelmajid

    Thanks a lot for copy paste alternatives. Ctrl+Insert is better tha

  27. Sudo Bash

    I only use vim anyway so I have to learn the keyboard “shortcuts”. Vim shortcuts are so much different though.

  28. Sunnyt

    F12 opens up the ‘Save As’ window

  29. HarryMonmouth

    Thanks for this. I have been learning a lot of shortcuts lately which have really helped me to speed up my work but there were a couple here that I have never seen before, let alone got the chance to remember.

  30. Kestrel

    Don’t know if this was mentioned.
    Windows+R opens the Run command

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