Increase your productivity with keyboard shortcuts

When you constantly use keyboard shortcuts, it takes you less time at your computer to do the same amount of work as someone who is mouse dependent.

If you’re looking to improve your speed and productivity behind your keyboard, start by learning and practicing the basics:

Once you have these mastered, it’s time to give your productivity another boost.

  • For Mac users, keep a list of the programs you typically open in a given day and create launch and program-specific action shortcuts by going into Settings –> Keyboard Shortcuts. Then, hit the + sign to create your own program actions.
  • Windows users can download the program ActiveWords and create actions through it. (Free trial available, $30 for purchase.)

Then, stop typing the same words repeatedly by creating shortcuts for commonly typed symbols, code, and words.

  • For Mac users, download TextExpander and paste limitless text into your documents, e-mails, and programs.
  • For Windows users, keep using the program ActiveWords that I mentioned previously. In addition to creating program and action commands, it also inserts words with keyboard shortcuts.

I love TextExpander on my Mac and use it to enter Amazon links, the blurb at the beginning of every Unitasker Wednesday post, the templates for the Workplace of the Week and Ask Unclutterer posts, all five of my different e-mail signatures, our site’s submission guidelines, and hundreds of other paragraphs, sentences, and words that I type repeatedly.

How much time are you wasting by not using keyboard shortcuts? Take the time to learn, practice, and use keyboard commands to improve your productivity.

23 Comments for “Increase your productivity with keyboard shortcuts”

  1. posted by Bryan on

    I’m sorry to say this, but this smells of a paid blog ad/post. The article doesn’t read like a typical Unclutterer post, and doing a quick Google search, there is a suspicious amount of posts on other blogs that cover the same program. The most obvious giveaway is the double link to their page. Every blog that’s reviewed this has double links to their main page. I’m calling this a paid ad, and seriously considering unsubscribing my RSS to this site.

  2. posted by B on

    To store and quickly insert text, graphics, and other items that you use frequently, you can use AutoText. Microsoft Word comes with a number of built-in AutoText entries, such as salutations and closings for letters, and you can create your own AutoText entries.

    For example, if you use the same lengthy disclaimer in each monthly report and don’t want to retype it every month, you can create an AutoText entry for the disclaimer.

  3. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Bryan — This isn’t a paid post. None of the text came from anyone else but me. Double links? I don’t even know what that means.

    We were actually turned on to TextExpander by Scott Roewer during his presentation on Mac productivity software at the National Association of Professional Organizer’s conference. I’d never even heard about it before his presentation.

    But seriously, if TextExpander WANTED to pay me for this post, oh boy howdy would I accept their money!! Dude, this economy is rough. (I’M TOTALLY KIDDING!!! We don’t accept money to write reviews.) However, if they did give me their product for free to review or something along those lines, I would have disclosed it in the article. But nope, I paid for it out of my own pocket and didn’t get anything for writing this review.

    More importantly, if this came from someone else’s site, why would they say this Unclutterer specific stuff: “I love TextExpander on my Mac and use it to enter Amazon links, the blurb at the beginning of every Unitasker Wednesday post, the templates for the Workplace of the Week and Ask Unclutterer posts, all five of my different e-mail signatures, our site’s submission guidelines, and hundreds of other paragraphs, sentences, and words that I type repeatedly.”

  4. posted by Bethany on

    I’m a long time subscriber, and this post is not unlike the rest of the posts on Unclutterer. Erin recommends products that will simplify your life all the time. That’s what Unclutterer is all about!

    I’ve heard rave reviews on Text Expander many, many times, so it’s no surprise that Erin would recommend it to her readers.

  5. posted by Chris Gee on

    Another vote for autotext in MS Word and its equivalent in many other apps (like the iWork suite on the Mac).

    I write corporate documents for a living and the many autotext entries I create save lot of time typing (and for a bad typist like me, deleting typos…). It is almost second nature now: if I’m going to be using a word or phrase more than twice, it becomes an auto text entry.

  6. posted by Julien on

    As for shortcuts things, I’m a long time user and fan of Quicksilver. Not only does it allow to make shortcuts for various operations (sending an email, moving files to a destination and whatever operation needed) but it also lets one do quite a lot of operations from the keyboard. Oh, and did I mention it’s free ? There also Launchbar which implement a similar concept.

    Although these two are for Mac, I know there are some PC equivalents. Not being a PC user, their names escape me at the moment, though.

    Best,
    Julien

  7. posted by hragape on

    Thank you for writing this article. This is definitely an area where a few simple steps can save you a lot of time in the future. However, I’ll add another vote for using Auto Text in Word.

  8. posted by Scott James on

    Just began using Text Expander. Learning just how powerful a productivity tool it is, considering my typing is slow and my spelling is awful.

    But Quicksilver is easily the #1 productivity tool for Macs. Been using it since I first converted to Macs a year ago. Actually can’t imagine operating a computer without it now. Amazing UI.

  9. posted by Joseph Scandura on

    Keyboard shortcuts are great, especially considering that I’m a hunt and peck typer. Without them, it’d take me even longer than it already does to get anything done on a computer.

  10. posted by Suzyn on

    I am a technical writer, and I’m always amazed at how mouse-centric most techies are. Total waste of time!!

    Another tip: Most Office products for PC have keyboard shortcuts associated with all menu items. Hit Alt, and you’ll see underlined letters. Type that letter to expand a menu, type the letter of the menu option you want… if more than one option uses the same letter, just keep hitting the letter until the option you want is highlighted. If you can learn the keyboard shortcuts for common menu items, you make your life a lot easier. I can paste as unformatted text in word in >2 secs: Alt+e,s,u,Enter.

    Does Mac do the same thing? Frankly, it’s the lack of menu shortcuts that has me hesitating to switch…

  11. posted by Suzyn on

    That should be <2 secs.

  12. posted by Loren on

    I used to have a laptop that I only used for word processing that the had a little nub mouse would break randomly. I learned to navigate the entire computer via the keyboard. SO much faster.
    I’m a multimedia developer, so I use a computer 24/7 and suffer from carpel tunnel, using the keyboard more definitely helps not strain your wrists.
    Lots of keyboards and some laptops have extra programmable buttons on them too, that program to open a certain program or do a specific function.

    If there is a specific program that you use frequently, they almost always have program specific shortcuts that you can learn to help save time.

  13. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    I was just going to say how I don’t know how people can function without using keyboard shortcuts. It pains me to watch people slowly navigate to the tool bar to find Copy or Past instead of ctrl-c / ctrl-v (windows).

    When I saw Bryan’s post, I was actually insulted (which is odd, since I have nothing to do with unclutterer, other than cluttering up it’s comment sections with my ramblings…)

    *Note: this was a pro-bono defense of Unclutterer

  14. posted by Catherine on

    I find that many Unclutterer topics seem to highlight specific products for purchase, but it never bothers me. I look at it, I judge for myself… and if I don’t like what I see or I don’t like the price, I move on.

    **and** Unclutterer often tries to give free or at least different alternates that do the same task. Works for me.

  15. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I’m another huge fan of text expansion tools. I happen to use Typinator on my Mac, rather than TextExpander. My (unpaid) rave review of such tools is here: http://jdorganizer.blogspot.com/2009/03/productivity-tools-for-poor-typists-and.html

  16. posted by Michel on

    There are free alternatives: Texter, Launchy. Try AutoHotKey. No need to buy expensive software for this.

  17. posted by OXM on

    Funny. I was just thinking today about how using / to quickly open the Find box in Firefox has made my life better.

  18. posted by E on

    Hmm. I’m a Windows user, and use shortcut keys a lot to open/start programs. For example, CTRL+ALT+(SOME LETTER DESIGNATED) will open a program.

    Right click on a program icon in the Start Menu and click on properties. A new window will pop up, and in the shortcut tab, there is a shortcut key option, which by default is None. Type in a letter, and it should be CTRL+ALT+(LETTER). I use W for MS Word, F for Firefox, C for Calculator, etc.

    There are some restrictions, you cannot use: Esc, Enter, Tab, Spacebar, Print Screen, Shift, or Backspace.

    I dislike icons all over my desktop and find clicking through the menu sometimes tedious, so for me at least, these shortcuts help along with the rest of the shortcuts out there. :).

    -E.

  19. posted by Chris Gee on

    Wow, thanks E for the great tip!

  20. posted by Srinivas Rao on

    I love Text expander. It’s probably the biggest time saving tool I’ve discovered in the last few months. I use it to write cover letters and other things.

  21. posted by Business Development | Social Media Literacy |…words » Productivity Recap 23 May on

    [...] Erin Doland of Unclutterer explains how to increase your productivity using keyboard shortcuts starting with the basics for both Mac and Windows users, and reccomending programs that will help you maximize your keyboard shortcut abilities. http://unclutterer.com/2009/05/19/increase-your-productivity-with-keyboard-shortcuts/ [...]

  22. posted by Links of Interest from LifeRemix : Productivity501 on

    [...] Increase your productivity with keyboard shortcuts-Unclutterer Using the keyboard for your most of your computer input can really speed up many processes. This helpful article provides information on how to set up your Mac or PC to help you be more efficient. [...]

  23. posted by Ellis Godard on

    Keyboard shortcuts are good. So’s Rainmeter, widgets, gadgets… but those only are only good for the top 10-20 apps you use, IF that many.

    Here’s my attempt to reign in the rest:

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