The Start menu is great for finding programs, but its multiple levels of folders can be time consuming to navigate. If there is a program you start frequently, you should set a keyboard shortcut for it so that you can start the program without taking your hands off the keyboard.
To set a keyboard shortcut to start a program
Click the Start menu, and then click All Programs. Right-click the program that you want to start with a keyboard shortcut, and then click Properties.
Click in the Shortcut key box. Now press the letter on your keyboard that you want to use to start the program. Make it easy to remember—for example, press I for Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Note: You can use either uppercase or lowercase letters when creating your keyboard shortcuts—and when accessing them later. In the Shortcut key box, Microsoft Windows XP automatically adds Ctrl + Alt + before the key you pressed. When you want to start the program, hold down both the CTRL and ALT keys simultaneously, while also pressing the letter you chose. This way, your program won't start every time you type that letter.
Now test your shortcut. Hold down the CTRL and ALT keys, and then press the letter you chose. If you find it difficult to hold down two keys at once, read Turn on the Sticky Keys feature. Your program should start.
When your friends see you start up programs without touching your mouse, they just might think you have a psychic connection with your computer!
Navigate menus using the keyboard
You can speed up tasks in almost any program by choosing menu items using your keyboard instead of your mouse. This operation is particularly handy when you're performing repetitive tasks.
To control menus using your keyboard
With your program open, press the ALT key. Notice that one letter on each menu name is now underlined. To open the menu, press the underlined key. For example, in Internet Explorer, the View menu name shows the V underlined after you press the ALT key. To open the View menu, press the ALT key, and then press V.
Now, each menu item will show one letter underlined. To access or activate the menu item you want, simply press the underlined key. For example, in Internet Explorer, after you open the View menu, the Privacy Report menu item shows the V underlined. Instead of clicking Privacy Report with your mouse, you can just press the V key.
You can also choose menu commands by pressing key sequences quickly, without waiting for the menus to open. For example, to quickly view a Web page's privacy report in Internet Explorer, press ALT, V, V. Similarly, to save a Web page in Internet Explorer, you would normally click the File menu, and then click Save As. To choose the same commands using your keyboard, press ALT, F, A.
Control windows using your keyboard
If you like to keep four or five windows open while you work (or play) on your computer, you'll appreciate knowing these keyboard shortcuts. You can quickly switch between your Web browser, e-mail, instant message windows, and other programs without taking your hands off the keyboard.
Minimize a window to your taskbar
ALT, SPACEBAR, N
Maximize a window so it takes up your whole desktop
ALT, SPACEBAR, X
Restore a window so it's visible but doesn't take up your whole desktop
ALT, SPACEBAR, R
Close a window
Switch to the last window you had open
Switch to any window
Hold down the ALT key, and press TAB until the window you want is active
Programs often start up in a "restored" state, where the window takes up only part of the screen. To maximize the window so that it takes up the entire screen, press the ALT key, press the SPACEBAR, and then press X. This will feel natural after you do it a few times, and you will feel much more efficient while using your computer.