Wow.. The Windows Key is useful after all

In all honesty, I always thought the “Windows Key” on my keyboard was just a nuisance. It was just the thing I accidentally hit once in a while and the darn Start menu would pop up. Turns out I was wrong, it has a lot of uses.

the windows key on your keyboard

When used in combination with other keys, here’s what you can do:

Windows logo Windows Key + Tab: Cycle through the buttons in the Task Bar.
Windows logo Windows Key + D: Minimize or restore all windows
Windows logo Windows Key + E: Launch Windows Explorer
Windows logo Windows Key + F: Launch Search for Files
Windows logo Windows Key + Ctrl + F: Launch Search for Computers
Windows logo Windows Key + F1: Launch the Help and Support Center
Windows logo Windows Key + R: Launch the Run dialog box
Windows logo Windows Key + Pause/Break: Launch System Properties dialog box
Windows logo Windows Key + M: Minimizes all open windows.
Windows logo Windows Key + Shift + M: Undo minimize all windows
Windows logo Windows Key + L: Locks the workstation
Windows logo Windows Key + U: Launch the Utility Manager
Windows logo Windows Key + Ctrl + Tab: According to Microsoft: Moves focus from Start, to the Quick Launch toolbar, to the system tray. What it does for me in XP: moves through the tabs in your current application (Firefox 2, IE 7, Homesite+ and Paint Shop Pro XI)

If you have a Microsoft Natural Keyboard with IntelliType software installed you can use the following shortcuts as well. As it happens, I do have a Microsoft Natural Keyboard, so I installed IntelliType and sure enough these now work:

Windows logo Windows Key + L: Log off Windows
Windows logo Windows Key + P: Starts Print Manager
Windows logo Windows Key + C: Opens Control Panel
Windows logo Windows Key + V: Starts Clipboard
Windows logo Windows Key + K: Opens Keyboard Properties dialog box
Windows logo Windows Key + I: Opens Mouse Properties dialog box
Windows logo Windows Key + A: Starts Accessibility Options (if installed)
Windows logo Windows Key + Spacebar: Displays the list of Microsoft IntelliType shortcut keys
Windows logo Windows Key + S: Toggles CAPS LOCK on and off

  • Chris

    Of course, the windows key is pretty useless if you don’t use windows. Go figure.

  • Chris: Not entirely true — on other, more “enlightened” platforms you can just map the windows key to “Meta” (most US keyboards don’t have Meta … just Alt, Shift, and Control) and use it as another, well meta-key :) Most window managers will permit using it as a modifier on shortcut keys. Can be handy.

  • Dustin Miller

    Windows-Ctrl-Tab isn’t a key combo.

    Ctrl-Tab will cycle your Firefox tabs without the windows button.

  • You can cycle through the items of the taskbar by opening the Start menu by pressing the Windows Key, hitting ESC to close it but keep it selected, and hop through the lot pressing TAB. The cycle goes left to right, ending with the desktop.

    Windows Key + Ctrl + Tab does not have any more functionality than simply pressing Ctrl + Tab, like Dustin wrote.

    I’ve been using these keys ever since Windows XP, especially for the explorer, desktop, run dialog and system properties.

  • actually dustin,

    windows-ctrl-tab is different.

    if you are in a firefox window with multiple tabs, windows-ctrl-tab will cycle thru the tabs. You can’t do that with just ctrl-tab.

  • hitting F3 when windows exlorer is open or when you’re looking at the desktop also initiates a search dialog!

  • kyle

    actually mitch, ctrl-tab cycles through tabs in all my tabbed apps, without the windows key.

    also, winkey-L logs off without a microsoft keyboard

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  • joseph

    interesting, i was wondering though, what is the “pause/break” key for.

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  • Some erroneous comments have been left behind here. For clarification:

    Pressing Ctrl+Tab will switch between tabs (such as tabs in Windows properties windows and those in Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer 7). The Windows key has NO influence on this key combination.

    Pressing the Windows key + L is the equivalent of switching users, unless you have set your keyboard up as a Microsoft Natural Keybard, in which case it will log you out. Bear in mind that returning the the login screen does not necessarily mean you are logged out.

    The Pause/Break key originates from the DOS-era, where you could pause or break an application, for example for debugging purposes. It still works during boot and in the DOS shell. This function no longer works in modern operating systems. Likewise, the scroll lock key only works for a handful of programs (such as Excel and Lotus Notes).

  • nic

    “windows + S” to toggle CAPS LOCK? That makes about as much sense as “ctrl + alt + shift + E” to hit “Enter”… I wonder why the key combo when there is already a key reserved for that specific purpose?

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  • I personally just use it for several key combinations here in KDE. :D

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  • mellie

    still, fairly useless…

  • Ron

    Anyone ever try Windows Key + Ctrl + V on Windows 98SE
    It doesn’t do anything but pop up an on screen menu that looks like a volume control. But it’s not. It doesn’t work on all W98SE systems. I have no idea what use it has though.

  • Windows+Shift+Ctrl+Tab = Cycles through tabs in IE7

  • Hi man. Thanks to u, I’ll save time when i open up the Run dialog box.

    Windows Key + R: Launch the Run dialog box

  • Thanks, now I’ll use windows + c to open up control panel. :)

  • Naga

    I wud just like 2 add a clarification about the functionality of WINDOWS+CTRL+TAB key..

    The WINDOWS+CTRL+TAB key works as Microsoft says when all the windows are minimized and you should be viewing the desktop when you try using it.

    If you try it with any window open, the functionality differs as mentioned by many of our frnds above..

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  • This is incredible. It will really save me time. I’ve forwarded this page’s URL to all my friends. Thanks!

  • bibo

    this is soooo awesome

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  • bella

    Ich hab keine Windows-Taste hillllfe

  • Note that Windows + Tab has a different use in Vista/7 with Aero enabled – it activates Flip 3D. Adding Ctrl keeps the windows there until you click one.

  • Dion

    hey pual fyi on 7 winkey + tab makes it 3d cycle through the windows and desktop but let go and it goes away and ends on the one it was on add ctrl and it stays there use the arow keys to navi also press ctrl tab to get back or enter

  • i have benefited alot from all your contribution. i can now perform some basic settings with my key board without any problem.

  • alfie

    it’s bloody annoying.
    when ever I’m gaming with friends at school if anyone presses it by mistake the virtual server stops working and we’re all kicked :(

  • rltomkinson

    That was true before Windows 7. In Windows 7, CTRL + Tab does nothing. You must press the windows key as well. I now finally understand why the CTRL + Tab doesn’t work on my new laptop.

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  • useful :D