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

{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Chris November 4, 2006, 1:06 am

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

  • willfe November 4, 2006, 8:49 am

    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 November 4, 2006, 9:22 am

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

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

  • Paul November 4, 2006, 10:41 am

    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.

  • mitch Wellington November 4, 2006, 10:45 am

    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.

  • Shane November 4, 2006, 11:41 am

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

  • kyle November 4, 2006, 5:49 pm

    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

  • joseph November 4, 2006, 9:45 pm

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

  • Paul November 6, 2006, 1:35 pm

    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 November 6, 2006, 9:36 pm

    “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?

  • Jake November 7, 2006, 1:22 pm

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

  • mellie November 9, 2006, 8:32 am

    still, fairly useless…

  • Ron November 10, 2006, 5:57 pm

    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.

  • GCRaya November 24, 2006, 7:16 pm

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

  • Chris November 29, 2006, 11:22 pm

    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

  • Dwayne Foong November 30, 2006, 1:05 am

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

  • Naga December 11, 2006, 5:32 am

    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..

  • Justine May 7, 2007, 8:10 pm

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

  • bibo May 12, 2007, 7:09 pm

    this is soooo awesome

  • bella September 20, 2009, 3:14 am

    Ich hab keine Windows-Taste hillllfe

  • Alex November 11, 2009, 9:32 pm

    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 July 19, 2010, 12:40 pm

    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

  • Babila February 22, 2011, 11:56 am

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

  • alfie December 29, 2011, 12:36 pm

    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 September 6, 2012, 2:51 pm

    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.

  • KeLLyLaRossa August 4, 2017, 2:27 am

    useful :D

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