Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tech Tip: Keyboard shortcuts and Mouse Keys

Have you ever been at home (or even at work) and had your mouse quit working?  For most folks this would result in an eventual “hard power off” of the computer because they aren't able to navigate at all without the mouse!  Admittedly, it’s a challenge in Windows to live without it.

Shortcut keys are handy to know – they can save time in your everyday computer use and can also help in case your mouse ever stops working.  The most important shortcut in the case of a non-functioning mouse is Alt+F4.  This is the universal “Exit” or “Close” shortcut, and you can use it (and any other keyboard shortcut) even if your mouse is working.  Just press Alt+F4 and the current program will behave as if you had clicked the “X” or selected File | Exit.  If your file hasn't been saved, you’ll get the standard prompt to save your work before exiting.  In the situation where your mouse quits working and you want to try restarting your computer, start pressing Alt+F4 to close your programs one by one.  Eventually you’ll get to your Windows desktop, and when you press Alt+F4 Windows will get the message that you want to close, and you’ll then see the prompts about shutting down the computer!

One feature to know in the event of a non-functional mouse is called Mouse Keys.  It’s not something you’d want to use to do all your work, but in a pinch (like when your mouse stops working after you've typed three pages of your best writing but haven’t saved the file yet) it can be a lifesaver.  Once activated you’ll use your numeric keypad to move the mouse cursor around the screen.  It can be slow and tedious, but remember that the alternative is losing your work!  On a full-size keyboard’s numeric keypad*, the “8” button moves the mouse cursor up, the “4” moves it left, the “6” moves it right, and the “2” moves it down.  Once you've positioned your cursor use the “5” button for a mouse click.

To activate the Mouse Keys feature, press Alt+LeftShift+NumLock*. This action will produce a prompt asking you to confirm that you want to turn on this feature.  You can press Enter to accept the default “Yes” answer, or press Alt+Y (since the “Y” in “Yes” is underlined).  Now you've activated Mouse Keys.  To navigate using Mouse Keys as described above, press NumLock and then begin using the keys on your numeric keypad*!  To turn off mouse keys (if your mouse suddenly begins working again) you can press Alt+LeftShift+NumLock again.  You won’t see a prompt this time, but Mouse Keys will be turned off.

*On a laptop, this can be a little tricky, because just pressing NumLock can be a bit of a challenge.  It usually involves pressing a “Function” key and the NumLock key (which doubles as a different key when the Function key isn’t pressed) simultaneously.  Also, since there isn't a numeric keypad on most laptop keyboards, you’ll have to look for the arrow buttons as alternate labels on “regular” keys.

Craig Rhinehart, Director of IT Services