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Getting Back to Basics - Making the Most of Keyboard Shortcuts

by Craig Mill

on Tue Dec 13, 2016

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I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, not only do they make computing more efficient and faster, keyboard shortcuts are the key to accessibility offering access to visually impaired and blind users, who might otherwise be unable to use a computer.  

Keyboard shortcuts are a standard accessibility feature of operating systems such as Microsoft and Apple (including iPads). Both have built-in shortcuts to make it easier to access menus and functions quickly, without having to use a mouse.

Also, overuse of a mouse is often linked to repetitive strain syndrome (RSI), so there are many benefits of making more use of a keyboard... a few keyboard shortcuts can go a long, long way! 

So I’ve put together some of my favourites, this month some nifty shortcuts in Microsoft Word (Windows version) which might be useful for offering dyslexia support e.g. line spacing, changing the background colour, spell and grammar checking. 

It is by no means an exhaustive list but it gives a flavour of what can be done without using a mouse. In the following months, I’ll explore shortcut keys for the Windows Desktop and Microsoft Explorer/Edge, with a focus on the range of built-in accessibility features. 

Keyboard Shortcuts for Microsoft Word – Part 1

Modifier Keys

Modifer keysThe first thing to become familiar with is the Modifier Keys, i.e. Shift, Alt and Ctrl – keys that don’t do a great deal when used on their own but when combined with other keys they convert the keyboard into a very accessible device. 

Working with text 

The first one isn’t so much a keyboard shortcut, but something to create content in a document so you can experiment with the text. In a Word document type the following and press the Enter key: =rand()

The document should automatically fill with a paragraph of text!

Press and hold the following keys

  • Ctrl + A = selects all text.
  • Ctrl + 2 = double spacing. 
  • Ctrl + 5 = line and a half spacing.
  • Ctrl + 1 = sing line spacing.

If a pupil has accidentally typed text in upper case…

  1. Press and hold Ctrl + A to select the text
  2. Press and hold Shift + F3 to toggle between upper case, lower and sentence case.
  • Ctrl + C = copies selected text.
  • Ctrl + V = pastes the selected text. 

Spell and Grammar Checking 

  • Press the F7 key to check for spelling and grammar.
  • Shift + F7 = Thesaurus.

Formatting text

To highlight a word or sentence position the cursor in the text (using the up/down left/right arrow keys) 
Press and hold Shift and the left or right arrow key to select the text. 

  • Ctrl and B = bold text.
  • Ctrl and I = italicise text.
  • Ctrl and U = underline text.
  • Ctrl + ] = increase font/text by 1 point.
  • Ctrl + [ - decrease font/text by 1 point.
  • Ctrl + R = right align text. 
  • Ctrl + L = left align text. 
  • Ctrl + E = centre align text.
  • Ctrl + M = tab text.

Making a document easier to view 

If you have a mouse with a scroll button – hold down the keyboard and simultaneously scroll the mouse button up and down – you can  zoom/magnify the document.

Or alternatively...

  • Alt + Q (followed by W) to bring up the View/Zoom box.

Changing the background colour/view of a document

  • Alt + G (followed by P and C) = change the colour background.
  • Alt + W (followed by L) = show Web Layout view. 

Made a mistake?

Don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake in Word the Ctrl, Z and Y keys are there to help!

  • Ctrl + Z = undo an action.
  • Ctrl + Y = redo an action.

Word’s Ribbon and Saving

  • Press the F10 key = access the ribbon with keyboard shortcuts.
  • Press the F12 key = Save the document. 

Printing a document 

  • Ctrl + P = Print.

WordTalk – Add-in for Microsoft Word

If you have pupils using WordTalk to read Microsoft Word documents, then a few shortcuts can help to quickly access menus such as ‘speak word’, ‘speak sentence’ etc. 

In the Settings/Configure panel, select the ‘Keys’ tab. Tick the Keyboard Shortcuts box and Save the Setting. 

WordTalk shortcut keysWordTalk keyboard Shortcuts

  • Alt + 1 = Speak from Cursor.
  • Alt + 2 = Speak Paragraph. 
  • Alt + 3 = Speak Sentence.
  • Alt + 4 = Speak Word.
  • Alt + 5 = Speak Selection.
  • Alt + 6 = Stop Speaking.
  • Alt + 7 = Configure.
  • Alt + 8 = Talking Spell Check.


Next month...

Part 2: Windows Desktop keyboard shortcuts. 


Tags: keyboard shortcuts, accessibility, dyslexia

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