Friday, April 12, 2013

Speed Up Your Keyboard

Unless you write in longhand and somehow have a typist you've hired (in which case, wow!), if you're writing, you're spending a lot of time at your keyboard. And if you're like most keyboardists, keyboarding is one of the major places you can speed up your time.

I'm not talking Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (although really, if you type slowly, a good typing tutor will help you out a lot!) but making a few tweaks to how you use your keyboard. These are Windows based, because that's my OS, but these work on Apples as well (usually substituting the Apple key for Ctrl.) I've read places that using a mouse slows down your computing experience by 30% or more, so the more you can control from your keyboard, the more efficient you'll be.

Two shortcuts that should be completely second-nature: One, Ctrl+S for saving your current document. This is pretty universal across all programs and web programs. Don't lose your precious words to a catastrophe. If you can, turn it into a tic of sorts—every couple of hundred words, just hit Ctrl+S with your left hand and boom, you're good to go. Yes, your autosave should help you...but don't get stuck dependent on it.

The second that I use all the time is Alt+Tab to switch between windows. This works on Linux, Windows, and Mac, and it's even more efficient than the multi-finger touch swipe.

The Alt key in any given window lets you use your keyboard to control the menus so that you don't have to pick up the mouse. Shift and the arrow keys will highlight in most word processors. And if you're really going for maximum efficiency, a program like Activewords can really get you a lot of mileage out of your keyboard.You might also look into the specific keyboard shortcuts for programs you use often, for instance Scrivener or Gmail.

And if you're really crazy, you can always go for the ultimate in forced keyboard efficiency with an all black keyboard. I lust after the Das Keyboard, but alas, it is far out of my price range. So I scrubbed the letters off a $5 USB keyboard I nabbed at the computer store. Experts say that touch-typists often still look down at the keys even though they don't need to, which slows them down. A blank keyboard eliminates this as an option.

My faux $5 Das Keyboard

Are you a mouse person? A keyboard enthusiast like me? Let me know in the comments, and either way, happy typing!

This month I'm participating in the A-Z blog challenge. My theme is "writer hacks," or 26 shortcuts you can do as a writer to get the most out of writing and the journey toward and through publication. Find out more about it at, and hop around to read the other cool blogs that are part of the challenge! 


  1. Alt+tab is really dangerous. I found when I did my retreat & had no Internet, every time I paused to think, I would alt+tab. Not as noticeable if my fave Internet site sprung up, but very noticeable if all I got was my desktop. But it was habit, thanks to the ease of two button presses, instead of using the touchpad.

    ~ Sage

    1. Isn't it, though? It's such a quick way of going down that never-ending rabbit hole...I guess you just have to have the discipline to have closed all the temptation windows to begin with!

  2. Ctrl+S is a great short cut. I like the keyboard but also enjoy some of the conveniences of the mouse.

    1. Oh, I definitely still use my mouse quite a bit. But I thought I would test the theory that doing more on the keyboard speeds you up, and it seems valid.

      Next step for me, though, is to replace my wireless mouse. It conked out on me about six months ago and I have this long USB cord coming out of the front of my tower. Yuck.

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