How to be more keyboardy

Being more keyboardy is good. The mouse is good, too. But if you can do more things with the keyboard, those things will usually happen faster and with less mucking around. Also, it is very, very cool to sit there and go “tap tap tap” and have stuff happen on the screen without the mouse. Like in that Star Trek where Scott was forced to use a Mac Classic to design Invisible Aluminum. First he tried to use the mouse as a microphone to communicate with the computer. When that didn’t work, he just went after the keyboard and tap-tap-tap had a design for Invisible Aluminum ready to go. To put whales in.

Since most of your time is spent using a web browser, and the main web browser you use is Firefox, I thought I’d pass on a few keyboardy shortcuts. Keep in mind, however, that many keyboard commands are used in common system wide for many different programs, like the first three I’ll mention … they work, in one way or another, in all programs that also use a mouse. Most of the time.

Cut, Copy Paste
I mention this first set because a remarkably large number of people don’t know these. These are all the same in Linux, Mac and most other operating systems. X, C and V are all right next to each other, so this is easy to remember:

Ctrl x, Ctrl c, Ctrl v

Delete (but copy the deleted onto the clipboard) the selected text (or whatever), copy onto the clipboard (without deleting) the selected text, or paste the selected text.

See More Real Estate
The more tool bars, shortcuts and buttons and stuff that you have at the top of your browser the better, for some people. But what with tabs, the computer system’s menue on the top, bottom, or both of the screen, etc., there is not much room left for browsing. This is especially annoying if you are using a text box to compose something (like a blog post) and can’t see the entire text box in the window.

You can switch to “full screen” browsing mode, which is not really full screen but does eliminate, temporarily, many of the toolbars and stuff, by hitting this key:


That works in Linux, not on a Mac. It does work on other operating systems, try it to see if it works on yours. Hit F11 again to go back to the cluttered look and feel.

Text Size

Most web sites are ‘designed’ by children with excellent eyesight or no sense of design. Therefore they are unreadable. If you can’t read the text, type:

Ctrl-[plus] or Ctrl-[minux]

to make the type face bigger or smaller.

New Tab
In case you didn’t know it already,


Gets you a new, blank tab

Got to the URL box


brings you to the URL box where you can start typing an address.

Find and Find Again
Ctrl-f and Ctrl-g or F3

Ctrl F for Find gets you a find box and puts your curser there. Then type something and hit enter. Ctrl-g is to find the same thing aGain. F3 also finds again.

And finally, one I’ve posted recently but it is so good it should be mentioned again:

To Stop the stupid flashing ad (if the stupid flashing ad is a moving GIF file): Hit the Escape Key!

Advanced Users: Keyword Search in Firefox



  1. #1 Coturnix
    June 9, 2008

    Hmmm, I did not know Ctrl-L. Very useful. Thanks.

  2. #2 Dawn
    June 9, 2008

    Sorry. Just don’t get the whole, “use Firefox,” thing when Opera is around.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    June 9, 2008

    Opera is not open source.

  4. #4 Colin M
    June 9, 2008

    Ctrl-K to go to the search box (Google by default).

  5. #5 Paul Hutch
    June 9, 2008

    After you get to the address box with Ctrl+L (thanks I didn’t know that one) use one of these combinations to save on typing.

    Ctrl+Enter completes entry to a .com URL (linux then Ctrl+Enter gives

    Shift+Enter completes entry to a .net URL

    Ctrl+Shift+Enter completes entry to a .org URL

  6. #6 Michael Svihura
    June 9, 2008

    That’s transparent aluminum.

  7. #7 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 9, 2008

    Another prob with Opera is that when I open it it restores the pages from my last session. That’s not always a good thing when I move from my private place to surf to public places to surf.

    There is an embarrassing story to go along with that related to testing the graphics on my daughter’s computer, but I’d rather not go into that. Suffice it to say that I uninstalled Opera to cover my tracks. They can take the blame when I won’t.

  8. #8 Jim Thomerson
    June 9, 2008

    I think ability to touch type is much less common now than it was say 50 years ago. Do you think this is the case?

  9. #9 APic
    June 10, 2008

    I think it may be more due to that 50 years ago, a larger proportion of people who typed did so professionally and so were more likely to be able to touch type. These days, with anybody able to use a computer, the number of touchtypists may have actually risen, but the proportion of those who do compared to those who don’t has fallen.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    June 10, 2008

    Who doesn’t touch type?

  11. #11 Jake
    June 10, 2008

    I’m afraid your Crazy Trekkies Who Know Too Many Details membership has been revoked pending an adequate explanation of your failure to remember that the substance Scotty was making was called Transparent Aluminum. In the meantime you will be issued membership in the People Who Once Watched Some Star Trek And Kind Of Remember It club.

    Also, is there a key combination for “find previous”? It would be super useful.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    June 10, 2008

    Guilty as charged.

    Ctrl-F [searchtext] and if successful then Alt-P

  13. #13 Jon
    June 10, 2008

    Alt-D is a more direct route to the URL box than Ctrl-L. Give it a shot.

  14. #14 Terri
    June 10, 2008

    Don’t forget Ctrl-P to print! I think most of these are old WordPerfect commands that migrated over.

  15. #15 Toast
    June 10, 2008

    Love the CTRL-T for a new tab. Outstanding.

    Is there a shortcut to close the current tab?

  16. #16 Barbara
    June 10, 2008

    They now call it “keyboarding” but they don’t rigorously teach the asdf-jkl; default hand position that I am able to use to type somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 words a minute or more, without ever needing to look at the keyboard. It’s not as necessary as it used to be, but it sure is handy if you can do it.

  17. #17 AarynLaperle
    June 10, 2008

    another useful one is


    if you are a firefox user (and i think it might work on other browers) this will switch between tabs the way alt-tab scrolls between programs

  18. #18 Sho
    June 10, 2008

    Find previous is Shift-Ctrl-G. (Shift-Cmd-G on mac)

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    June 10, 2008

    Ctl – w closes the current tab.

    and, if you close a tab and want it back, what do you do????

    Try ctl/shift – t

  20. #20 Mikelx
    June 10, 2008

    ALT-LeftArrow moves you “back” to a web page and ALT-RightArrow move you “forward” to a web page.

  21. #21 Tony
    June 10, 2008

    Ctrl+Shift+Tab to navigate to the tab directly to the left (Ctrl+Tab takes you right).

  22. #22 Elf M. Sternberg
    June 10, 2008

    If you’re not allergic to two-stroke habits, Ctrl-L TAB will take you to the search box very quickly. Another one I’m fond of when switching back and forth between documents is Ctrl-Insert, which will take the last thing you cut/copied and paste it to whatever dialog box currently has the cursor.

    A not unusual workflow when reviewing other documents is to highlite and copy a URL, then Alt-Tab (browser), Ctrl-L (location), Ctrl-Insert (paste), Enter.

  23. #23 Gaston
    June 10, 2008

    Actually, Macs use the command or Apple key, not Ctrl. Ctrl provides a world of other goodies in Mac-land, but these shortcuts are all command key shortcuts:

    Cmnd-T, Cmnd-X, Cmnd-P, etc.

  24. #24 katie.internet
    June 10, 2008

    For Mac desktop comps, F6 also moves your cursor to the address bar and highlights the existing text, which allows you to begin typing w/out the use of the mouse.

    (same thing at ctrl-l).

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    June 10, 2008

    F6 does the same in Linux.

    And, if you hit Alt F4 in Linux the window you are focused on clos……

  26. #26 BobN
    June 10, 2008

    Ctrl-f is fine for opening the search window, but why in the heck isn’t there a shortcut for CLOSING it!?!?!? (pet peeve)

  27. #27 unicow
    June 10, 2008

    Personally, I just use “/” (that is, the slash) for searching within the page.

    It brings up a little “quick find” box. Then F3 if you want to find other instances.

  28. #28 unicow
    June 10, 2008

    @ BobN

    That’s another benefit of using the slash to search. The box it brings up closes itself after a few seconds.

  29. #29 J Chong
    June 10, 2008

    don’t forget text selection ones (Ctrl-A selects all, ctrl-shift-arrow can select entire words)
    and, for those of us who still prefer windows to tabs, alt-tab, alt-escape, and alt-f4 (to switch between, cycle through, or close them)

    Despite the possible embarrassment, one really good benefit to Opera’s (and now FF’s) ability to save sessions was that it made ongoing research a breeze. Can’t count the number of times I’ve followed multiple wiki threads, run out of energy, and easily popped them back up the next day.

  30. #30 katie.internet
    June 10, 2008

    Some more easy/neat things:

    1. Simply hitting the “backspace” (or “delete” above the “return” key on Macs) takes you back a page in Firefox.

    2. Your “home” and “end” keys take you to the top and bottom of your current webpage. Really handy if you’re reading long articles.

    3. The screen capture shortcut for Mac is: shift+apple+3.

    One more thing: Mac users can figure out most keyboard shortcuts because Mac has been nice enough to display the key commands for most actions. Next time you want to do most anything you would normally do by using your mouse,(for instance: going up to the top toolbar and selecting File->New Window) look to the right and you’ll see the keyboard shortcut for it (command-N). That’s how I learned to be pretty keyboard efficient.

    It might be helpful for Mac users to go here:,239029439,339289468,00.htm
    which provides a guide to what symbols correspond to what keys.

    Hope that helps!

  31. #31 BobN
    June 10, 2008

    @ unicow

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    One pet peeve down, 347 to go…

  32. #32 J Chong
    June 10, 2008

    Also if you’re savvy you can download programs from Cnet (trial or small fee) that let you customize keystrokes. For ppl that do repetitive keystrokes a lot (data entry, gamers) these can multiply your productivity. I recommend HotKeyboard pro for about $30.

  33. #33 J Chong
    June 10, 2008

    alt-f4 in explorer =)

  34. #34 Megan
    June 10, 2008

    F6 also takes you to the address bar in Windows. It works in IE7 too. Ctrl+W closes a tab and Ctrl+Shift+T reopens tabs that have been closed (really convenient if you accidentally close the wrong one, but doesn’t work in IE7).

  35. #35 Michael Ryle
    June 10, 2008

    I really like the ctl + shift + alt + crossyourtoes + scratchyourleftearwithtyourrighthand + pickyournose + F11 command. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what it does, but if I did I’m sure it would be pretty cool.

  36. #36 Msher
    June 10, 2008

    Ctl + Tab to cycle through applications (or windows on a PC)… super helpful

  37. #37 lylebot
    June 10, 2008

    Why bother with Ctrl-F when you can just enable the “start searching when I start typing” option?

  38. #38 h
    June 10, 2008

    Thanks for the shortcuts, some I knew, some forgotten.

    I like alt-left arrow, which takes you to the previous page.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    June 10, 2008

    Msher, don’t get too dependent on Ctrl-Tab. It changes in Word, adding a tab within a table cell, as opposed to Tab, which moves to the next cell.

    As long as we’re talking about pet peeves, I’ll also add that what Microsoft has done to keyboard shortcuts in porting Office to Mac (i.e., taking most of them out) is nigh unto criminal. I touch type my shortcuts too, so I’m constantly having to go back and fix something manually that should have already been done as I typed.

  40. #40 SuzyQueue
    June 10, 2008

    Ctrl-P is from WordStar, a word processing program from the late 70’s-early 80’s. The other programs for word processing that were available at the time were TeX and LaTex which were programmed in a similar manner to HTML.

  41. #41 I hope my boss isn't searching by name but just in case
    June 11, 2008

    > Google shell

    I love it. And it’s going to make using Google at work far more, er, subtle.

    Now if someone would implement the whole WordStar cursor diamond, in Firefox I could bring out my old IBM-AT keyboard, the one with the Ctrl key where God intended it to be, just left of the A key, and forget the damned mouse almost all the time.

  42. #42 Epistaxis
    June 11, 2008

    To Stop the stupid flashing ad (if the stupid flashing ad is a moving GIF file): Hit the Escape Key!

    I’m sorry, the answer we were looking for was “install Adblock Plus”.

  43. #43 otmar
    June 11, 2008

    Closing the current tab within firefox is done by CTRL-F4.

  44. #44 iceman
    June 11, 2008

    firefox rules my roost because of the add ons like

    adblock plus
    filterset g updater (a list for adblock plus)

    noscript (stop javascript mischief and allow it selectively

    and customize google, i love the options of remove ads, switch to https or secure, stream search results and rewrite image link to point directly to image

    other add ons i love


    remove it permanently


    google text to phone
    available here

    all addons are here

  45. #45 Greg Laden
    June 11, 2008

    Epistatis: I don’t use adblock because I think it is too much trouble, and I want to see the ads on my own blog (basic blogging ethics). Otherwise, I actually visit very few commercial sites. So, since the Esc key is already installed, this is good.

  46. #46 Dave
    June 14, 2008

    > Ctrl-f is fine for opening the search window, but why in the > heck isn’t there a shortcut for CLOSING it!?!?!? (pet peeve)

    BobN, you can close the search window by hitting Esc, but as someone already said, / is good to know also.

  47. Another prob with Opera is that when I open it it restores the pages from my last session. That’s not always a good thing when I move from my private place to surf to public places to surf.

    Posted by: Mike Haubrich, FCD | June 9, 2008 7:00 PM

    Mike, that’s an option, not a mandate. You can turn that off in the preferences with a simple click of the mouse.

  48. #48 Ben Harder
    June 17, 2008

    Good to know about F11 and Ctrl-L. I’ve always been a big fan and user of keyboard macros, but I clearly have a few more handy ones to learn…

  49. #49 Anonymous
    June 22, 2008

    I tried Ctrl-[plus] or Ctrl-[minux], and it only scrolls the page up and down for me (I used Firefox on a Windows computer). (But the other ones work, and are really useful)