Of keyboards and keyboard shortcuts…

By | October 17, 2016
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Back when I had a “proper” job, working in another company, I remember several people kept having a problem with their computer keyboard suddenly thinking it was an American keyboard.

The letters and numbers are in the same place but some of the other symbols are different – for example there’s no £ sign and the “ sign is on a different key.

That wouldn’t be so bad except none of us really knew what the American keyboard layout was like, so if it happened to you, you’d have to try random keys until you got the right one. From memory I think you had to push the @ symbol to get a “

Anyway, eventually I worked out that they must have knocked the alt and shift keys at the same time, which switched between UK and US keyboard layouts. Once we knew that it made it easy – if it happened to someone they just pressed Alt and Shift again to get back to the UK layout (I think this still works on some PCs).

But if rumours are true, it wouldn’t have been such an issue if we’d had the new keyboard Apple are planning to bring out shortly.

Apparently the letters and so on on the keys aren’t painted on – they’re a form of “e-ink” – the same technology as the Kindle ebook reader uses. Which means if you switch to a different language, the writing on the keys changes.

Similarly if you press caps lock, the letters on the keys actually change into capitals. There are other uses, too, making some keys stand out more than others or making them bold when you select bold in the program you’re using.

It’s not a huge revolution, but I can see it being quite handy – and I’m sure there’ll be some other clever ways to use it… what if a music score program could make the keys look like quavers, minims and so on… or if you could have a “special symbols” mode to type in things like ° or © or ½ and so on.

A keyboard shortcut I discovered last week
While I’m talking about clever things you can do with keys, I learnt a new keyboard shortcut for Windows last week. Well, not entirely new, but a tweak to one I already knew.

So if you have a window on the screen (say your emails or a web browser) and you hold down the windows key and tap the right cursor arrow or the left arrow, it’ll make that window fit the right (or left) half of the screen. Then you can open another window and make that fit the left (or right) side in the same way. It’s handy if you want to have two windows open at once so you can work on them together and you want them both to be as big as each other.

I use it sometimes if I’m writing something up based on something else I’ve done. Or sending an email about something I want to see while I type the email.

But last week I found in Windows 10 you can have a window open, then hold the windows key and tap right, then (while still holding the windows key) tap up and it’ll put that window into the top right hand corner. And similarly for the other corners.

It’s probably only useful if you have a reasonably big monitor, but I could imagine it might be useful if (say) you’re writing up a plan for a holiday and you want the list of times they emailed you open in one window and a map of the place you’re staying in another. Or any other time you want to be looking at two things while typing something up.

12 thoughts on “Of keyboards and keyboard shortcuts…

    1. Kishor Gandhi

      How to type Euro (€):
      Method 1: Hold down the key ‘Alt Gr’ then press ‘4’
      Method 2: Hold down the keys ‘Ctrl and Alt’ together then press ‘4’

      I find the Method 1 is the easiest
      Kishor Gandhi

          1. Tim Post author

            Kishor’s suggestion is usually the easiest way – on most keyboards it should actually be the number 4 but if it works on yours with F4, that’s fine now you’ve figured it out! Worth knowing if you use a different keyboard that it’ll probably be the number 4, though.

  1. Roger Geyman

    The suggestion about movig to split screen is useful and I have tried it but now can’t get out of it again. How do I do that ?

  2. Brian Wallis

    Thanks for tip on splitting screen, quite useful. But could you now share the secret of returning screen to normal.
    Many thanks, Brian

    1. Tim Post author

      You can resize the window to any size you like by clicking on the bottom right hand corner and dragging it about, but the easiest way to make it fill the screen again is to click on the rectangle in the top right, next to the cross you use to close a window down.
      Or you can double click on the bar across the top of the window.
      Either way it should make that window fill the screen again.

  3. Ron Jackson

    I was practising moving the screen about my Monitor as you suggested but whilst doing so lost the screen completely. From then on I could not open Microsoft Outlook at all. It would try and then place the Outlook icon in the task bar. If I placed the pointer over the icon on the task bar a small screen would open but clicking on it caused the small window to disappear. I contacted Simone but she was unable to help me.
    To rectify the fault I eventually went into recovery mode to a date prior to when the fault occurred.
    However, can you explain what I did wrong to cause the fault in the first place?

    1. Tim Post author

      It sounds like the window might have ended up off the side of the screen, so the program was open but entirely (or all but a millimetre or so) off the side of the screen.
      If it ever happens again, then with the program open (ie when the icon is on the task bar) press and hold the Alt key and press the space bar. This’l open a menu about the window – though it might also be off the screen. Then press the x key and it should put it back to normal.
      Hope that helps – well, I hope you don’t need it, but if it does happen again, I hope it helps!

  4. Maureen O'Neill

    Is it possible to fiddle about with the keys on my laptop in order to get an ‘a’ , an ‘e’ or a ‘u’ with two dots above, i.e. the German umlaut.

    1. Tim Post author

      it depends what program you’re using – some have special buttons built in to do this – but the most general way is to use some special codes.
      What you do is hold down the Alt key on the left of the keyboard and tap out a code number on the numeric keypad on the right (not on the main numbers above the letters).
      There are all sorts of symbols you can get – from different alphabets, maths symbols and so on.
      To get umlauts:
      ä is Alt and 0228
      ë is Alt and 0235
      ö is Alt and 0246

      You need to include the starting zero and I tend to scribble the numbers I want down on a bit of paper and keep it next to the computer (I used something similar years ago when I used to do Maths and Science books)
      Oh and if you’re using it for German you can also get a double s – ß. It’s Alt and 0223
      Hope that helps


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