I have been a user of Windows for as long as I can remember. I am a little nostalgic when I think back to a time of typing in DOS commands to run the few programs that existed on computers back then. Windows and the devices we use today have changed so rapidly, it can be hard to keep up.

I took a hiatus from staying on the cutting edge of technology for nearly four years when I joined the U.S. Army and stayed with using Windows Vista for quite some time. Windows 7 had come and gone during my time in the military, and Windows 8 gave me nothing short of a shock to my system when I first saw it.

Based on my interactions with many people, most had this same feeling. I had much to learn and little time to do it. This is how shortcuts and gestures became my best friend.

I was lost using a new PC for the first time in a long while. I used to be fairly technical and was frustrated not even knowing how to get around. But I slowly learned how to navigate this operating system. Learning some basics kept me just as capable on my PC as ever, so I would like to share some with you.

Shortcuts have transitioned and improved from Windows 8 to Windows 10. They have helped me navigate and complete tasks at greater speeds and added to the familiarity as features and locations changed. Shortcuts use the Windows key that is located in the bottom left section of your keyboard. Holding this key while pressing certain others, lets you quickly glide to different settings or features.

Below is a list of the five most helpful shortcuts I have come to use and love.

1. Windows + D

Digital keyboard with highlighted shortcut Windows and D

Beginning in Windows 8, I never could get to my traditional desktop. Now in Windows 10, I just open up way too much stuff. Long gone are the days where I must minimize fourteen windows to get back to my desktop. Windows + D minimizes everything and puts me right to my desktop.

2. Windows + X

I do not like digging for what I need and learning where things are located in Windows 10 took me too long. I would fall back on Windows + X to access some locations and features more directly.

As seen on the picture below, there are many locations that boast the familiarity that many users desire. This gets you there in half the time and access to what you need the most.

Windows X opens an advanced menu

3. Windows + L

I never like to leave my computer open to prying eyes. At work, I lock my account constantly. Windows + L immediately locks my account and brings me to the log in screen. It eliminates a few mouse clicks (Control+Alt+Delete and then Enter) and throughout the days this adds up to a significant amount of time.

Digital keyboard with highlighted Windows key and L keys

I have Windows Hello enabled so I don’t even have to click to log in. I just bring my beautiful face in front of the screen and it logs me back in.

4. Windows + P

I am a big advocate for using every bit of space I can. Windows + P opens the Projection settings built into Windows. The Project settings allow you to duplicate what you see on your current screen onto a second monitor that you have connected to your device.

Display settings panel

Or you can extend your current screen so that your workspace grows by the amount of area you have on both screens. I use multiple monitors all the time for work and it even has its uses for home. I regularly stream movies for my kids onto my TV. Most smart TV’s and many media streaming devices will actually allow you to do this wirelessly.

5. Windows + K

Connect panel

When you quickly want to find out what wireless display devices or audio devices are available to connect to, Windows + K brings up a panel with that list. This is very helpful at work when connecting to a wireless Surface Hub for a presentation.

6. Gestures

Gestures leave much to the user’s imagination and are heavily customizable. Gestures are used on the touchpad found on your laptop. Touchpads give you the mouse functionality, but using a touchpad like a mouse to move and click your cursor can be slow and difficult.

Gestures allow you to complete more tasks faster, without having to reach for your touch screen or mouse. Found in the Settings > Devices > Touchpad section (see below image), you have the ability to change swipes, taps, and recognition of up to four fingers.

Touchpad gesture settings

Everyone likes to use Pinch to Zoom, what about being able to scroll by sliding two fingers? Or swipe with three fingers to go straight to your desktop? All this can be done with gestures. You can enable and change as many of them as you want. I would list what gestures I use, but there are just too many! You can find out what gestures work for you in the settings.

The shortcuts and gestures I mentioned save me so much time and energy using my PC, especially after such a long time using old computers.

Everybody has their learning curve, these just helped make mine a bit simpler. You can download the whole list of Windows shortcuts from the Microsoft website, just as I did. Or see Windows key shortcuts video. There are many more shortcuts available to use, and the gestures give you many options too. 

If you want something different or have an idea about better uses for shortcuts and gestures, you can open up the Feedback Hub (Windows + F), and let the Windows engineers know what you want by submitting your feedback!