Fundamentals of Using a Window: The Keyboard



The computer keyboard, commonly called the keyboard, is a semi-flat object that lies on the table in front of the monitor or is the main bottom area of the laptop when the laptop is opened:

A keyboard is equipped with small objects called keys. These keys are the real objects that give meaning to the keyboard. The keyboard is made useful when you press a key and something happens.

The keyboard is made of three main categories of keys. Each category is used for a different purpose. The end-goal is to help your computer experience be as effective as possible. Many companies that manufacture computers equip their keyboards with additional keys. For example, the following HP keyboard has buttons to increase the volume of the computer and even to get on the internet:

The following description relates only to the QWERTY keyboard used in US English. If you are using a different keyboard layout or language, consult the documentation that came with it or the MS Windows Help files.

Key Categories: Character Keys

The first category is made of keys used to display readable characters on the screen. To display a character or to get the equivalent character of a key, you have to press its corresponding key. The keys in this category include:

Letters a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z
Numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Key Name Key Name Key Name
Accent ` Dash - Equal  =
Opening Square Bracket [ Closing Square Bracket ] Backslash  \
Semi-Colon ; Single-Quote '     
Comma , Period . Forward Slash   /

Unlike the mouse, the keyboard shows its presence on the screen only when you are typing (in a text-based document). In that case, the object that shows the presence of the keyboard is called a caret. We will come back to it when we perform word processing. The caret allows you to know what section of the document would receive a letter that you type. If you are typing in a text document, it is important for you to know at all times where the caret is.

Practical Learning: Typing Readable Characters

  1. To open an application, on the Taskbar, click Start
  2. Position the mouse on Programs or All Programs
  3. Position the mouse on Accessories
  4. Move the mouse down and click Notepad
  5. To experiment with some of these keys, press each of the following keys I N D O W S 9 8


Key Categories: Action Keys

A second category of keys are those not used to type anything, instead they cause an action. Some of these special keys are:

Key Name   Key Name   Key Name   Key Name  
 Escape  Tab  Caps Lock  Shift
 Control  Alt   Backspace  Enter
 Windows    Win Menu          
 Insert  Home  Page Up    
 Delete  End  Page Down     
 Up Arrow   Left Arrow   Right Arrow   Down Arrow 
 Space Bar

The letters you typed in the previous section are referred to as lower case or lowercase. To type their equivalent uppercase, first press and hold a Shift key . While the Shift key is down, press the key corresponding to the letter you want. If you wanted to type only one uppercase letter, after typing, you can release Shift. Otherwise, you can keep Shift down and type the desired uppercase letters. At the end, release the Shift key.

If you plan to type a lot of uppercase characters, you can press the Caps Lock key. This causes the keyboard to display a light, usually on the upper-right section of the keyboard of a desktop or on the Caps Lock key itself. After typing the uppercase characters, press the Caps Lock key again to turn the light off.

Besides being used to type uppercase letters, the Shift key also allows you to access the upper base of the keys that display two of them. Such symbols are:

Key Name   Key Name   Key Name   Key Name  
Tilde  ~ Exclamation Mark  ! At  @ Pound  #
Dollar  $ Percent  % Accent  ^ Ampersand  &
Asterisk  * Opening Parenthesis  ( Closing Parenthesis  ) Underscore  _
Plus  + Opening Curly Bracket  { Closing Curly Bracket  } Colon  :

Practical Learning: Using Action Keys

  1. To experiment with some of the action keys, press Home . Notice that the caret is at the beginning of the line of text
  2. With your right pinky finger, press and hold Shift .
  3. With your left pinky, press and release the W key once. That displays w in uppercase
  4. Press End and notice that the caret is at the end of the line of text
  5. Press Enter . Notice that the caret has moved to the next line
  6. With your left pinky, press and hold Shift
  7. With your right index, press M and release Shift
  8. Press the following keys in order I C R O S O F T
    This produces Microsoft
  9. Press the up arrow key to move the caret up
  10. Press the left arrow key to move the caret left
  11. Press the left arrow again to position the caret between s and 9
  12. Press the Space bar
  13. Notice that this creates an empty space between Windows and 98
  14. Press End to position the caret at the end of the line
  15. Press the down arrow key and press Enter
  16. Using the letter keys and the Space bar, type world news and report
  17. Press Home and notice that the caret is at the beginning of the line
  18. Press End to position the caret at the end of the line
  19. Press the up arrow key and notice that the cursor is at the end of the Microsoft line
  20. With your left pinky, press and hold the left Ctrl key
  21. While Ctrl is still down, press Home once and release Ctrl
  22. Notice that the caret is at the very beginning of the text
  23. Press and hold the left Ctrl. Then press End once and release Ctrl
  24. Notice that the caret is at the very end of the whole text
From now on, and throughout this web site, unless specified otherwise
  • The words "Click", "Right-Click", "Double-Click", and "Drag" always refer to the mouse. Remember that the word "Click" always refers to the left mouse button (I keep repeating this because I have had my share with students, very frustrating for me: Click is always the left mouse button, not the middle, not the right, always the left, always!!!)
  • The word "Press" always refer to the keyboard

Application-Dependant Keys

The third category of keys is mainly subject to programmers' choice. These are called function keys. They are F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, F11, and F12. Although the F1 key is usually used to get help while working in Microsoft Windows, the use of the other keys varies from one application to another. Eventually, the application you use will give you instructions on what to do and how to use the function keys.

Practical Learning: Using Application-Defined Keys

  1. While Notepad is still displaying, press F1
  2. Notice that the Help file opens

Key Combinations

In the Action Keys section, we saw that some keys could be combined to produce uppercase letters or to access the upper symbols of some keys. Keys are also combined for many other reasons. When this site a book or any other document wants you to combine keys, the request will usually specify how to use or press those keys; this sometimes differs from one book or document to another.

In some situations, you have to press keys simultaneously, which means that you may be expected to press two or more keys at the same time, or almost at the same time. In some other situations, you may have to press and release one key, followed by another.

For our lessons on this site, here are the conventions we will use:

if you are asked to Do this
Press T
  • Press the T key once and release the key (you press and release immediately; you don't hold the key)
Type t
  • Press the T key once and release the key
Press Ctrl + T
  1. Press and hold Ctrl
  2. While you are still holding Ctrl, press the T key once and release it
  3. Then release Ctrl
press Ctrl + Alt + Delete
  1. Press and hold Ctrl
  2. While you are still holding Ctrl, press and hold Alt
  3. While you are still holding both Ctrl and Alt, press Delete once and release it
  4. Then release the other keys
press Alt, V
  1. Press the Alt key once and release it
  2. Then press the V key once and release it
Alt, F, C
  1. Press and release Alt
  2. Then press and release F
  3. Finally press and release C

Practical Learning: Combining Keys

  1. To use a combination of keys, press Start + Esc
  2. Press P and make sure Programs is highlighted. If Programs is not selected, either press P again, or press the up and/or down arrow keys a few times until the (All) Programs line is highlighted
  3. Press the right arrow key and the down arrow key until Accessories is highlighted
  4. Press the right arrow key and press the down arrow key a few times until WordPad is highlighted
  5. With WordPad selected, press Enter
  6. To access the programs in the background, press and hold Alt
  7. Then press and release Tab
  8. With Alt still down, press Tab a few times until the picture with the yellow question mark is selected
  9. Release Tab and Alt
  10. To close the Help file, press Alt + F4
  11. To close WordPad, press Alt, F, X


A shortcut is a quick action you ask a program to perform when you press one particular key or a combination of keys. Some shortcuts are universal or almost, that is, the computer responds regardless of what application is running. Some other shortcuts depend on what you have on your screen.

When to use a shortcut, you will be directed so. If the shortcut is made of one key, you will be specified the key. If the shortcut is a combination, you will be given the combination as we reviewed them earlier. Whenever you open a menu and decide not to use it anymore, press Esc.

Some shortcuts are already known to the computer (as part of the operating system). Most other shortcuts are set by the programmer of the particular application you are using. Yet some applications allow you to create your own shortcuts. Some shortcuts are readily obvious and can be seen from the main menu of the application. Some other shortcuts are either part of Microsoft Windows (and can be applied in your program) or are not easily displayed, you might have to search the Help documentation of the program you are using.

Practical Learning: Using Shortcuts

  1. To open the Start menu, press Ctrl + Esc
  2. To dismiss it, press Esc
  3. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete
  4. What comes on your screen depends (on the operating system you are using). To dismiss it, press Esc
  5. If you have any window open, close it
    Press F1, notice that the Help window for the computer comes up
  6. To close the Help file, press Alt + F4
  7. To start WordPad, on the Taskbar, click Start. Position the mouse on Programs or All Programs. Position the mouse on Accessories. Click WordPad
  8. While WordPad is displaying, press F1. Notice that, this time, it is the Help window for WordPad that came up
  9. To close the Help file, press Alt + F4
  10. To close WordPad, press Alt + F4

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