Windows 8 was clearly designed for multi-touch interfaces first, but it also has full featured keyboard and mouse interfaces. So while users of traditional PCs are understandably miffed that their favorite device type is being deemphasized going forward, Windows 8 will not leave you in the lurch. And one of the best ways to get efficient in this new system on traditional PC hardware is to learn the new keyboard shortcuts that Microsoft added to Windows 8.
Many of the new keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8 involve the Windows key, which I’ll refer to as WINKEY from here on out. And where previous Windows versions offered only a limited selection of keyboard shortcuts that involve WINKEY, Windows 8 includes many. Not quite the entire alphabet, but close, plus a large range of other characters too.
I previously wrote a fairly comprehensive look at these WINKEY-based keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Windows Key Keyboard Shortcuts, a list that was copied verbatim all over the web and even infamously in an eBook. And Rafael and I provide an updated version of that list in Windows 8 Secrets. But rather than just provide a rehash of the past, what I’d like to do here is focus on the core keyboard shortcuts, many based on WINKEY, and the ones that will make you more efficient immediately.
Charms: The key to most Windows 8 system capabilities
If you learn just one keyboard shortcut, this it is: WINKEY + C will bring up the Charms bar, a system-wide menu of sorts that provides access to several key Windows 8 capabilities: Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.
Of course, if you’re an overachiever, you may want to access these capabilities directly. Not surprisingly, you can do so, using WINKEY keyboard shortcuts that are dedicated to each:
WINKEY + Q: Search the current app or Search Apps
WINKEY + W: Search Settings (and control panels)
WINKEY + F: Search Files
WINKEY + H: Share
WINKEY: Start (acts as a toggle between Start screen and the current experience)
WINKEY + K: Devices
WINKEY + I: Settings
If you were going to learn just two keyboard shortcuts, I’d recommend WINKEY + C (Charms) and WINKEY + I (Settings). That’s because, after several months of using Windows 8 exclusively, those are the two keyboard shortcuts I use the most frequently. (I use Start Search for searching, where you tap the WINKEY key and then just start typing.)
Other useful keyboard shortcuts
In addition to the keyboard shortcuts listed above, there are a handful of capabilities that are easily accessed via keyboard. These include:
Printing. While the Devices shortcut (WINKEY + K) can get you to your list of printers (and other devices), using CTRL + P is more direct, assuming it’s supported. What I’ve found is that some, but not all, Metro-style apps support the desktop-based CTRL + P shortcut. If that doesn’t work, just use the Devices pane (WINKEY + K) instead.
Presentation mode. In Windows 7, using WINKEY + P would bring up a Presentation Mode pop-up, letting you quickly determine how to handle a second screen, or projector. This still works in Windows 8, and offers the same choices, though the interface is now a Metro pane instead.
App bar. To open the app bar in any Metro experience (Start screen, PC Settings, apps), type WINKEY + Z.
Power user menu. To open the power user menu on the desktop, type WINKEY + X.
Lock. Also not new to Windows 8, WINKEY + L will lock the PC and, by default, display the new lock screen.
Magnifier. This Ease of Access feature is served by a surprising range of keyboard shortcuts, including WINKEY + =, which turns on Magnifier, or, if it’s already on, zooms in the view. WINKEY + - can be used to zoom out the view (assuming Magnifier is currently running). CTRL + ALT + D will dock Magnifier at the top of the screen. CTRL + ALT + L will place Magnifier in Lens mode. CTRL + ALT + I will invert the colors in the Magnifier display (it’s a toggle). And ESC will exit Magnifier.
There are many, many more, of course. But this should get you started. I’ll have an updated and complete list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts available after Windows 8 is finalized.