Computer Corner: Still Mousing Around?

Reprinted from PN September 2001
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While improvements have been made in types of mice available—from touch pads to trackballs to Mouse Keys—an excellent alternative to any mouse is hot-key equivalents (assuming your disability does not actually make mouse input the best option).

Most computer tasks for which we typically use the mouse can be accomplished using "hot keys" that require two keys to be held down together or three keys to be pressed one after the other. Of course, with the StickyKey feature turned on, all the hot-key commands can be pressed sequentially. If you are buying a new computer, Windows PCs are a little more friendly to run without a mouse than Macintosh systems; however, the latter pioneered some of the earliest hot-keysequences.

Most programs identify two-keystroke hot keys by listing them next to the function name on a drop-down list from the menu bar. If you watch for these, you can learn them. The hot keys are typically "Ctrl" plus another key for Windows-based computers and "Command" plus another key for Macintoshes (the command key is the Open Apple or the four-cornered squiggly key).

In order to force the menu to drop down using hot keys in Windows, try pressing the "Alt" key, followed by the underlined letter in the menu title: "Alt" then "F," then "O" will open a file, as will "Ctrl" plus "0." The same task on the Macintosh uses the "Control" key.

The simple task of creating a hot-key list for yourself (in a word-processing document) and practicing the keystrokes as you go along should be enough to get you going. My personal favorites are "Ctrl" + "a" = select all, "Ctrl" + "Z" = undo, "Ctrl" + "C" = copy, "Ctrl" + "X" = cut, and "Ctrl" + "V" = paste.

For additional information, select the "Help" utility in your application program and type "keyboard shortcut keys" or "hot keys" as your question. You will be directed to a full list of handy hot keys to keep you from mousing around.

The above information is provided by Susan LeHew, assistive technology coordinator, Rehabilitation Services Administration-Arizona. Send computer questions to her at


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Computer Corner: Still Mousing Around?


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