Sunday, July 17, 2011

Using shortcuts to write faster

I recently heard someone complain about the amount of time it takes to write out formulas in a Word report. My response to it was to frown and say: "It's not that bad, right?". She then told me it takes to much time to select every single feature you need... I looked at her very surprised an asked her: "Don't you use the keyboard shortcuts then?". Apparently she had never heard of it.

I have made it a habit to use shortcuts on my keyboard for as many operations as possible, and it definitely speeds up my writing time.

Here's an overview of useful shortcuts I use:


ctrl s: save
ctrl p: print
ctrl x: cut
ctrl c: copy
ctrl v: paste
ctrl o: open
ctrl f: find
ctrl +: superscript
ctrl =: subscript
ctrl i: italic
ctrl b: bold
ctrl u: underline
ctrl a, F9: select all, then renumber tables, figures and cross references


ctrl g: move to greek alphabet
ctrl l: subscript
ctrl h: superscript
ctrl j: sub- and superscript
ctrl 9: brackets
ctrl r: root
ctrl f: fractal

There are many more easy shortcuts available. In MathType, the corresponding shortcut is given in the lower task bar whenever you select an operation. In Word itself, the shortcuts are given in the menus.


  1. What a useful post! Thanks for that. If only I could remember them ... Hmmm, post it note time.

    Kelly @
    Elegantly Academic

  2. I think I'd go crazy without keyboard short cuts! Here's a couple you might've missed out or forgotten that I use a lot. I didnt know about renumbering tables and figures and cross-references so thanks for those!

    Word 2010

    Alt+=: Insert Formula
    Ctrl+z: Undo (especially when I use AutoCAD!)
    Ctrl+/: Insert Endnote Citation (you have to set this one up manually) (author, 19xx)
    Ctrl+.: Insert Endnote citation [author (19xx]

    For the last one, you need Endnote X5

    Excel 2010

    F6: Enter cell
    Alt+ir: Insert row
    Alt+ic: Insert column

    I also use a lot of chrome extensions a lot which help when doing conceptual design. For example, when using google images, i type 'i "query"' which automatically searches google images.

    Another shortcut I use is a program called Lightshot, which is a much better print screen utility than windows own.

    Often in a PDF if I'm feeling lazy (as is often the case :P ) I will literally press print screen, copy whatever I need and just paste it into a document for when I need it. Later on I can simply just rewrite it, cite it etc.

  3. Another thing as well, sites like and sometimes promote some really useful little programs like Lightshot that really do make tasks go just that little bit quicker. Theres a lot of crap that gets published that you really don't need, but theres the occasional gem that I use all the time.

    I manage sites like these with an RSS reader: after an hour or so of working, I will often check google reader, have a coffee and read up on whatever I've missed without endless browsing, see if theres anything interesting etc. As soon as I've cleared all my feeds and confident that theres nothing else interesting out there on the net, its back to work!

  4. Thanks for your additions, Pete! Actually, I didn't know about Alt= for inserting a formula, and that one will come in very useful :)

    I also read a lot in my Google Reader. I have a nice mix of sites with tips and tricks (like lifehacker), PhD student blogs and fashion blogs in my reader and it makes a great mix of reads for coffee breaks :)

  5. Along the lines of shortcuts, another thing that can really speed up writing is text-expansion. I use a program on the Mac called TextExpander (there are several windows-equivalents such as Texter). Basically, you type a little acronym and it expands into another phrase, in any software you are writing in.

    As an example, I constantly have to type: non-seismically detailed reinforced concrete beam column joints.

    I have a text expander snippet, "rcbcj" which, as soon as I type it, turns into "non-seismically detailed reinforced concrete beam column joints" in whatever text box or word processor I find myself in.

    I have created tons of these snippets that I constantly rely on. It's an awesome way to speed up repetitive things you have to type.

  6. I totally need to try out that tool too. Thanks Ben!