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We are HUGE fans of keyboard shortcuts. Studies have proven again and again that you save a ton of time when you type commands from your keyboard instead of moving your hand to your mouse then moving the mouse pointer to the proper place on your screen to implement a command.

Of course you only save time if you know the keyboard shortcut. Otherwise you’re losing time while your brain searches it’s various nooks and crannies to find the illusive info.  I hate it when my brain heads into nooks and crannies! Much time is lost there. So, here’s our tips for learning keyboard commands:

  • Only learn the ones you use most commonly. The most common keyboard shortcuts are consistent across most Windows programs. Start with those.
  • Use alliterative mnemonics to help remember commands whose keyboard shortcut begins with the same letter as the command.  For example, Ctrl+P is the keyboard command for “Print” and Ctrl+S is the keyboard command for “Save.” Remember, “P” stands for “Print.”
  • Use associations to learn similar commands. For example:

Paste: Ctrl+V
Paste Into: Ctrl+Alt+V
Paste in Place: Shift+Ctrl+Alt+V
Paste without Formatting: Shift+Ctrl+V

  • When neither of the above exist, create your own phrase that foolishly reminds you of a shortcut. Back in our first year of business – which, by the way would be 25 years ago next month – we were reading a software manual (yes, we did that in those days) and came across the sentence: “Remember: Control-J stands for help!” It struck us as so foolish we still remember it (and we remember that it was in the seminal word processor, WordStar). So create your own phrase to remember shortcuts that have no alliterative mnemonic or association to help hang onto. One I’ve created is a bit cumbersome but it has helped me learn a keyboard shortcut that I use all the time. The keyboard shortcut to toggle typographical quotes is Ctrl+Alt+Shift+’. That’s quite a shortcut! I toggle typographical quotes many times a day, sometimes many times in an hour and I struggled to learn this command, so I’ve created this foolish memory aid: “To toggle my quotes, I’ll need to lose control and alter my shifts.” Foolish, meaningless, but I was able to remember it. Remembering it leads to using it which leads to auto-pilot, finger-memory desktop publishing.

So how do you learn what the commands are?

Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts

Click on Keyboard Shortcuts from the Edit menu and you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

Keyboard Shortcuts

The drop down menu from the Product Area mirrors the menus at the top of the InDesign screen, so you can find keyboard shortcuts associated with each menu item. The lower part of the screen shows the keyboard command associated with the menu command. This image shows that Export is accomplished with the keyboard command Ctrl + E.

Download the List

See the “Show Set…” button in the above image? When you click on it, it will open a complete list of the keyboard shortcuts in *.txt file in Notepad. That file looks like this:

A List of Keyboard Shortcuts

It’s not pretty, but it can be quite helpful. It identifies all the commands available through the top menu row of InDesign and provides the shortcut associated with the command (if there is one). You can search through the document (using the FIND command in Notepad) for specific InDesign commands, or save the file to Word or Excel and make it more useful. Once in Word or Excel you can sort the data in a way that is meaningful to you.

Yes, it takes a little work to learn the shortcuts, but learning them will save you lots of time in when working on that hot deadline project. Don’t forget to download our TIPCards with the most commonly used keyboard shortcuts.

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