Unlock the power of Windows with this little gem of a key! Photo courtesy of Flickr user 123 Chroma Pixels. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.If you want to get around your PC more easily, turn to the Windows Key! For the longest time, Microsoft has built some great functionality into this little key, yet I feel as if many users don’t know about how powerful it really is. I hope you learn about something you haven’t seen before that helps to improve your workflow. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Windows Key shortcuts (most work in Windows XP and up, but I will note which are Vista/7 only):

  1. Show Desktop: Windows D. If you’re looking for a quick way to get to your desktop icons/folders, go with Windows D. You can also do the same thing with Windows M (minimize all windows) if that’s your prerogative. If you hit Windows D again, it sends you right back to your previous window arrangement. Again, Windows Shift M does the same thing (unminimize all windows). I also like combining this with Alt F4 directly afterward for a quick shutdown/restart key combo.
  2. Open a New Windows Explorer Window: Windows E. I like this global shortcut because it doesn’t require me to choose my explorer window first; it’s great for instant access to your files from anywhere.
  3. Open Find All Files Dialog Box: Windows F. Similarly, Windows F is a global shortcut to search your entire PC, saving you a few steps in the process you’d typically go through to search for files.
  4. Lock Your Computer: Windows L. If you want to make sure no one snoops around your PC while you’re gone at the library to get a drink of water or use the bathroom, make sure to use Windows L before you leave to send your PC directly back to its log-in screen.
  5. Display the Run command: Windows R. When you know the name of the program you want to launch (or it’s some esoteric Windows utility you rarely use), just go with Windows R to quickly open the run command and launch programs to your heart’s desire.
  6. Open the start menu: Windows. Even by itself, the Windows key is still really powerful. Once you quick-access the start menu, you can right arrow key over to shut down/restart/whatever you want, or you can start typing to find whatever program you wish. With this alone, I’ve stopped using my mouse to open programs altogether.
  7. Display the Help Menu: Windows F1. If you find the help function within programs useful, go with Windows F1 to get help as quickly as possible.
  8. Select the First Icon in the Notification Area: Windows B. If you want to be even more of a keyboard ninja, use Windows B to highlight the notification area, then the arrow keys/enter to move around and select.
  9. Launch Pinned Taskbar Applications: Windows Number Key (7 only). Let’s say you’ve got Chrome lined up as the first program pinned to your taskbar. Simply hit Windows 1 to launch Chrome. The same applies with any other application pinned to your taskbar. As you probably figured out, this is great for quickly opening applications that you always use.
  10. Aero Snap: Windows Arrow Key (7 only). Use this to quickly and easily resize windows without the fuss or muss of clicking and dragging with the mouse
  11. Aero Peek: Windows Space Bar (7 only). If you want to see how your windows are laid out and simultaneously show your desktop, this is the shortcut for you (although that seems like a very limited use doesn’t it?).

Do you know any more handy Windows Key shortcuts? What are your favorite uses for them? Let us know in the comments!