In the Windows environment, keyboard shortcuts help us get things done more efficiently, without wasting time using the mouse to navigate. Part of the difficulty in migrating to Ubuntu is that many of the old Windows shortcuts don’t work anymore. In this post, I’ve hunted out some useful keyboard shortcuts to help you navigate Ubuntu more professionally.
1. Lock the screen
You’ll want to lock your screen when you’re away from your machine for any length of time – it’s common sense security. Simply press CTRL+ALT+L and the screensaver will activate, requiring your password to unlock.
If another user wants to use the machine, they can log on without affecting your session.
2. Flip between workspaces
Ubuntu allows you to use virtual workspaces, so you can arrange different applications between these workspaces. Possibly most useful whenever you want to work on something confidential or you want to keep your web browser/IM tools seperate from your wordprocessing and office applications.
Anyway, to quickly switch between workspaces, use the CTRL+ALT+LEFT/RIGHT ARROW key combinations. If you’ve got the enhanced display settings turned on, the desktop willl literally spin around to reveal the next workspace.
3. Minimize your applications
If your screen is cluttered with applications, it’s sometimes useful to minimize all the programmes and just bring up the one you want. To do this, use the CTRL+ALT+D combination and you’ll be down to your desktop wallpaper in no time.
4. Cycle through your open programmes
Holding the ALT button and pressing TAB will cycle through your open applications in the same way ALT+TAB works in Windows. However, you can also get a more visually appealing effect by pressing the Windows key (the Windows icon between CTRL and ALT) and TAB.
5. Move applications between workspaces
If you want to move an application into its own workspace, you can do this easily by pressing SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+LEFT/RIGHT ARROW. The application will instantly ‘jump’ to the next workspace along. Really handy if you want to isolate an application.
6. Resize and move windows
With a couple of keyboard combinations and the arrow keys, you can resize and move windows. This one’s more handy if you’ve lost control of your mouse, but useful nevertheless.
- Move a window by pressing ALT+F7, then using the arrow keys to move the window in question.
- Resize a window by pressing ALT+F8, then using the arrow keys to move the window in question.
7. Activate the Applications menu
Again, in the absence of a mouse, you can press ALT+F1 to activate the Applications menu (top left of your Ubuntu screen), then navigate the menus with the arrow keys, using the RETURN/ENTER key to launch the application you want.
If you call this menu up accidentally, hit the ESCAPE button to dismiss the menu again.
8. Minimize/Maximize windows
A quick way to minimize and maximize your application windows:
- ALT+F9 to minimize the current window
- ALT+F10 to maximize the current window. Pressing this again will restore the previous window size.
9. The ‘Run’ Command
In Windows, there is a run command into which you can type commands and application names to launch programmes. To accomplish the same thing in Ubuntu, you press ALT+F2.
From there, you can launch applications by name or start a command in a terminal.
10. Toggle hidden files in file browser
Quite a useful way to reveal hidden files in Ubuntu’s file browser is by pressing CTRL+H. Pressing the keys a second time will hide the files again.
Before I finish, I should mention that most Ubuntu appliations share keyboard shortcuts in common with Windows applications. Selection commands such as CTRL+A will select text on a page. Formatting commands will work in OpenOffice just as they do in Microsoft Word – CTRL+B, CTRL+U and so on.
However, if you’re an Ubuntu veteran and you have more suggestions to add, leave your suggestions in the comments area.