I have been working with Windows since version 2.1. Even then, keyboard shortcuts were an efficient way to get things done. Nowadays, Windows offers even more possibilities, and in combination with the free MS PowerToys, I managed to customize my system to make work much more efficient for me.
If you want to see those shortcuts in action, watch the video to the right 👉
The following 10 keyboard shortcuts range from default ones that are part of Windows 10 and 11 right out of the box to custom ones based on the free PowerToys. If – by the end of this post – you have not learned at least one valuable tip to help you work faster and more efficiently, let me know in the comments, and I will share more.
What are the best Windows Keyboard Shortcuts?
Obviously, this depends on what you do frequently while working with Microsoft Windows.
For the purpose of this list, I took my own needs as an information worker and content creator. As always, I focus on finding ways to be more productive and reduce my workload.
WIN+SHIFT+S ... but better
One of the things I do most often is copy my screen, a window, or a custom screen region to my clipboard. Windows has a nice little tool for doing so: the snipping tool. You can trigger it by pressing the shortcut WIN + SHIFT + S by default.
However, instead of the default tool, I am using a free – and much more powerful – alternative called ShareX. It does everything the snipping tool does and many other things making it easy to automate task sequences after taking a screenshot.
For example, I often use it to snip a region of my screen, upload the screenshot to Imgur, shorten the URL to the uploaded file, and copy the URL to my clipboard. All with two clicks.
You can define a custom shortcut for starting ShareX – in my case, it is CTRL+ALT+Z. And if you prefer using the WIN+SHIFT+S shortcut, you can remap that one with the help of the keyboard feature in MS PowerToys.
One last tip here: In addition to the keyboard shortcut, I also programmed my mouse to do the same when I press the mouse wheel down. Now I don’t even have to press a combination of three keys, but just one button on my mouse. How cool is that?
WIN+V - clipboard history
Using CTRL+C and CTRL+V for copying and pasting text is probably one of the very first things every windows user learns. It used to be, that copying text to the clipboard would overwrite whatever you put there before. Meaning that you could only ever paste the last copied text. Now there is an option to keep a clipboard history.
Before you can use it, you need to activate it in the Windows settings. By the way, here, you can also synchronize your clipboard content to connected devices. Very useful for copying texts between your PC and mobile phone and vice versa.
Once this is done, you can copy multiple texts, and then by pressing WIN+V instead of CTRL+V, you can choose which content to paste. This also works with pictures.
WIN+` - mute/unmute
The next shortcut I probably use dozens of times each day. It allows me to mute and unmute my microphone. Unlike other application-specific shortcuts, this one works on a system level. I.e., regardless of the software I use – be it Teams, Zoom, Slack, or anything else – I can use the very same shortcut.
SHIFT+CTRL+` - camera on/off
Along the same lines, here comes tip number four. I defined the shortcut SHIFT+CTRL+` for turning my camera on and off. Again, this happens on a system level and is application-independent.
And if you want to turn both on or off simultaneously, there is a shortcut for that, too. In my case, it is WIN+SHIFT+Q.
ALT+[Space] - Search/Run
Next up is the simple keyboard shortcut ALT+[SPACE]. I configured this to start yet another PowerToys feature: PowerToys run.
This is a powerful quick-launcher, a search, and a basic calculator. Pressing the shortcut opens a small dialog where you can quickly and easily find anything from files to settings to applications. Extremely useful!
The next tip replaces some of the more traditional keyboard shortcuts for arranging windows on your screen. Let’s take a quick look at those first.
WIN+Z opens a set of pre-defined window positions for the currently active window. You can click on one of the suggested zones or use the respective number to snap the window to it quickly.
Alternatively, you can use the WINDOWS key and cursor keys to move the windows around your desktop and maximize or minimize it quickly.
While all these are nice, my favorite way to arrange windows on my desktop is not exactly a pure keyboard shortcut but a combination of modifier keys and the left mouse button.
I am talking about the FancyZones feature – also a part of the Microsoft PowerToys – which offers a powerful and fast way of arranging application windows on your screen. If you press the SHIFT key and move a window around, you can snap it to any predefined zone.
If you do the same while pressing SHIFT+CTRL, you can snap it to multiple zones. For example, I defined four zones to create an area of 1920×1080 pixels, which is a good size when recording windows for full HD videos.
For me, this is the most efficient way of handling window sizes and positions. It does require a bit of setup for defining the zones, but this pays off very quickly.
As I am primarily working at home, I don’t use the following shortcut very often, but in an office environment, it is very useful indeed.
Pressing the WINDOWS key and L will immediately lock your PC – very useful when you need to leave your desk quickly and want to prevent people from snooping.
WIN+L - lock it!
Here is a super quick tip. You can launch any of the first ten applications pinned to your taskbar by pressing the WINDOWS key and the corresponding number. In my case, WIN+1 starts my browser, WIN+2 my email client, and so on until WIN+0 for Visual Studio Code.
This is a great way to start your most frequently used applications without even taking the hands off your keyboard.
WIN+. - emojis and more
My next tip is more on the fun side, although Emojis are increasingly being used in “normal” communication, too.
Windows offers an extensive Emoji library that you can easily access by pressing the WINDOWS and period keys. This opens the library, letting you search for and choose from a vast range of Emojis, animated GIFs, Kaomojis, and symbols. This shortcut works wherever you can enter text.
WIN+C - color picker
The last shortcut on this list is very helpful whenever you need to get the color code from anything on your screen. A picture, a document, or a website. Pressing the WINDOWS and C keys will open the ColorPicker, which is part of the Microsoft PowerToys.
Move the ColorPicker over your desired color and press the left mouse button. This will open a small window, allowing you to copy the respective color code to your clipboard.
A nice touch is a history of the seven most recently picked colors.
Additionally, you can choose in which format you want to copy the color code. The available formats can be configured in the PowerToys settings.
There you can also adjust several other functions of this feature, including the activation shortcut, which color formats to show, and more.