Using Keyboard Shortcuts Beyond SolidWorks

As SolidWorks users, we are using all kinds of programs to accomplish our jobs. We all have to create text based documents, read and respond to e-mails, use the internet to look up information, and who knows what else. We are very lucky that SolidWorks is very easy to use and it provides multiple ways to do the same thing. A great example of that are keyboard shortcuts. But did you know that a lot of keyboard shortcuts used in SolidWorks also apply to other Windows programs?

Copy and Paste
Let’s start with two very simple commands: Copy and Paste. Going up to the Edit menu and clicking those commands is a waste of time when we can easily utilize keyboard shortcuts. The default keyboard shortcut for Copy in SolidWorks and many other programs is Ctrl + C and for Paste, it’s Ctrl + V. We can copy and paste a bunch of things in SolidWorks such as sketches, sketch entities, notes, and views’the list goes on. Anytime you are copying and pasting in any other program, it’s usually text. And these same keyboard shortcuts apply to essentially any program that involves entering text – like word processors, internet browsers, and e-mail programs. It’s also important to remember you can copy text from one program to another.

Undo
Now that we know keyboards shortcuts for Copy and Paste, we can now be some serious copying and pasting machines. In our eagerness to copy and paste everything in sight, we ended up pasting something too many times. That’s alright. We can just go up to the Edit menu and click Undo. But that takes too long. We want to use the keyboard shortcut for Undo which is Ctrl + Z. Once again, this applies to a lot of programs. It’s even built into some internet browsers like Chrome.

Switching Between Files
Many programs allow you to open multiple files at once in the same window. In SolidWorks, if we want to switch between files, we can minimize the window for that specific file and then maximize the window of the file we want. Or we could go up to the Window menu and click on the file we want to open from the drop down. Did you know there is a keyboard shortcut for switching between files? That shortcut is Ctrl + Tab. It’s important that you hit these keys quickly and I will explain why further down. If we have only two files open, this keyboard shortcut will allow us to switch between those files. If you have more than two files open, it will switch between the last two active files. But what if we want to switch the window to another file other than those two? Remember when I mentioned hitting Ctrl + Tab quickly was important. This time we are going to hold down Ctrl and then quickly tap Tab. If we did this correctly and we are still holding Ctrl down, our window should looking something like this.

Hold Ctrl Tab

Now we get a new window that pops up showing us every document that’s open. At this point (while still holding down Ctrl), we can start tapping Tab to cycle through the open documents. Once the document we want is highlighted, we can release Ctrl and it now becomes the active file. Instead of tapping Tab, we can also use the mouse to click on the file we want to make active. Please note that holding Ctrl and then tapping Tab to bring up all open documents in a window is a special case for SolidWorks. We can quickly switch between files by quickly hitting Ctrl + Tab in other programs such as Excel. This also allows us to switch between tabs in our internet browsers.

Switching Between Programs
Now we know how to quickly switch between files in our programs but we use all kinds of programs throughout the day. We should be able to quickly switch between programs as well, right? If we quickly tap Alt + Tab, we can switch between the last two active programs just like we could with files in SolidWorks. Holding Alt and then quickly tapping Tab has a similar effect to what holding Ctrl and tapping Tab did in SolidWorks.

Hold Alt tab

Just like in SolidWorks, a window pops up but this time it is displaying all the programs we currently have open. And we can select them by tapping Tab or with a mouse click.

Keyboard shortcuts are great but only if you are actually taking the time to really utilize them. If your reaction after reading this particular blog is something like:

“I don’t like using keyboard shortcuts because it makes me have to move my hand from whatever position it’s at to get it to the keyboard.”

then you are approaching this the wrong way. To be an effective computer user, your left hand should always be on the keyboard. If it’s always there, these keyboard shortcuts are very easy to take advantage of. For those of you who use some keyboard shortcuts, I hope this makes you want to use them even more. For those of you who still haven’t jumped on the keyboard shortcuts bandwagon, I hope it inspires you to start doing so.

Quick List of More Keyboard Shortcuts
Below I’ve listed out the keyboard shortcuts I’ve talked about and some other ones that I think will be useful. And remember, most of these apply to a lot of programs beyond SolidWorks.

Ctrl + C Copy
Ctrl + V Paste
Ctrl + X Cut
Ctrl + Z Undo
Ctrl + Y Redo
Ctrl + Tab (quick tap) Switch b/w files in a program (or tabs in internet browsers)
Hold Ctrl and then tap Tab Shows all open files (SolidWorks only)
Ctrl + W Close active file (or tab in internet browsers)
Alt + Tab (quick tap) Switch between last two active programs
Hold Ctrl and then tap Tab Shows all open programs
Hold (Windows Icon Key) and tap Tab
Fancier version of show all open programs
Alt + F4 Close active program
Ctrl + N New document
Ctrl + S Save document
Ctrl + O Open document
Ctrl + P Print