If you’re more tech savvy, it may surprise you to learn that in 2011 90% of internet users didn’t know about the keyboard shortcut CTRL+F (or ⌘F on mac). That number today may be a bit lower, but probably not by much.

And, even if you are super tech savvy, there are probably a bunch of keyboard shortcuts you don’t know — and they might save you a whole lot of time over the course of your life.

Keyboard shortcuts are cool

Plus, when you know cool keyboard shortcuts in today’s digital world, you’re cool. There’s something undeniably fun about using a computer really fast, way faster than most people can. Try telling your coworkers about Ctrl/⌘ + Shift/⇧+ T reopening your last closed tab. Then sit back and watch how cool you become around the office, where the average office worker spends ~6.5 hours a day on a computer.

At the bottom of this article are a bunch of my favorite keyboard shortcuts. What follows first is a quick calculation of just how much time of your life you may get back with keyboard shortcuts.


Raw time wasted

I did some tests in order to figure out how much time you can save with a shortcut. I wrote down some shortcuts and menu positions I wanted to use in my tests to basically try and eliminated variables, this way the time difference would be only from the mechanical operation. I tried to perform actions as fast as I could.

For these tests I was using a mouse, not a trackpad (a trackpad could be way slower).

With these shortcuts, starting with both hands resting on the keyboard (ready to type), I consistently saved approximately this time:

Editing

  • Copy & Paste: ~2 seconds
  • Select all & delete: ~2 seconds
  • Select word, cut, paste after next word: ~5 seconds
  • Delete line: ~0 seconds
  • Move line up/down (with indentation): ~2 seconds (~4 seconds)
  • Finding “hello” on text: ~3 seconds
  • Save file: ~2 seconds
  • Go to reference: ~2 seconds

Browsing (Chrome)

  • Open & Close tab: ~2 seconds
  • Reopen last 3 closed tabs: ~4 seconds

Windows

  • Split window side by side: ~2 seconds
  • Move to next desktop: ~2 seconds

Other factors

Besides the raw time to switch from keyboard to mouse and access a menu or submenu, you also waste time with other variables.

It depends on a number of variables. Here are a few:

  • if the person is doing more reading they might not use as many keyboard shortcuts as if they were coding
  • the user dexterity to use keyboard / mouse
  • the user memory to remember shortcuts / menu positions
  • initial position of hands (on keyboard / mouse / both)
  • complexity of menu/submenu
  • combination of steps to perform an action

Using the interface without knowing exactly where the options are will certainly increase the difference between a shortcut and a click.

A developer can benefit from shortcuts on different software (not just in an editor):

  • IDE / Editor (e.g. VS Code)
  • Browser (e.g. Chrome)
  • Docs / Sheets
  • Operational System

Based on these and a lot more factors the total time wasted may vary significantly.

Total time wasted

To get a number I set a timer for 1 minute and started to work on a real world project where I was writing unit tests. After a minute I counted 10 shortcuts.

This number will definitely vary depending on a number of factors, but lets assume a developer save 40 seconds per minute (10 * 4 seconds) when writing code. That’s the time I measured before for each shortcut (in ninja time) plus an assumption for the mouse/keyboard switching delay.

Let’s also assume true the 10 to 1 rule from the book Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship:

Indeed, the ratio of time spent reading versus writing is well over 10 to 1. We are constantly reading old code as part of the effort to write new code. …[Therefore,] making it easy to read makes it easier to write

If we assume that 10% of the time we will be using shortcuts then that will be 4 seconds per minute. Well, while reading you might also use shortcuts (switch windows, tabs, files, …).

Using the formula

wastedSeconds = <secondsPerMinute> * (<workHours> * 60) * workdays

Lets do a few simulations working 8 hours a day in 2019:

10 to 1 + ninja mouse skills

4 * (8 * 60) * 261 = 501120s

  • ~139 hours = ~18 work days

4 * (8 * 60) * 251 (US Holidays) = 481920s

  • ~134 hours = ~17 work days

That’s about a month in workdays!

That’s just counting the mechanical time. It’s probably way more in a real scenario because it’s not just the mechanical time that counts.

You can try the formula with different assumptions and see what you get.


Conclusion

The time saved with this assumption is about a month (in workdays).

And the cool thing about shortcuts is that eventually you don’t think about the shortcuts — it becomes muscle memory.

Do you have data from your own keyboard shortcut research? Have you ever tried to measure it? We would love to know about it!

That’s really something to think about, you could be wasting a significant amount of time over the course of a year by not using shortcuts.


VIM

Vim is a text editor that relies on the keyboard for everything. With it you don’t need to use the mouse at all, but it’s not simple and requires a lot of training to master it. Because you only use the keyboard it has more “shortcuts” and can help you do things faster.

If you master Vim, which may take a long time, you could potentially save a lot of time.

StarCraft

StarCraft is a strategy game where you have to collect resources to build units and attack enemies. Most actions can be performed using either the mouse or keyboard.

A StarCraft Pro needs to have something between 200–300 actions per minute to win a championship, they can get to that using the keyboard. Imagine how much time they are saving using keyboard shortcuts!


Some interesting shortcuts for you

Mac keys reference:

⌘ command
⌥ option
⌃ control
⇧ shift

Some exciting ones you may not know

And not exactly a keyboard shortcut, but a pretty awesome shortcut:

  • doc.new and sheet.new in Google Chrome address bar: create a new Google doc/spreadsheet

Editing text

You may not know all these, and they save a huge amount of time.

Boring ones everyone knows

But maybe you don’t know them all. Like you maybe know ⌘ + Z is undo. but did you know that ⌘ + ⇧ + Z is redo?

Shortcuts if you have a Mac or PC

Visual Studio Code

Here are some shortcuts I use all the time. Great time savers in VS.


Other resources