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What are the shortcuts in Internet Explorer?

A pair of hands using a computer keyboard

Keyboard shortcuts are a useful tool to help speed up the way you do things on Internet Explorer. Read on for hints about some common – and less well known – shortcuts that will save you time and effort online.

Jack Schofield | 9th September 2010

Shortcuts are keystroke combinations that let you do things much more quickly than you could with a mouse and pull-down menus. If you have impaired mobility or impaired vision, they can enable you do things that you couldn’t do any other way.

Almost everyone uses some keyboard shortcuts. In Microsoft Windows, for example, most people use Alt-Tab (hold down the Alt key, then press Tab a few times) to cycle through their applications. However, not many people realise that they can do the same thing in Internet Explorer 7, and later versions, where Ctrl-Tab cycles through the websites loaded in different windows. (Shift-Ctrl-Tab cycles backwards.)

Of course, there are other ways to switch between tabbed browser windows. Pressing Ctrl-Q will provide a quick view of ‘thumbnails’ so you can pick the one you want. Pressing Ctrl-T will open a new tab. Pressing Ctrl+5 will take you straight to the fifth tab, and so on.

Do you want to stay in the same browser window and move backwards and forwards between web pages you’ve already visited? You could click the Back button, but you could also do it by holding down the Alt key and pressing the left and right arrow keys.

Universal shortcuts

The menus in Windows often tell you the standard keyboard shortcuts so that you can learn the ones you use a lot.

For example, pressing Alt-F will always bring up an application’s file menu, and this is shown by the underlined F. Other universal shortcuts include Ctrl-A (select all), Ctrl-C (copy what’s selected), Ctrl-V (insert or paste) and Ctrl-S (save). Pressing Ctrl-P will print the current browser window.

Of course, you will find some keystrokes more useful than others, depending on what you do online. I read long texts, so I press the spacebar to move down the screen, rather than using the mousewheel or scroll-bars. (Shift+Spacebar moves up the screen, and the Home key goes straight to the top.)

Lesser-known shortcuts

I often search for particular words, so I use Ctrl-F to bring up a search box. In an adware attack, I’ve used Ctrl-W as the quickest way of closing pop-up windows - otherwise, it closes the current tab in Internet Explorer 7 or 8. I’ve even used the wonderfully obscure way to minimise Internet Explorer, which is to press Alt-Spacebar and then N.

If you want to make a web page fill the whole screen, so you can read it without any toolbars getting in the way, just press the F11 function key. F11 is known as a “toggle” because pressing F11 again will make everything go back to the way it was before.

Another useful function key is F5, which makes the browser refresh the web page. You can use it if the page has not downloaded properly, or if it might have changed since you last fetched it.

Internet Explorer’s Help file includes a list of keyboard shortcuts. Many of them work in other Windows browsers, and some work on Apple Macintoshes if you use the Command key instead of Ctrl. It costs nothing to try a few.


Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield is a technology journalist and blogger who covered IT for the Guardian from 1983 to 2010. Before specialising in computing, he edited a number of photography magazines and books.