April 24, 2018 Technology

Technology Tips for Seniors – Digital Shortcuts

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

When it comes to computer software, there are a ton of shortcuts that will help you get to your finished product faster.

Generally, a shortcut in computer lingo is a combination of keys you press to perform an action that you would normally need a mouse, trackpad, or other input devices to perform.

These tips will illuminate useful shortcuts and describe how to optimize them for Mac and PC users. 

Tip 1: Try a few shortcuts on a Mac keyboard.

To use a keyboard shortcut on a Mac, hold down one or more modifier keys while pressing the last key of the shortcut. The following keys are known as modifier keys:

Modifier Key Name

Modifier Key Symbol





Caps Lock




The Mac menus and keyboards often use the symbol you see next to the modifier keys above. If you are using a keyboard made for Windows PCs, you must use the Alt key instead of Option, and the Windows logo key instead of Command. These are some common Mac keyboard shortcuts:




Cut the selected item and copy it to the Clipboard.


Copy the selected item to the Clipboard. This also works for files in the Finder.


Paste the contents of the Clipboard into the current document or app. This also works for files in the Finder.


Undo the previous command. You can then press Command-Shift-Z to Redo, reversing the undo command. In some apps, you can undo and redo multiple commands.


Select All items.


Find items in a document or open a Find window.


Find Again. Find the next occurrence of the item previously found. To find the previous occurrence, press Command-Shift-G.


You can find a much longer list of shortcuts here. You may want to start with just a few that would be particularly useful to you and keep a quick reference post-it note on your desk until the shortcuts become second nature to you.

Tip 2: Get familiar with PC Shortcut keys.

The modifier keys on a PC keyboard differ slightly from the Mac keyboard.

Modifier Key Name

Modifier Key Symbol




Window's Key





If you were to press any of these modifiers by themselves, nothing would happen. However, when you press them along with another letter or number, you can perform the programmed function much faster. 



Ctrl + X

Cut the selected item.

Ctrl + C (or Ctrl + Insert)

Copy the selected item.

Ctrl + V (or Shift + Insert)

Paste the selected item.

Ctrl + Z

Undo an action.

Alt + Tab

Switch between open applications.

Alt + F4

Close the active item, or exit the active app.

Windows logo key  + L

Lock your PC.


You can find a much longer list of possible shortcuts here. As suggested before, a quick reference post-it note on your desk can be helpful until the shortcuts become familiar.

Tip 3 Learn to peruse your email faster in Outlook.

Some shortcuts are specific to the application you are in. For example, pressing CTRL+1 for Windows or Command+1 for Macs in Microsoft Outlook will perform a function, whereas pressing the same combination in Microsoft Word will do nothing. Here are a few shortcut keys specific to Microsoft Outlook:



Ctrl + 1

Switch to Mail

Ctrl + 2

Switch to Calendar

Ctrl + 3

Switch to Contacts

Ctrl + 4

Switch to Tasks

Ctrl + 5

Switch to Notes


Search for text within an open item

Ctrl + P


Ctrl + Enter


Ctrl + F


Ctrl + Alt + F

Forward message as an attachment

Tip 4: Draft documents faster with Microsoft Word shortcuts.

Shortcut keys are used most often in word processing and can save you a lot of time. Here are a few specific to Microsoft Word that you may find useful:



Ctrl + S (or F12)

Save Document

Ctrl + O

Open existing document

Ctrl + N

New Document

Ctrl + P

Print Document

Ctrl + W

Close Document


End of the line you are currently working in


Beginning of the line you are currently working in

Ctrl + I

Italicize text


You can find more useful shortcuts here for Windows, and here for Mac.

Tip 5: Become a PDF expert with these Adobe Acrobat shortcuts.

With the ever-growing role of e-Discovery in our daily professional lives, more and more time is spent working with PDF documents. Here are a few shortcuts you can use in Acrobat:



Arrow Up

Scroll up

Arrow Down

Scroll down

Space bar

Scroll (When the Hand tool is selected)

Ctrl + =

Zoom in (useful for reading text)

Ctrl + -

Zoom out

Arrow Left (or Ctrl + Page Up)

Previous Page

Arrow Right (or Ctrl + Page Down)

Next Page

Shift + U

Cycle through highlighting tools: Highlighter, Underline Text, Cross Out Text

There are many more that you can find here.

In addition to the shortcuts programmed into the keyboard and operating system, you can download software that will allow you to type a few characters and substitute substantial quantities of text. For example, in Microsoft Word, you can get a program called TextExpander or a program called TypeIt4Me to help with that.

Shortcuts are fun and handy tools for anyone who spends a significant amount of time drafting or editing documents. By using simple keyboard and computer shortcuts in the workplace, you can increase your productivity and reduce strain caused by repetitive motions. Hopefully, these tips will help make some of your routine activities a little faster and easier. 

Jeffrey Allen

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA, the California State Bar Association, and the Alameda County Bar Association. He is a co-author of the ABA book Technology Tips for Seniors. 

Ashley Hallene

Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport.