Win-B selects the first icon in the system tray.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Tricks and tips with a PC's 'Windows' key

June 24, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   If it weren't for all the hidden functions in modern computers, life wouldn't be as much fun. This week I'm sharing some of the lesser-known -- and sometimes, I suspect, totally secret -- ways that Windows works via a special key.
   Most PCs come with a Windows keyboard. You can tell by looking for the Windows key, or Win key. It has a label that looks like a Microsoft flag logo.
   Holding down the Win key while pressing another key activates various functions, saving time and reducing the possibility of wrist injury from excessive mouse movement.
   The shortcut I like the most is the easiest one, and the only one that needs no accompanying keystroke. Pressing the Win key by itself pops open the Start menu. You can then mouse around through the list of programs or you can press the arrow keys to move through them without the mouse.
   Next in my list are Win-M and Shift-Win-M. Win-M collapses every window to an entry on the taskbar. In other words, it minimizes all windows. How do you get them all back? You shift your approach and press Shift-Win-M.
   Win-F gets a lot of use in my home office. It pops open a search box (think of "find") that you type into. This makes searching for files and folders quite fast. If you're on a network and need to connect to another computer, your PC can locate all the systems on your network when you press Ctrl-Win-F. You can then double click on the one you want to connect to.
   Geeks usually love this one: Win-R pops open what Windows calls the "Run" box. Type the name of a program into the "Run" dialog and press Enter to get the program to run. I use Win-R and type "wordpad" to start using that all-purpose word processor. The neat thing about Win-R is that Windows remembers your typed entries and automatically fills them out for you after you type a couple of characters. (This is called "auto completion.") So you simply type part of the name and press Enter.
   If you work near strangers (or, I suppose, near friends you don't trust!) you should try Win-L. It locks your PC, and only the correct password will allow anyone to log on again. Win-L was added recently, so as far as I know it only works in Windows XP and Windows Vista.
   Another Win-key trick added to XP and Vista is Win-B. This unappreciated key combination selects the first icon in the system tray (the right-hand icon "shelf"), so that you can open the program it represents by pressing Enter. You can move the focus to any other system tray icon using the arrow keys.
   Although I like to use Win-M to clear away the clutter from my Windows desktop, another method is Win-D. Instead of minimizing all Windows, it hides them instantly. It also hides all icons, too, leaving just the desktop. Unlike Win-M, which you undo by pressing Shift-Win-M, Win-D is a true toggle; press it again and your windows and icons reappear.
   Many of you have added a Mac to your home computer lineup or even switched from Windows to a Mac. I'll describe some special Mac keyboard tricks next week.