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
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
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
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
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
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.