Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (2023)

Whether you're writing a letter or calculating numerical data, your keyboard is the main way to enter information into your computer. But did you know you can also use your keyboard to control your computer? Learning a few simple keyboard commands(instructions to your computer) can help you work more efficiently.

How the keys are organized

The keys on your keyboard can be divided into several groups based on function:

  • Typing (alphanumeric) keys. These keys include the same letter, number, punctuation, and symbol keys found on a traditional typewriter.

  • Control keys. These keys are used alone or in combination with other keys to perform certain actions. The most frequently used control keys are Ctrl, Alt, the Windows logo key Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (1), and Esc.

  • Function keys. The function keys are used to perform specific tasks. They are labeled as F1, F2, F3, and so on, up to F12. The functionality of these keys differs from program to program.

  • Navigation keys. These keys are used for moving around in documents or webpages and editing text. They include the arrow keys, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Delete, and Insert.

  • Numeric keypad. The numeric keypad is handy for entering numbers quickly. The keys are grouped together in a block like a conventional calculator or adding machine.

The following illustration shows how these keys are arranged on a typical keyboard. Your keyboard layout might be different.

Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (2)

Typing text

Whenever you need to type something in a program, e‑mail message, or text box, you'll see a blinking vertical line (Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (3)) calledthe cursor orinsertion point. It shows where the text that you type will begin. You can move the cursor by clicking in the desired location with the mouse, or by using the navigation keys (see the "Using navigation keys" section of this article).

In addition to letters, numerals, punctuation marks, and symbols, the typing keys also include Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Enter, the Spacebar, and Backspace.

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Key name

How to use it


Press Shift in combination with a letter to type an uppercase letter. Press Shift in combination with another key to type the symbol shown on the upper part of that key.

Caps Lock

Press Caps Lock once to type all letters as uppercase. Press Caps Lock again to turn this function off. Your keyboard might have a light indicating whether Caps Lock is on.


Press Tab to move the cursor several spaces forward. You can also press Tab to move to the next text box on a form.


Press Enter to move the cursor to the beginning of the next line. In a dialog box, press Enter to select the highlighted button.


Press the Spacebar to move the cursor one space forward.


Press Backspace to delete the character before the cursor, or the selected text.

Using keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcutsare ways to perform actions by using your keyboard. They're called shortcuts because they help you work faster. In fact, almost any action or command you can perform with a mouse can be performed faster using one or more keys on your keyboard.

In Help topics, a plus sign (+) between two or more keys indicates that those keys should be pressed in combination. For example, Ctrl + A means to press and hold Ctrl and then press A. Ctrl + Shift + A means to press and hold Ctrl and Shift and then press A.

Find program shortcuts

You can do things in most programs by using the keyboard. To see which commands have keyboard shortcuts, open a menu. The shortcuts (if available) are shown next to the menu items.

Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (4)

Keyboard shortcuts appear next to menu items.

Choose menus, commands, and options

You can open menus and choose commands and other options using your keyboard. In a program that has menus with underlined letters, press Alt and an underlined letter to open the corresponding menu. Press the underlined letter in a menu item to choose that command. For programs that use the ribbon, such as Paint and WordPad, pressing Alt overlays (rather than underlines) a letter that can be pressed.

Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (5)

Press Alt + F to open the File menu, then press P to choose the Print command.

This trick works in dialog boxes too. Whenever you see an underlined letter attached to an option in a dialog box, it means you can press Alt plus that letter to choose that option.

Useful shortcuts

The following table lists some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts. For a more detailed list, see Keyboard shortcuts.

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Press this

To do this

Windows logo key Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (6)

Open the Start menu

Alt + Tab

Switch between open programs or windows

Alt + F4

Close the active item, or exit the active program

Ctrl + S

Save the current file or document (works in most programs)

Ctrl + C

Copy the selected item

Ctrl + X

Cut the selected item

Ctrl + V

Paste the selected item

Ctrl + Z

Undo an action

Ctrl + A

Select all items in a document or window


Display Help for a program or Windows

Windows logo key Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (7)+ F1

Display Windows Help and Support


Cancel the current task

Application key

Open a menu of commands related to a selection in a program. Equivalent to right-clicking the selection.

Using navigation keys

The navigation keys allow you to move the cursor, move around in documents and webpages, and edit text. The following table lists some common functions of these keys.

Press this

To do this

Left Arrow, Right Arrow, Up Arrow, or Down Arrow

Move the cursor or selection one space or line in the direction of the arrow, or scroll a webpage in the direction of the arrow


Move the cursor to the end of a line or move to the top of a webpage


Move the cursor to the end of a line or move to the bottom of a webpage

Ctrl + Home

Move to the top of a document

Ctrl + End

Move to the bottom of a document

Page Up

Move the cursor or page up one screen

Page Down

Move the cursor or page down one screen


Delete the character after the cursor, or the selected text; in Windows, delete the selected item and move it to the Recycle Bin


Turn Insert mode off or on. When Insert mode is on, text that you type is inserted at the cursor. When Insert mode is off, text that you type replaces existing characters.

Using the numeric keypad

The numeric keypad arranges the numerals 0 though 9, the arithmetic operators + (addition), - (subtraction), * (multiplication), and / (division), and the decimal point as they would appear on a calculator or adding machine. These characters are duplicated elsewhere on the keyboard, of course, but the keypad arrangement allows you to rapidly enter numerical data or mathematical operations with one hand.

Using your keyboard - Microsoft Support (8)

Numeric Keyboard

To use the numeric keypad to enter numbers, press Num Lock. Most keyboards have a light that indicates whether Num Lock is on or off. When Num Lock is off, the numeric keypad functions as a second set of navigation keys (these functions are printed on the keys next to the numerals or symbols).

You can use your numeric keypad to perform simple calculations with Calculator.

  1. Open Calculator by clicking the Start button . In the search box, type Calculator, and then, in the list of results, click Calculator.

  2. Check your keyboard light to see if Num Lock is on. If it isn't, press Num Lock.

  3. Using the numeric keypad, type the first number in the calculation.

  4. On the keypad, type + to add, - to subtract, * to multiply, or / to divide.

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  5. Type the next number in the calculation.

  6. Press Enter to complete the calculation.

Three odd keys

So far, we've discussed almost every key you're likely to use. But for the truly inquisitive, let's explore the three most mysterious keys on the keyboard: PrtScn, Scroll Lock, and Pause/Break.

PrtScn (or Print Screen)

A long time ago, this key actually did what it says—it sent the current screen of text to your printer. Nowadays, pressing PrtScn captures an image of your entire screen (a "screen shot") and copies it to the Clipboard in your computer's memory. From there you can paste it (Ctrl + V) into Microsoft Paint or another program and, if you want, print it from that program.

More obscure is SYS RQ, which shares the key with PrtScn on some keyboards. Historically, SYS RQ was designed to be a "system request," but this command is not enabled in Windows.

Tip:Press Alt + PrtScn to capture an image of just the active window, instead of the entire screen.

ScrLk (or Scroll Lock)

In most programs, pressing Scroll Lock has no effect. In a few programs, pressing Scroll Lock changes the behavior of the arrow keys and the Page Up and Page Down keys; pressing these keys causes the document to scroll without changing the position of the cursor or selection. Your keyboard might have a light indicating whether Scroll Lock is on.



This key is rarely used. In some older programs, pressing this key pauses the program or, in combination with Ctrl, stops it from running.

Other keys

Some modern keyboards come with "hot keys" or buttons that give you quick, one-press access to programs, files, or commands. Other models have volume controls, scroll wheels, zoom wheels, and other gadgets. For details about these features, check the information that came with your keyboard or computer, or go to the manufacturer's website.

Tips for using your keyboard safely

Using your keyboard properly can help avoid soreness or injury to your wrists, hands, and arms, particularly if you use your computer for long periods.Here are afewtips to help improve keyboard use:

  • Place your keyboard at elbow level. Your upper arms should be relaxed at your sides.

  • Center your keyboard in front of you. If your keyboard has a numeric keypad, you can use the spacebar as the centering point.

  • Type with your hands and wrists floating above the keyboard, so that you can use your whole arm to reach for distant keys instead of stretching your fingers.

  • Avoid resting your palms or wrists on any type of surface while typing. If your keyboard has a palm rest, use it only during breaks from typing.

  • While typing, use a light touch and keep your wrists straight.

  • When you're not typing, relax your arms and hands.

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  • Take short breaks from computer use every 15 to 20 minutes.


How do I fix not being able to use my keyboard? ›

What to do if your laptop keyboard isn't working
  1. Restart the laptop. ...
  2. Clean the keyboard. ...
  3. See if it's a hardware issue. ...
  4. Check your keyboard drivers and settings. ...
  5. Make sure you have the right keyboard layout. ...
  6. Plug in an external keyboard.
Nov 19, 2021

How do I unlock my keyboard for typing? ›

How to unlock a locked laptop keyboard
  1. Confirm that your laptop isn't just frozen. ...
  2. Look for physical damage on your keyboard or individual keys. ...
  3. Make sure the keyboard is clean and free of obstructions. ...
  4. Try rebooting as normal. ...
  5. Uninstall your keyboard drivers and reboot to reset.
Nov 3, 2019

How do you lock and unlock a Microsoft keyboard? ›

To lock your keyboard, press Ctrl+Alt+L. The Keyboard Locker icon changes to indicate that the keyboard is locked. If you're unfamiliar with the keyboard locking/unlocking process on Windows and Mac, don't worry - it's actually quite simple.

How do I change my keyboard keys back to normal? ›

On a hardware keyboard, press and hold the Windows logo key , and then press the Spacebar to cycle through your input methods. If you have a touchscreen, you can switch your touch keyboard layout by tapping or clicking the keyboard icon, and then tapping or clicking the keyboard layout you want to switch to.

How do I know if my keyboard is locked? ›

If your entire keyboard is locked, it's possible that you've turned on the Filter Keys feature accidentally. When you hold down the right SHIFT key for 8 seconds, you should hear a tone and the “Filter Keys” icon appears in the system tray. Just then, you'll find that the keyboard is locked and you can't type anything.

Is there a keyboard lock button? ›

Location. The lock keys are scattered around the keyboard. Most styles of keyboards have three LEDs indicating which locks are enabled, in the upper right corner above the numpad. Some ergonomic keyboards instead place the lock indicators in between the key split.

Why are my keys not typing? ›

An outdated or corrupt driver could be the reason your keyboard isn't working. Step 1: Right-click on Start and select Device Manager. Step 2: Expand Keyboards. Step 3: Right-click on the affected keyboard and select Update driver.

Why is my keyboard not typing? ›

Some of the reasons a keyboard might be unresponsive include: The computer is frozen: If the computer or an app is frozen or locked up, you won't be able to type. The keyboard is disconnected: The keyboard may have been unplugged, ran out of batteries, or the wireless connection may have been disrupted.

Why isn't keyboard typing? ›

Check to see if you have a key that's physically stuck, especially if your computer is stuck in shortcut mode. A bit of debris or an old keyboard could result in a jammed key. If your keyboard won't type letters but only activates shortcuts, give all the Alt, Ctrl, and Win keys a good strike to free them.

Why is my keyboard suddenly locked? ›

You may have inadvertently pressed a key combination that causes your keyboard to hibernate (this is especially true on a laptop), of your keyboard, may not be properly connected to your system. If using a wireless keyboard, it's possible that there's a connection problem.

How do you unfreeze a Microsoft keyboard? ›

Right-click your keyboard and select "Uninstall." Swipe your mouse pointer to the right side of your screen and click the Settings charm. Click "Power" and then select "Restart" to restart your computer. Windows will automatically reinstall the keyboard when your computer restarts.

How do I reset my Microsoft keyboard? ›

Replies (1) 
  1. Click the Start Menu button and right-click on the 'Gear' icon.
  2. Hover to 'More' and click 'App settings'.
  3. Click on the 'Reset' button and click reset again.
  4. After the reset, restart your computer, and when it boots up, check to see whether or not the problem has been resolved.
Jun 8, 2020

How do I reset my keys? ›

Press Alt + F4 until every browser and application is closed. Select "Restart" and press ↵ Enter . Using the directional arrow keys on your keyboard, select "Restart" from the drop-down menu if it isn't already selected.

Why is my keyboard not typing even though its on? ›

Check your connection

Sometimes the simplest solution fixes the problem. Verify the keyboard is plugged in securely. Disconnect the keyboard from the computer and reconnect it to the same port. If you have a USB keyboard, you may also want to try a different USB port to isolate the issue.

Can you accidentally lock your keyboard? ›

You may have accidentally locked your keyboard due to the sticky and filter key functions being enabled. Step 1: On Windows 10, open Settings, and then select the Ease of access tab. Scroll down to the Interaction section on the sidebar and select Keyboard.

How do I enable disabled keyboard keys? ›

To re-enable the keyboard, simply go back to the Device Manager, right-click your keyboard again, and click "Enable" or "Install."


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