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Useful timesavers when using XP on a Boot Camped Mac

I’m using a MacBook Pro at work with Windows XP via Boot Camp – however, I was hampered by the lack of some key keys (pardon the pun) – no delete key! How do I Ctrl-Alt-Del? Argh! After some careful searching, I came across a great page listing most, if not all, of the various shortcut key combos you might need when using Windows on a Mac… Kudos to EveryMac for the list.

Also, a handful of quick tips which I found useful when I was first beginning to learn the ways of the Fruit:

  • If you want to eject your CD/DVD from your Mac’s drive without booting into an OS, just press and hold the left mousekey when booting up.
  • If you want to display the boot selection screen (to choose between OSX, Windows or an external drive / Install DVD) press and hold Alt during boot until the menu’s displayed.
  • If you want to change your default OS for dualbooting, use the Boot Camp Assistant applet (found in the Control Panel in Windows, and similarly in the OSX Options). In Windows, you can also quickly reboot into OSX by clicking on the Assistant system tray and choosing “reboot into Mac OS X”.

Next, something I found VERY useful: you can change your keyboard layout back to the regular Windows layout!

Lots more info after the jump…

If you’re a touch-typist (like me), Boot Camp installs two keyboard layouts in Windows. UK English keyboards have a slightly different configuration - @ symbol is over by the Return key and not on the Number 2 key – inverted commas (“) are there instead. The backslash is also over by the left Shift key, not by the Return key (on regular keyboards, the Hash/Pound symbol is usually on the key where Apple chose to put their backslash).

To revert back to the regular British English keyboard layout, it’s actually childishly simple. As I set Windows up as English (United Kingdom), the Boot Camp Assistant installed “United Kingdom (Apple)” alongside – and it also set it as default. However, as I explained, to my muscle memory inverted commas (“) are Shift-2 and the @ symbol is Shift-” (as shown on the MacBook keyboard), etc…

Having multiple locales and keyboard layouts installed makes Windows display the Language bar in the system tray. Using it, you can temporarily switch between the two layouts. To permanently set the standard British English layout, go into the Control Panel, open up Regional and Language Options, go to the Languages tab and then choose “English (United Kingdom) – United Kingdom”. Hit Apply and OK, and you’re done. Thank you Apple for not overwriting the default keyboard layout!

One insanely useful Windows feature which Macs still lack: you can open ANY program’s main menus by using the appropriate hotkey (apart from programs designed with a nonstandard GUI – 99.9% of all apps have a standardised set of menus up top). For example, if you have a program open, pressing Ctrl+F will open the File menu. Not sure what the key combo is? Just open the menu, and every option with a shortcut key available will display it underlined. (So to close Firefox for example, you can go Alt-F -> X). If you hold down Alt, usually the “hotkey” to open each menu will gain a little underline to indicate what to press.

You can get ridiculously fast at navigating your way through menus once you learn your shortcut keys! It’s one of the features I miss the most in OSX; I know you can open menus by clicking with the mouse, but that’s not the point if you’re a keyboard warrior like me 😉 (I hate using a mouse, it’s such a slow way of interfacing with a computer.)

And while I’m at it, here’s some generic Windows shortcuts for everyone to enjoy – mostly learnt through trial-and-error:
(For those not quite familiar with the lingo, Apple key is also known as ‘Command’, Alt is also known as ‘Option’)

  • Command+D: minimise / maximise all open windows, aka “Show Desktop”.
  • Command+R: open Run box.
  • Alt+Spacebar: opens the foremost application window’s context menu (useful if you need to resize/move/close a window and your mouse batteries have died!) Once the menu’s open, just press the key for the underlined letter to select which option you want.
  • Alt+F4: close current application/window.
  • Ctrl+Escape: open Start menu (handy if you’re using an old USB keyboard which doesn’t have a Windows key on it).
  • Ctrl-Alt-Delete: show Task Manager (useful to kill errant programs).
    • On a MacBook Pro keyboard, which doesn’t have its own Delete key, you have to press Ctrl-Alt-Fn-Backspace (doesn’t matter in which order they’re pressed; make an impressive t-t-t-tap sound whilst doing it! Impress your friends and loved ones!)
  • Alt-Tab: like on a Mac, this opens the Alt-Tab menu, which you can use to “tab” through application windows. If you want to back out from changing windows, just hit Escape before letting go of the Alt key. 
    • Windows XP lets you tab through *all* of your application windows, not just each open application – this can greatly increase your productivity if you’re working with lots of open windows in Photoshop, for example (instead of only being able to quickly select the Photoshop window and still having to mouse over to the appropriate image window).
  • In Vista, Command-Tab brings up the Aero interface equivalent of Alt-Tab called “Flip 3D” – a shameless Exposé ripoff which gives you realtime previews of your open app windows. I never use it, but some Vista users swear by it.
  • Fn-‘strange key next to right Shift key’: enable/disable Insert functionality (Insert lets you replace text as you type, if you put the pointer/caret at the front of a line of text… Don’t forget you’ve left it on if you’re typing something in your word processor!)
  • Ctrl+A: select all text in current active window. (OSX equivalent: Command+A)
  • Shift+Ctrl+arrowkey: select entire word in that direction. (OSX equivalent: Shift+Command+arrowkey)
  • Ctrl+arrowkey: jump left/right by an entire word. (OSX equivalent: Alt+arrowkey)
  • Take screenshot of entire screen and save to clipboard: Fn-Shift-F11.
  • Take screenshot of active window and save to clipboard: Fn-Alt-Shift-F11.
    • You’ll need to paste the image into Paint or your image editor of choice - Windows doesn’t save screenshots to files. If you’re looking for a nifty free imageviewer, try IrfanView.
  • Enable/disable Number Lock: Fn-F6.
  • Alt GR (aka Right Alt Key, which only British English keyboards have): Alt+Ctrl+key (so for é = Alt+Ctrl+e. Essential for accents!)
  • In web browsers: Ctrl+T to open new tab, Ctrl+W to close tab. (OSX equivalents: Apple+T, Apple+W respectively)
  • Command-F / F3 key: open Search facility.
  • For Terminal/commandline users… The Pipe symbol (¦): Ctrl+Alt+(key-next-to-1) (has a plus/minus and Section symbol on it)
  • Tilde symbol (~): Shift+(MBP-backslash-key) (next to the Return key, middle row)
  • Fn+Backspace (Delete): Send selected file(s) to Recycle Bin.
  • Shift+Fn+Backspace (Shift+Delete): Permanently delete selected file(s), bypassing the Recycle Bin. No Purgatory for you!
  • Hold down Shift and click the left mousebutton (or use up/down/left/right arrowkeys) to select a range of files/icons anywhere (Windows Explorer, Outlook, a web page etc.)
  • Hold down Ctrl and click the left mousebutton (or use up/down/left/right arrowkeys) to selectively choose files/icons anywhere (Windows Explorer, Outlook, a web page etc.)
    • You can use the spacebar as you would use the left mousebutton. Give it a try: in a list of emails or desktop icons, hold Ctrl. Hit Space, and the file is selected. Press the up/down arrowkey and the selector moves up/down one; skip past a few and hit Spacebar again and those two files are selected. Holding Shift after making your first selection with select every consecutive file automatically. Magic!

Phew, that list just keeps on growing and growing…

If you have “Use All F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” enabled in Boot Camp Assistant, you can still use the Mac shortcuts – just hold down the Fn key and press your desired shortcut key. If it fails to work even after you’ve enabled the option, Boot Camp may need to be reinstalled – just pop your Mac OS X install disc back in, and rerun the Boot Camp Drivers installer. Reboot, and it should reappear again.

Apple have also published a pretty-much-full list of the various shortcuts for MBP-Windows users in their Boot Camp knowledgebase.

Happy powerworking!

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