Stuff I should have known earlier … shortcuts…

The other day I learned a useful shortcut in windows, being that the Windows key + SHIFT + S opens up the snipping tool in windows, very handy. This is something I always used to open manually with a search for via the start menu, very cumbersome right.

This got me thinking, what other things am I ashamed to admit I found out way after the rest of the world apparently did, and way after I’d like to admit after doing it some other way that either took more time or was just plain dumb in hindsight with respect to using shortcuts instead…. and things I instantly regretted with the power of a wayward shortcut applied in the wrong situation. Read on and learn:-

# 1 – toggling reference types in Excel…

Probably number 1 on my list is the use of F4 function key in Excel. I used Excel through four years of University and about two years as a graduate by manually typing in each and every dollar sign where required in my Excel formulas… not knowing about the F4 shortcut toggle….. fail.

This handy shortcut of course toggles a cell reference in a formula between relative and absolute references by cycling through the various combinations of relative, absolute, mixed column and row references.

One day I was just minding my own business when a colleague came up behind me and asked me why I was typing in all the $ signs in Excel….. is there something wrong with you, why I ask, just use F4 she said…. mind blown… how did I not know this already.

# 2 – Windows key and CTRL are right beside one another… WHY Bill!

This is in the ‘instantly regret’ category.

Windows key + D shows your desktop, very handy right, so why is Windows key right next to CTRL, when CTRL + D deletes stuff (yes you can probably already see where this one is going). It’s some cruel joke a Microsoft software engineer is laughing all the way to hell over.

Picture working very late at night with an explorer window open on the company project/network drive. There are a few project folders casually selected in explorer and no worries in the world. Picture wanting to get to my desktop instantly via the aforementioned Windows key + D shortcut. Only to be greeted with the selected portion of the drives contents being vapourised before my eyes and suddenly a lot of worries in the world exist which I didn’t have to worry about a moment earlier before the fateful CTRL + D key press.

After some initial ‘wondering how (the f*&k) that happened‘, it dawned on me I’d deleted the entire job I was working hard on to deliver first thing in the morning. There were backups of course, but only from several hours previous and not immediately accessible to a lowly graduate effectively in the middle of the night.

These backups were not able to be restored until the company helpdesk people were back online in the morning… only then could I start recreating what had been lost following the earlier backup…. FML.

Keep an eye on where those fingers are going.

# 3 – Move windows around on your desktop… for serious multi-tasking

Having had a multimonitor setup for 15 or so years at work and in more recent years at home. I’m left wondering why on earth did I not learn the shortcut keys to move windows around between monitors earlier! No more dragging and dropping windows around between various monitors, trying to hit the edge of the screen between two monitors to expand a window to half the monitor, you know first world problems.

It’s just so much easier using keyboard shortcuts. Now the reason I learned these is not born out of some desire to be more efficient. No, simply because I have my default monitor also hooked up to my PlayStation it drove the need for change.

By default, any new window (Explorer, Chrome, etc) would open on this default monitor. So, while multi-tasking (doing work and playing PlayStation basically) any new window opened on the monitor displaying the PlayStation output, which I obviously couldn’t see with this monitor outputting the PlayStation output. I eventually got sick of having to switch the inputs to show my desktop temporarily, and manually moving the window over and then getting back to multi-tasking.

I quickly discovered the appropriate shortcuts via Google. Turns out knowing these shortcuts is a far more efficient way of multi-tasking and actually doing work while multi-tasking.

Windows key + SHIFT + left/right arrows move a window between monitors, Windows key + left/right arrows move a window to occupy just half of the screen and then cycles this window across all the monitor halves. Windows key + up/down arrows cycle between minimising the window and maximising and a quarter/half screen sized window. Serious stuff for the serious multi-tasker.

While you’re at it multiple desktops in Windows 10 also have their uses, Windows key + CTRL+ D will create a new virtual desktop, Windows key + CTRL + F4 closes the current virtual desktop, Windows key + CTRL + left/right arrows will move between virtual desktops.

Although re-read experience # 2 above and don’t miss the Windows key while you’re mashing the Windows key + CTRL + D shortcuts (I have yet to do this, but I’m sure one day…), again thanks to that Microsoft software engineer in hell for this design decision when it does eventually occur….

# 4 – Excel will always ask you to save right when you close… yeah right

Another in the instantly regret category….

Usually I try to save documents and spreadsheets regularly, habitually stabbing at CTRL + S whenever I get a chance. Especially in Excel I need to be doing this, I crash it often, or worse yet get in an infinite loop via some poorly conceived VBA code (the shame)!

Even if you don’t do this and forget to save, when you exit Excel it usually reminds you to save before really exiting.

The reality is I forget to save (often), sometimes going hours between saves. Only to have Excel crash, resulting in losing some work. Sometimes the autosave or recovered version saves your bacon next time you start up Excel.

Usually this is true if you are working on a normal excel file. But working in in the VBA editor on an Addin, there is no such protection against your own stupidity.

One day I had undertaken about 4 hours of coding in an Addin, finishing a substantial amount of code. Very chuffed with myself I closed excel, done and dusted, wait…. what…. no ‘do you like to save’ dialog appears, did I actually save it? …. FML. 4 hours of work instantly gone, not one save from me during that time.

Addin’s need to be manually saved, they do not behave like normal files in so far as you are prompted to save them when you quit Excel if you happened to say make 4 hours worth of changes….. shit, shit, shit.

Addin’s sit in the background, if you don’t save and exit you lose any changes you might have made. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve actually done this, usually only losing a few minor tweaks here and there though. Microsoft why do you do this to me…. how hard would it be to ask if I want to save an Addin if I exit and have made changes? Don’t learn the hard way like I did, CTRL + S, CTRL + S, CTRL + S, especially if working with Addin’s.

Now the downside of saving all the time is sometimes you save over something you want to go back to, one easy way I deal with this is by using Dropbox, it retains all versions of a file you save for 30 days minimum (longer on more expensive plans).

This has saved my bacon on several occasions, allowing me to get back an earlier version of a spreadsheet that somehow got corrupted, or retrieve a snippet of code I deleted several days ago from a file thinking I would never need it ever again… famous last words as they say. It also means you don’t have your precious file stored on that one computer that then goes and packs up taking your data with it.

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