Keyboard Secrets

What All the Keys on Your Keyboard Do

Do you know what all the keys on your personal computer's keyboard do? The answer is probably no. On this page will tell you exactly what they all do, and even give you tips on how to write characters that you didn't even know exist on the keyboard.

A keyboard on a PC has many kinds of so-called special keys, such as keys you use to enter letters and numbers.

  • What the Different Keys Do

Alt
This key can be used to open the menu in programs such as WordPad and Notepad. Simply hold down the alt key and press F to open up the file menu in a program, et cetera.

AltGr
This key used in combination with other keys. For example, if you hold down AltGr and the e key you will get e-acute (é).

Backspace
Deletes characters to the left of the cursor.

Caps Lock
If you enable caps lock, you will write only in capital letters. A light on the keyboard is usually enabled indicating you have caps lock on or off. Some laptops will display a open or close padlock on the screen. Be sure to not have this key activated if you're entering a password.

Ctrl
Used in combined with various other keys. For example, you can hold down Ctrl + Alt + Del to bring up a Windows menu.

Delete
This can be used to delete selected text.

End
This moves the cursor to the end of a line.

Enter
This is perhaps the most commonly used key on the keyboard. It is located in the centre of the keyboard on the right-hand side, and is used to confirm various choices. This key has the same function as line break on old typewriters.

Esc
Is often used as an undo key. If you want to exit a program or menu, you can use the Esc key to perform this.

Home
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the text.

Insert
This key activates insertion mode.

Cursor or arrow keys keys
These keys work when Num Lock is turned off. You can move the highlight bar with the arrow keys.

Menu key
This key has a small picture that is similar to a menu in an application, and it is often found between Alt Gr and Ctrl to the right of the keyboard. This key displays the context menu with options.

Numeric keypad
These keys are to the right of the keyboard. Most laptops, which are under a certain size, lacks these keys, to save space.

Page Down
Moves the screen page down, such as in a Web browser.

Page Up
Moves the screen page up, such as in a Web browser.

Pause / Break
Can be used to temporarily stop a video or music for example.

Print Scrn
This key captures the entire screen and copies it to the clipboard. This image can then be copied to an image program for any further editing. If you have a program such as WordPad open and only want to take a screenshot of that you can do so by ensuring the cursor is over the program and hold down Alt + Print Scrn.

Scroll Lock
This is a key that no longer has any function. It was previously used to control the cursor on the screen, for example to stop the scrolling of text.

Shift
Used to scriptures capital letters and symbols at the top of some keys on the keyboard.

SysRq
System Request can be used in DOS, but is rarely used today.

Tab
This key has two arrows on the left end of the keyboard, one arrow to the left and one arrow to the right. Click this to move 5 spaces in a text program, for example. This key can also be used to move the cursor between dialog boxes.                     

Windows key
This key is usually located between the Ctrl and Alt keys. It is often used to bring up the Windows menu and can also be used in combination with other keys.

How to Change the Keys on a Keyboard So They Behave Differently

SharpKeys is software program that modifies the registry in Windows and enables you to program keys so they can be used for different functions. You can for example change the Caps Lock key to respond as the Shift key. This is handy if you keep accidentally hitting keys while typing that you don't intend to.

SharpKeys hasn't been updated for a while and only officially supports Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003 and Windows 7. Make sure you create a restore point before you install this software so you can go back if you do muck up your keyboard layout.

KeyPeak is another program that can be used to change the keyboard function. It is quite easy to use and you get up a virtual keyboard that allows you to select keys you want to change. Again, make sure you create a restore point before installing.

How to Use Special Characters

If you have a numeric keypad on the right-hand side of your computer, you can also use special codes which will enable you to type special characters, such as the copyright logo, and so on.

This is easily performed, by holding down the alt key and typing a special code on the numeric keypad.

Here are some examples.

Alt + 0169 gives ©
Alt + 035 gives #
Alt + 038 gives &
Alt + 064 gives @
Alt + 0240 gives ð

Simply release your finger from the alt key and the special symbol should appear in a program such as WordPad or Notepad, et cetera. Please Note: you do not hold down or use the + sign.

For a full list of special characters, please visit spike-jamie.com

Programs That Provide Access to Special Characters

There are a host of programs that give you access to special characters, these are some of them:

CatchChar is a program that can be used to gain easy access to special characters, when you need them.

The program has 11 characters that are stored by default, but you can add more if required. Simply enter a character in the "New Character" window, select "Add charcter" and finally click on the "Apply" button to confirm.

Use the keyboard shortcut Alt + Shift + C to bring up the application window, and gain access to special characters whenever you need them

BabelMap is another program that gives you access to special characters. What is special about this program is that the range of characters is extremely large - and claims to have over 110,000 characters in its database.

You first select a character in the program window, and then copy and paste it into any other program such as WordPad.

Detecting Broking Keys

Switch Hitter is a free program that can be used to determine if there is something wrong with the keyboard.

The program supports the English keyboard, while you can download keyboard support for German and French versions.

The actual testing is performed by pressing certain keys and combination of keys, to check whether these keys give the correct effect. The program uses colour codes to show actions such as green for a correct action and red for a bad key.

The program supports Windows 2000, XP, Windows 7, 8 and 10. You can download it from elitekeyboards.com.