Do you use the "Windows" Key?

Do you use the "Windows" Key?

Summary: In round two of Perlow gets a Bott Beating, I am educated by our esteemed Windows expert that you don't need a "Run" function in the Windows Vista or Windows 7 Start Menu because "The Windows Key" combined with "R" is the same function. Wow, I didn't know that.


20070529-windowskey-f1.jpgIn round two of Perlow gets a Bott Beating, I am educated by our esteemed Windows expert that you don't need a "Run" function in the Windows Vista or Windows 7 Start Menu because "The Windows Key" combined with "R" is the same function. Wow, I didn't know that. Really.

I have to admit here, this is probably not something that is unique to actual computer experts who have been using PC's prior to 1981.  I'm sure plenty of people have no idea what the Windows Key does.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

The Windows key was introduced by Microsoft in Windows 95. At the time, most PC's used the IBM AT 101 key layout. It was only a few years later that many keyboard manufacturers and PC makers started to license its use and that it became standard. Still,  many of us never got into the use of the Windows Key. I informally polled a number of real veterans this morning -- most of which have been using PCs 20 years or more -- and most of them don't use the Windows key. Some of them, like former PC Magazine Editor In Chief Bill Machrone, use CTRL-ESC instead.

I personally own a number of keyboards manufactured by UNICOMP, which is the company that bought the rights to produce the original IBM buckling-spring AT keyboards. They aren't cheap, their basic model, which is a 101-key model which has no "Windows" key, is  $69. They do also make a model with the Windows Key, but I don't own any. They are incedibly durable keyboards, and if you are someone who writes a great deal or who lusts after a good-ol style IBM keyboard, I highly reccomend them.

My question to you, however, is, do you use the Windows Key?

[poll id=2]

Topics: Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • I use it for making the shutdown menu appear in Gnome

    System - Preferences - Shortcuts
    ....and give that key it's new function.

    However, the Windows key on the left is essential for Compiz, so if you're into that bling-bling stuff, you'll need it for that purpose.
  • Of course, all the time...

    The key itself opens the start menu, and i use the start menu search box a lot, so the win key initiates almost every program start for me.

    Also, i often use [Win]+[D] to minimize all windows and show the desktop, [Win]+[Space] to bring my Gadgets on the Sidebar to front, [Win]+[L] to lock my desktop when i leave my computer unattended and [Win]+[E] to open a new Explorer Window with "My Computer" as Root.
    • Don't forget [Win]+[Tab]...

      ...For the 3D task switching.
  • ALT-ESC???

    Am I missing something here? Isn't the Windows Key alternative CTL-ESC?
    • Sorta...

      Alt-Esc makes the Start menu pop up, but you cannot combine it with L to lock the computer (Ctrl-Esc-L) like you can with the Windows Key (WindowsKey-L) or any other Windows Key Shortcuts.
  • Can't Live Without It

    [Win]+[E|R|M] all of the time; likewise with the [Alt]+[N|O|S|P] series of shortcuts in Office and [Ctrl]+[N|T] in browsers. My favorite is [Alt]+[D] to pop up to the address bar and [Ctrl]+[Enter] to fill in "www." and ".com" in any browser to quickly jump to websites. (Just type in the root of the site. For example, if I wanted to go to ZDNet, the key sequence is [Alt]+[D], zdnet, [Ctrl]+[Enter].)

    Keyboard shortcuts are the best thing since sliced bread. I try to find them for any OS and application I use. ([Apple]+[Q], anyone?)
    Chad Strunk
    • Me neither

      My favorite being win + (number) for your QuickLaunch
      in Vista or simply winkey and then anything just to
      search in your computer.

      Favorite ever though got to be CTRL+backspace which
      delete and entire word.
    • Thx, Chad!

      Yeah, I use the Win key constantly... (R, E, M, L) In fact, I live & die by keyboard shortcuts; hate to mouse... But several of Chad's shortcuts are new to me, and totally rock!

      Love the <Alt>+<D> --> I've always used <Ctrl>+<Tab>, but depending on whether you use Google toolbar -- and its position -- doesn't always work... Similarly, didn't know the <Ctrl>+<Enter> trick; cool!
      Virtual Victoria
  • RE: Do you use the

    In my classes at school we were taught to rely more on the keyboard than on the mouse. This is one of the shortcuts we covered.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Only when I need to shutdown the pc & wireless mouse has died. nt

  • RE: Do you use the

    As a linux user and keyboard lover I have all kinds of shortcuts for all kinds of things. The windows key though, is the most awkward key to hit. I could create a whole new array of keyboard shortcuts around it, but it's just too much a PITA.
  • you don't need to combine anything!

    the Vista search box performs all functions, you don't need to use WIN+R.
  • Anyone who needs the run function should know what it does.

    Average joe user has no use for the run feature, as for us power users Windows Key + R is fine.
  • RE: Do you use the

    If you don't use the Windows key how do you instantly lock your desktop (I hope not CTRL-Alt-Del-> Lock Computer) or minimize all Windows, or do Onenote screen clippings, or etc...

      and lock.

      And I don't use OneNote.
      • Re: CTRL-ALT-DEL and Lock

        Try Win-L... Does the same thing...
        • I just did WIN+L and ...

          I just did that WIN+L and all it did was lock my... HEY... that's what you meant to happen... isn't it..

          ;-) just kidding LOL
  • RE: Do you use the

    I rushed out and bought a Windows keyboard when 95 came out just for the Windows key. I was rather disappointed. It illustrated the severity of Microsoft's lack of imagination. Back then it did maybe 4 things which were all duplicates of other key combos.

    Windows key makes a handy place to map hyper, super or meta keys in X11 on Linux/UNIX systems. I spend all day typing, myself. So I got a Fujitsu Happy Hacking keyboard many years ago which is based on Sun 4 keyboards and is extremely durable. It has nice key action like the IBM buckling spring keyboards but its tiny instead of consuming half a desk. And this keyboard has the X11 "meta" key diamond symbol on the "windows" keys. Oh and the control key is where it belongs. (death to caps lock!)
  • Daily at least

    Handiest use:

    WinKey+M minimizes all windows and exposes the Desktop. Shift+WinKey+M returns the windows to their previous state.

    Supremely useful.

    Add that to the dozens of less-often-taken-advantage-of uses and I have to say I'd be very upset to lose the key.

    But I'm a keyboard shortcut kind of person. I'd rather not move my hands from the keyboard at all if given the option.
    • Exposing the desktop is a QuickLaunch icon.

      Why avoid the mouse?
      Anton Philidor