One of the joys of reference librarianship is helping users at the computer – and it tends to be fun because the impact I can have on a user’s ability to accomplish tasks more quickly and efficiently than before. I was reminded of this element of my job by a paragraph in the November 1, 2010 infotech column in LibraryJournal. David Rapp, the editor, is discussing a talk he heard from a Google researcher at the ITHAKA Sustainable Scholarship Conference 2010:

“Ninety percent of U.S. Internet users don’t know how to find a word quickly on a web page using control-f (on a PC), he said; 50 percent of U.S. teachers don’t know how to do it. Search is a skill, he pointed out, so educating people on how to search is key.”

Control-f is, for me, a necessary tool. In evaluating search results, I use it to help me identify the context of key words I’ve used to search. It lets me find quickly what I need, so I can evaluate and move on. There are many other so called “hot keys” or “keyboard shortcuts” that one can use – Ctrl-c for copy, Ctrl-p for print, Ctrl-v for paste. Perhaps, dear reader, these are also a common part of your computer habits, and maybe it seems obvious to talk about them. But for users unfamiliar with these shortcuts, they’re like epiphanies when you share them.

Hot keys work in different ways on various computer platforms – so there’s a lists for Microsoft, and for Macintosh; though there are commonalities across hardware and software. There are even special and interesting shortcuts for different web browsers – like Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Internet Explorer.

What’s your favorite hot key combo? And if you’re new to any of these computer tricks, let us know how your computing life changes by integrating them into your world.