Keyboard Shortcuts: It All Depends on Context (A Deeper Dive)

 Keyboard Shortcuts: It All Depends on Context (A Deeper Dive)

It's true. I can write a full in-depth article on just about anything technology-related. Even something as seemingly straightforward as keyboard shortcuts. Who knew how complex this topic could be. You might have wondered why a shortcut like Ctrl+D does one thing in one app or extension, while the same shortcut does something completely different in another. Hopefully, I can shed some light on a bit of the keyboard shortcuts confusion. Here are some things to consider:

1. The keyboard shortcut Ctrl+D in Google Slides or PowerPoint, for example. If you're in Google Slides and you select a graphic object, you can press Ctrl+D and it will duplicate the object. This should work the same way for everyone. However, if you are not selecting an object in a slide, but are just in Filmstrip mode instead, pressing Ctrl+D will duplicate the slide. And, if you are not in Google Slides but on a random website, pressing Ctrl+D will add a bookmark for whatever page you are on at the time. For instance, I'm in Gmail right now, and when I press Ctrl+D, it brings up "Add a bookmark," or if my Gmail is already bookmarked on my Bookmark Bar, it offers to let me Edit the Bookmark instead. 

2. If you are in an app like Google Slides, you can press Ctrl / + and it will bring up all of the keyboard shortcuts for that app or extension. This is an interesting list because it shows how the same shortcut can do various things, depending on the context (see the examples in #1 above to clarify this). The list will show the context, and what that keyboard shortcut does in each of them. 

3. If you want to see which keyboard shortcuts are used by your Chrome Extensions, type or save this link as a Chrome bookmark: chrome://extensions/shortcuts  It will let you see which shortcuts are used by each extension, and it lets you change some of them or type a specific shortcut you want to use. For some shortcuts, there will be a drop-down menu showing "In Chrome," or you can choose Global (which makes it work outside of Chrome, also). These options would allow you to set up your own keyboard shortcuts for an extension like Loom or Screencastify. Most functions do not offer the Global option, but some do.

Note: There used to be a Keyboard Shortcuts link in the bottom right corner when you brought up chrome://extensions/ or clicked on the 3 dots>>More Tools>>Extensions
However, that link has been removed by Google for some reason.

4. You can also see Chromebook-specific keyboard shortcuts by clicking on the bottom right corner of the Chromebook Shelf, and then clicking on the Settings gear. Scroll down and click on Advanced, and scroll down to the Device section. Here you can change what the default keys do on a specific Chromebook. For instance, you can have the Ctrl key perform the Caps Lock function (toggling it On or Off by pressing the Ctrl key). You could have the Alt key automatically turn on Assistant if you'd like. Just remember that you will need to come back to the Chromebook Settings if you ever want to change it back.

I don't see any way, except what is mentioned above, to change the default keyboard shortcut for specific Google apps, like Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc. Plus the fact that your Chrome browser may be managed by your organization's IT Department. So, there are some things you wouldn't be able to change even if we wanted to. But I hope these tips clarify what is happening with keyboard shortcuts in various scenarios for you and, potentially, your students as well. 


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