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These simple keyboard shortcuts broke the brains of my Gen Z coworkers

Millennial-aged man playing in an online E-sports tournament on his computer
(Image credit: Getty Images - Trevor Williams)

In my many video meetings with PC Gamer editors, I often share my screen to draw attention to something specific: a presentation slide, a headline, an important dog that we need to discuss. "Did you know that Batman's dog is called Ace The Bat-Hound? Commit this to memory," I might say.

In one of these meetings last week I was typing something into a document when another editor stopped me dead in my tracks. "—Wait, what did you just do? How'd you write that way?" they asked, unable to proceed further until I revealed the truth.

I wasn't doing anything special, I thought. I was deleting words in Google Docs, just about the most ordinary thing we do. But I was doing it by holding Ctrl and hitting backspace to delete word by word. This, apparently, was enough to blow the minds of six people on our team—professional writers, bless them—who had never heard of these shortcuts.

"My entire journalistic life has been a lie," chimed in FPS expert Morgan Park. "Witchcraft," remarked another. At least, that's how I recall it.

I'm hoping that most of you already aware of this family of text navigation commands, but I also have no idea how keyboarding is being taught in schools these days, an age where phones are the most-used devices for most of us.

⬆ VIDEO: A demonstration of arcane keyboarding techniques.

Frighten the young, amaze your friends with these ordinary typing shortcuts

Ctrl + left/right arrow keys
Function: Move the text cursor word by word in a line

Ctrl + Shift + left/right arrow keys
Function: Select text word by word, to the left or right, or line by line

Shift + arrow keys
Function: Select individual characters or lines of text

Ctrl + up/down arrow keys
Function: Jump from line break to line break, not especially useful but sometimes more precise than scrolling

Ctrl + Enter
Function: Adds a page break in most word processors

Extra credit: How to move between browser tabs quickly

Ctrl + Tab / Ctrl + Shift + Tab
Function: Move forward / backward in your list of tabs

Ctrl + any number key
Function: Jump to that corresponding tab in your browser ("1" will be the leftmost tab in the list)

I dislike mice. I avoid them as much as possible. (Editor's Note—What Evan doesn't disclose here is that he is also a Two-Mouse Man). Picking my hands up off the keyboard to slowly "paint" some text, then bringing them back to the keyboard to bring down the delete guillotine? Imprecise; antiquated; passé. Why manually guide a missile to its target (in this questionable analogy, the mouse cursor is a missile) when I can just press a button to blow something up? 

"Witchcraft."

Morgan Park, alleged professional writer

For the same reason, I use Page Up and Page Down when browsing to vertically scroll webpages. The fewer inputs I have to make, the easier it is on my joints and the more efficient I am. 

The Ctrl + Delete / Backspace commands are particularly useful when you need to be precise when removing text. Who really wants to hold down the backspace button and pray you'll remove the correct number of characters? You might as well be using a bocci ball for PC input, hurling it and hoping that you land on the right spot. Anyway, enthusiastic deleters can still hold down these keys to obliterate words in fast succession.

It's not exactly certain who created these commands, but they are associated with Windows and they have been around a long time. They date back to at least 1995 according to Raymond Chen (opens in new tab), an author and blogger who's documented the history of Windows for years and years, who claims that "A few people in the early days of the Internet Explorer group [at Microsoft] used the Brief editor, which uses Ctrl+Backspace as the shortcut key to delete the previous word, and they liked it so much that one of them added it to the autocomplete handler."

A little piece of Windows history, now at your fingertips.

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.