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Computer Keyboard and Mouse Commands

The names used the describe commands sometimes differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, although Microsoft Windows has brought about a great deal of standardisation. This page focuses on Windows Applications and there is a separate page for: WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS

Commands Keyboard Typewriter Block
Command Keys: Enter Shift Caps Lock Tab Control Escape
Space Bar Arrow keys Block above arrows Delete
Function Keys (F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, F11, F12)

Menus File Edit View Insert Format Tools Table Help


Block Buttons Click Dialogue boxes Dragging Exit
GUI: Graphical User Interface Help Highlighted
Icons Indent Input Insert Keyword searches Macros Open
Prompts and Cursors Insertion point Pointer
Retrieve Saving Screens Screenlayouts
Search Find Character Strings
Switch Table Undelete or Undo


You will normally give instructions to a computer by using a keyboard or a mouse. You may have to remember keystroke commands, or you may use a menu to select the commands with a mouse (or with the arrow and enter keys of the keyboard).

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    Keys, keyboard: A computer keyboard is like a typewriter keyboard, but it has more keys. Pressing the keys sends electrical messages to the computer. This is one kind of input.

    The usual layout of a computer keyboard is like that of a typewriter, but with extra keys around the edges.

A computer keyboard is divided into blocks or pads of keys.

The pad containing the letters of the alphabet is called the typewriter block. Part of it (usually white) is the alphanumeric pad, because it has the alphabet and numbers.

The typewriter block also includes the following keys called command keys because they give commands. They are usually grey or brown.

The large key on the right with a downwards pointing bent arrow is one of the two Enter (or Return) keys. There is another on the far right with "Enter" written on it. Either key can be used to start a new line for what you are writing on screen or to tell the computer to carry out an instruction you have given it.

The keys with large upward pointing arrows are called Shift keys. They switch, whilst being held down, from lower to UPPER case letters, and allow you to use the top characters on keys, like: !"%^&*():@<>?.

The Caps Lock key locks the keyboard into capital letters. When Caps Lock is on the shift key produces lower case letters.

Above Caps Lock is the Tab key. This is usually marked by two arrows pointing in opposite directions to vertical lines, to indicate that its purpose is to
indent text from the margins.

The keys marked Control and Alt (Alternative); and the Shift Keys can all be used in combination with other keys to give commands.

Between the Alt and Control keys, many keyboards have a flying window (picture) key. This works with Microsoft Windows (95 on) only. Press to bring up the Start menu. Press the window key plus D or M to bring up your desktop, plus F for find files, plus E for Windows Explorer. If you are using Windows, try it. Also try Alt plus Tab for moving between programs on any version of Microsoft Windows. And see what Control plus Esc does.

The Escape key, usually marked Esc, is in the top left hand corner. If something is happening on your computer that you want to stop, try pressing this key. In most computer applications this will stop, or cancel, the operation.

An exception is WordPerfect 5.1

Above the usual number and alphabet typewriter keys is a line of keys called function keys - labelled F1, etc - Click here to find out what they do.

The space bar at the bottom generally makes spaces on the screen. But, like the other keys, it can do different things at different times in different

A block of four arrow keys is at the bottom, to the right of the typewriter pad. These keys are properly called cursor control keys.

They have arrows pointing up, down, left and right which move the cursor on the screen. A mouse lets you do the same.

The block above the arrow keys has some important keys that are generally used for moving quickly in a document on screen, or for editing it.

The delete key usually does what it says: deletes whatever the cursor is on.

The key marked End usually moves the cursor to the end of the line.

Most keyboards have an extra block to the far right which duplicates the number keys and the keys for moving about and editing. This is for people who are entering lots of numbers and not much text.

Function Keys:

These are the keys at the top of a computer keyboard labelled F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, F11 and F12.

They have different functions in different
programs. These functions are particularly important in an application like WordPerfect 5.1 which is usually operated by keyboard commands.

Menus and the menu bar:

A menu is a list of choices shown on a computer screen for you to choose which function or command you want. Usually you choose it by clicking on it with the mouse. In the standard Windows screen layout the menu bar is a strip along the top of the screen which contains headings for pull-down menu items.


Mouse is the name for a piece of plastic connected to a computer by a wire (its tail). The plastic has buttons. A click on one of these sends a message to the computer that may make it do something interesting.

A mouse is an alternative input device to a keyboard. When using a keyboard, the arrow keys move the cursor, and other keys control input. When using a mouse, the movement of the mouse moves the cursor and the input is controlled by the icon, menu item, or link that the cursor is on when you click.

A mouse usually has two or three finer buttons that you can press: One on the left, one on the right and (sometimes) one on the centre. In Windows applications, clicking the left mouse button will make your computer do something, like opening a folder or starting a program. Often you will need a double click. Clicking on the right mouse button will provide you with information and/or a menu of operations that you can choose from.

Block: Blocking:

In Windows Applications blocking text is called selecting text. Blocking or selecting text highlights it. Blocked text can be manipulated by using other commands. To block, you select a portion of your text using the mouse or keystrokes. You can do different things with the selected text according to the next command you choose. For example, in wordprocessors you can move or copy the text somewhere else, change its appearance (say to bold or italics), check spelling within the block or save the selected text to a separate file. Text selected in Windows applications, like Word and Netscape, can be copied to other applications (See cut, copy and paste). In most applications you can block text with the mouse by putting the insertion point at the beginning of the text, holding down the [left] mouse button and dragging the pointer across the text wanted. The key

F12 can be used to block text in WordPerfect 5.1.


A button is a computer screen graphic that represents an option or command. You click on the button to choose the option or give the command. Buttons are often a row of grey rectangles with words on.

Click: Clicking:

In a Windows application, to "click" is to press and release a mouse button quickly.

Connected to your computer by its tail you may find a plastic mouse. If you seize it firmly by the body and rub it on the table you should see an arrow (or some other indicator) move around your screen. This is called a Cursor.

You move the mouse in order to move the cursor.


Dialogue boxes or dialog boxes:
window that appears temporarily to request information.


The two main things you can do with a computer mouse are clicking and dragging.

If you drag something, you pull it across a surface. The mouse can be used to drag an item across the screen, or to drag the pointer across text to select it.

You can drag an item from one part of the screen to another by selecting it and than pressing and holding down the mouse button while moving the mouse. For example, you can move a window to another position on the screen by dragging its title bar.

You can also select (block) text by putting the pointer at the beginning of the text, holding down the [left] mouse button and dragging the pointer across the text wanted.

You could test this by selecting part of this text now. You will see that the selected text is blocked in colour. When you release the mouse button, the block of colour remains. Whist it is like this, you can perform operations on it.

[To remove the colour block if you do not want to do anything with it, just click on it with the mouse pointer.]

From a Browser (like this) you can copy selected text to the Clipboard by clicking on the Edit menu, and clicking Copy. You can then switch to a wordprocesor or email and paste the selected text into that.

Normally, you will not be able to paste the copied text into your browser, but you can practise pasting by using the practice area below.

When you have copied some text,

  • place the insertion point in the area and click

  • go to the Edit menu, and click Paste

The text you copied should appear in the practice area. Once it is there, you can edit it, so this is a good way of taking text from a web page and adapting it.

Practice Area


In Windows applications, closing a document is called close and leaving the application is called exit. Notice that exit is at the bottom of a Windows file menu and close is near the top. Be careful not to use the exit item if you just want to close a document, you will close down the whole application.

Exit has a different meaning in WordPerfect 5.1

GUI: Graphical User Interface:

This is a computer screen system where the user responds to pictures and shapes. The screen shows programs and commands as small pictures ( icons) or shapes (eg buttons) which the user points at, using a mouse, clicking a button on the mouse to start a program or give a command.


Most computer programs have a Help function, which provides a quick way to find out how to perform a particular task. They may also have tutorials that take you through a programme of instruction on screen and coaches which actually show you (on screen) how to do something.

One of the best known Help systems is Windows Help. Have a look at the top of this screen or window to see if it says "Help" at the right end of the menu bar. If so, it is probably Windows help. It will contain different things according to the program you are using. Click on it now to see what it contains.

Often you can also start Windows Help by pressing F1. Try it to see what happens.

Windows Help is used by all Windows applications. It is a quick way to find information, such as how to perform a particular task. The information often uses hypertext, which means you can click on a link (called a jump) to read a new Help topic.

When you select Help a Help window appears. The subject of the page it shows will partly depend on where you were when you selected help and the way you selected it. Clicking Help on the menu bar will produce the Help menu with items to choose from like Contents ... Search for Help on and .. How Do I?. If you press F1, Windows Help tries to give you a relevant page. Sometimes it is a Contents page for the all the topics about the application. Sometimes it is the topic on a dialogue box that you are in. Sometimes it is the topic on a command that you have selected. At the top of the Help window (whatever topic you are looking at) you will see the Help buttons. These are to help you move around easily between pages. If you click the Contents button it will bring you the Contents page for the application you are using. The Search button brings you a list of topic search headings in alphabetical order. Type something you are looking for in the box at the top, and it will go to the topic heading if there is one. You can also scroll the list. When you have a likely heading you click a button called Show Topics and a new list appears with relevant topics. Click on one of these and you are taken to it. The Back button takes you back through the pages you have looked at, and the History button lists the last 40 pages. You double click on one to go back to it.

WordPerfect 5.1 also has a help system.


A highlighter is a marker pen which overlays colour on printed words, leaving them legible and emphasised. On the computer screen words can be brought to prominence (highlighted) in a similar way. On a world wide web page the links are highlighted by being in coloured text and/or underlined. The colour is usually blue or purple. A click on the link instructs the computer to fetch the computer files it points 11to (whether the file is on your hard disk, or in a computer on the other side of the world). In wordprocessors, words are often highlighted by a block of colour that appears behind them. This is called reverse-video. The WP5.1 block key usually shows selected text in reverse video. Menu items may be highlighted like this by moving the cursor. When highlighted, or selected, a menu item is started by pressing ENTER or clicking the mouse.


A symbol or small picture on a computer screen that represents something you may want to do with the computer is called an icon. You usually tell the computer to do whatever it is by clicking on the icon twice with the mouse. This usually starts an application (like a wordprocessor or browser), but it may open a document (possibly notes on how to use an application) or start an activity (like spell checking).

Indent: To start a line or lines of printing or writing further from the margin than other lines. See Tab key under keyboard

Input: putting information into a computer. Usually via a key or a mouse.

Insert: inserting

Inserting is placing one thing in another. There are three uses in wordprocessing.

1) The
insertion point is a screen cursor which show you where your text will be inserted when you type.

2) The Insert key on the keyboard toggles between insert and typeover. When insert is selected, keys add characters to the screen at the cursor (insertion point) without deleting those already there. When typeover is selected the new characters type over the old, deleting them as they go.

3) Insert commands (on the insert menu in Windows applications) are commands that put things into the document. The most important of these are other files. By selecting file from the insert menu, other document or graphics files can be retrieved< into the document on screen.

Keyword searches:

Keywords are used in information-retrieval systems, like databases, to indicate the content of documents. A keyword search using a search engine on the world wide web means telling the computer to find websites containing the words you are interested in.

Each search engine has its own rules for how you use keywords. A general rule is to make your search specific rather than general. A student who searched Olympe de Gouges found 343,254 references, many of which were to French sites about the Olympic Games. To get references to the French feminist, you would make sure the search engine was looking for the three words used together and not for each word separately. Many search engines are now intelligent about this. If you type in three words they first give you the sites in which the three words are used together in the order you typed them.

Others want you to type in OlympeANDdeANDGouges if you want them together, but OlympeORdeORGouges if you want them separate. The words AND, OR and NOT (in capitals) are called Boolean Operators. You can try them out on the Middlesex University Catalogue

BBC Search: advanced search tips
Social Science Information Gateway: search tips
Copac: help index

Key words, key concepts, key skills etc


A macro, or macro instruction, is a single instruction that expands automatically into a set of instructions to perform a particular task. For example, a simple macro might type your address and telephone number in response to one command. Most word processors let you create macros. They also have sets of pre-prepared macros you can use.

Macros have been used to create
macro viruses. So you must be careful with them, especially if they are in Microsoft Word documents.


Open a file in a Windows application and Retrieve a file in WordPerfect 5.1 both mean to bring a file onto the screen in a way that allows the user to edit. Both mean the opposite of saving a file.



A prompt is a sign on the screen that shows that the computer is waiting for input.

The prompt can just be a word or sign at the side of an almost empty screen, followed by a small flickering line that moves as you type at the keyboard. A well known example on older systems, (like mine), is the DOS prompt:


With another kind of prompt on an almost empty screen, the computer is asking you to do something, and waiting for you to respond. For example, if you see:


it means type your user name.

Sometimes prompts appear at the bottom of a screen that is otherwise full of material (like your document). For example, a prompt might say

Document to be saved:_
This would be asking you to type in the path and filename of the file your document is to be saved in.

A CURSOR is a moving
prompt. Its position on the screen shows where the next keystroke will have an effect. You can usually move it by using the arrow keys (which are called cursor keys) or the mouse.

Cursors in Windows applications can change shape as you move them. In older programs, the cursor is usually just a small flickering line moving about as you move the arrows on a keyboard.

In Windows we have to use different terms for different types of cursor.

Retrieve Retrieving Retrieved:

In computing, retrieve means to obtain information stored on a disk, or kept temporarily in the computer's memory. It is the opposite of save, but the same as open. Retrieving allows you to look at the file, but differs from just looking in that a retrieved file can be altered ( edited). You may need to retrieve files in two ways: You will want to open a file onto the screen. You may also want to insert, or bring the contents of another file into a file that you have already opened.

In Windows Applications, open and insert are different commands.

Saving: Save: Save as:

Saving copies of information to a place, like a file on a floppy disk, where it can be kept and retrieved when wanted. The menu item for Save and Save on Windows wordprocessors is found under File.


Computer screens look like television screens and usually contain a cathode ray tube like a television. They are also called Monitors and Visual Display Units (VDUs).

The appearance of a computer screen is different according to the program being used and what is being done with it.

  • A black screen with some white writing may mean that you are in DOS.

  • Lots of little pictures ( icons) on a white background may mean you are in Windows 3.1.

  • A large area of green background may mean you are in Windows 95, Windows 98, NT or Windows 2000.

  • A blue screen may mean you are in WordPerfect 5.1.

Screen capture:

This means making a picture of what is on the screen. You do it by pressing PRINT SCREEN. To use the picture, go to a program like Paint, click the Edit menu, and then click Paste.

You can also make a picture of what is just in a window. To do this, press ALT+PRINT SCREEN instead of just PRINT SCREEN

Screen layouts:

There is a standard arrangement of features on the screen of Windows applications.

The applications appear in oblongs or windows. When a window is maximised it takes up the whole of the screen. Windows have a title bar at the top to tell you what they are. If you want to move the window you do so by clicking and dragging on the title bar. Beneath the title bar, most windows have a menu bar with headings beginning File and Edit. A single click on one of these headings opens a pull down menu of commands from which you can select with another click. Underneath the menu bar, many applications have a tool bar with pictorial buttons that you click on to start a feature you use often. Netscape, Word for Windows and Wordperfect for Windows all have toolbars. The main part of the Window is called the content area in a browser, the document in a wordprocessor and the message area or message box in the message editing window of a mailer.

There can be alternative screens in applications. WP5.1 calls its main screen the editing screen. Other screens include the View Document screen which lets you see how the document will appear when printed.

Find and Search

Find is now the usual name for the function found in computer programs that searches for words in the document you have open. Search is usually another function that searches for words on the internet.

Click here for internet searches

Computers allow you to search very rapidly through files for particular combinations of characters. Words are combinations of characters, but so are numbers, file names, parts of words, groups of words and meaningless assortments like e4lr51. The combinations you search for are called character strings. Using different tools you can search a computer disk or part of the disk for strings in filenames, or a file for a word or other string. You can even search whole groups of files for strings, so that the program brings you a list of all the files that contain that string. As well as searching your own files and disk/s, it is possible, using search engines and other tools, to search the files on the internet.

Most wordprocessors have a Find tool to search for character strings in files. It is usually found on the Edit menu with another tool that lets you Replace what you find with another character string. This helps you to edit your documents. If, for example, you have misspelt an author's name throughout an essay, you type the misspelt name into the Find box and the correct spelling into the Replace box and let the computer correct all the misspellings.

Another Find tool can search whole groups of files for a string and bring you a list of all the files that contain that string. It can also search your computer for a file whose name you know, or for a list of files where you only know part of the name, or where you only know (at least roughly) the date on the file. To find files where only part of the name is known, a computer uses symbols called wildcards. One of the most useful of these is the asterisk (*) meaning "any string of characters". If you search for *.exe you should get a list of all the exe files (files with the extension exe), whatever their first name.

Because they let you search individual files or groups of files for character strings, Find tools will help you to use your computer files as a database


When you switch between two things you go from one to another.

You are probably reading this in a windows
browser. Windows allows you to run other applications at the same time. For example, you could run a wordprocessor and a email mailer at the same time as your browser.

In windows many people switch between different applications they are running by clicking the buttons on the Task Bar at the bottom of the screen. But there are other methods.


A computer table consists of rows and columns. It can be used for arranging material in rectangular spaces. It can also be used as a spreadsheet for mathematical calculations.

Web pages use a hypertext mark up called tables to arranging material in rectangular spaces.

Different kinds of table

Undelete or Undo or Redo:

Most wordprocessors have an undelete or undo command which is usually on the Edit menu and sometimes has a button on the toolbar. Sometimes there are separate undelete and undo commands with different functions. The commands let you change your mind about the last deletion you made, and sometimes about previous deletions.

Redo lets you change your mind again.

Recovering, Bin, Recycle bin

If you delete a file or program it may be put into a bin or recycle bin, from which you can recover it. If you have a Recycle Bin (Windows 95+) and want to restore a file or program: open the Recycle Bin, right click on the file or program you want to restore, and choose Restore.

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what is it called?

I am not quite sure about all of these. What do you think?

grave accent   `

exclamation mark   !

quotation mark   "

pound sign   £

dollar sign   $

percentage   %

circumflex   ^

ampersand   &

asterisk   *

parenthesis   ( )
left and right. Or just brackets?

underscore   _

hyphen   -  

plus   +

equals   =

tilde ~

hash sign   #

braces   { }

square brackets   [ ]

at   @
I call it "squiggly a"

apostrophe   '