Translators spend a lot of time behind computers so it’s important to know how to use technology to its full potential. Keyboard shortcuts are just one of the ways that you can make technology work for you, this involves using a combination of keys to perform different functions without needing to use the mouse. Once you get the hang of keyboard shortcuts they can speed up your work and even prevent injuries.
Using a mouse is one of the main causes of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a term given to a range of musculoskeletal issues caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Keyboard shortcuts reduce the need to use the mouse and therefore make RSI less likely.
Here are some of the keyboard shortcuts that I find most useful as a translator using a Windows computer:
Launching and closing programs
Another really easy way to launch applications that you use frequently is by creating a keyboard shortcut for a desktop item. For example, right-click on the desktop shortcut to your CAT tool and click ‘Properties’. Then, on the ‘Shortcut’ tab, type the desired keyboard shortcut in the ‘Shortcut key’ field. Then when you start up your computer, you can use these shortcuts to open the programs you need for that day. You can find a list of (normally) unused key combinations here. For example, I have Ctrl + Alt + M to open MemoQ, Ctrl + Alt + W to open Word, and Ctrl + Alt + T to open Thunderbird. You could even create shortcuts for projects that you’re currently working on.
Bear in mind that not all shortcuts work in all operating systems, internet browsers or programs. Also, different shortcuts may work better for different people according to the way in which you use your computer. The best way to find the shortcuts which work for you is by exploring your computer and the programs that you use and simply giving different shortcuts a try. You can find a full list of Windows keyboard shortcuts here and a full list of Mac keyboard shortcuts here.
In Word, you can find a full list of shortcuts by pressing Alt + F8 to open the ‘Macro’ window. Next, scroll down the list of ‘Macros in’ to select ‘Word Commands’. Scroll down the list and choose ‘ListCommands’ then click ‘Run’. Now, choose the option ‘Current menu and keyboard settings’ to generate a file with all currently assigned keyboard shortcuts.
Of course, there are also keyboard shortcuts within CAT tools, which make them much more efficient. However, these tend to vary depending on the software that you use. You can normally find a list of shortcuts within the settings of your program. In most CAT tools, you can even edit or specify your own keyboard shortcuts.
If you like the idea of using keyboard shortcuts but don’t know where to start, a good idea is to create and print cheat sheets with a list of all shortcuts for the programs that you use the most. You can stick these cheat sheets up in your office until you memorise the shortcuts that you find most helpful. You should find that the time you put into mastering keyboard shortcuts will soon be offset by the time you save by using them.