What does Alt+F4 do?

This is one of those jokes people play on each other -- it's in the same category with squirting flowers and exploding cigars. This joke works on machines running the Windows operating system because Windows happens to define certain keystrokes that work the same way in all applications. Just about everyone knows that Alt+Ctrl+Del interrupts the operating system, but most people don't know that Alt+F4 closes the current window. So if you had pressed Alt+F4 while playing a game, the game window would have closed.

It turns out there are several other handy keystrokes like that built into Windows. For example, Ctrl+Esc will pop up the Start menu, Alt+Esc will bring the next window to the foreground, and Alt+Tab or Alt+Shift+Tab will let you cycle through all available windows and jump to the one you select.


­ On keyboards that have the little "Windows" key (let's call it WK here) down near the space bar, you probably know that you can press that key to open the Start menu. You can also use that key with other keys like you use the shift key. For example:

  • WK+e - starts the Windows Explorer
  • WK+f - starts the Find in Files dialog
  • WK+Ctrl+f - starts the Find a Computer on the Network dialog
  • WK+M - minimizes all the windows to clear the desktop
  • WK+Shift+M - restores all the minimized windows
  • WK+r - starts the Run dialog
  • WK+F1 - starts Windows Help
  • WK+Pause - starts System Properties

The last keyboard trick that every Windows user should be aware of is MouseKeys. If you go to the Accessibility Options icon in the Control Panel, you can go to the Mouse section and turn on MouseKeys. This feature allows you to use the numeric keypad in addition to the mouse to move the cursor. It's handy if you are on a bumpy airplane ride or if your mouse is acting up. Another neat feature in Accessibility Options is the ability to turn on a beeper that beeps when you press the Caps Lock key -- great if you are the sort of person who hits it accidentally!

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