Discover more from Elegant Legal Writing
Use keyboard shortcuts to write more efficiently
Many computer users rely too much on trackpads and mouse devices instead of keyboards, but constantly moving one’s hand between a keyboard and a mouse is inefficient.
Many tasks that would require moving a mouse and clicking several menu items can be performed instantly using a keyboard shortcut. Keyboard shortcuts are like chords on a piano. They require little technical prowess. At a minimum, everyone should know how to cut, copy, and paste text, and undo and redo changes, using the standard shortcuts listed below.
These shortcuts are available in almost all programs that allow you to type text. If you can use them without thinking, then you have a sense of how keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time.
It’s worth learning the keyboard shortcuts for every command you regularly use in Word and other software—your email and calendar programs, internet browser, and so on. Every time you discover a new shortcut that you think you’ll use again, write it down on an index card.
You can take this productivity strategy even further in two ways.
First, you can assign new keyboard shortcuts to commands in Word or other software. For example, I created a shortcut in which I open Word’s “Customize Keyboard” dialog box by pressing F4; this allows me to quickly create other shortcuts. I’ve also created shortcuts for applying common formatting styles in my law firm’s templates, as shown below.
Second, you can assign entire workflows to keyboard shortcuts using software like Keyboard Maestro (Mac) or AutoHotKey (PC). These programs allow you to automate repetitive tasks by creating customized commands called macros. For example, I have a “focus on firm work” macro that minimizes all my application windows, then opens my law firm’s shared task list, file system, and time-tracking software.
You can assign keyboard shortcuts to macros or buy a macro keyboard such as the Stream Deck (as seen below) to trigger them with buttons.
It’s also possible to run macros and perform other computer tasks by setting up voice commands; in recent years, speech recognition software has dramatically improved, making this method more practical.
Ryan McCarl (LinkedIn) is the author of Elegant Legal Writing (U. Cal. Press 2024), a founding partner of Rushing McCarl LLP, and an adjunct legal writing professor at LMU Loyola Law School. For more writing tips, subscribe to the Elegant Legal Writing blog:
Please share this post with your networks:
Photo credit: Amy Hirschi on Unsplash.