A Useful Key on the Windows Keyboard That You May Have Overlooked


Have you ever wondered what the key that looks like the figure on the right is for?Windows application key It is typically found on the right side of the keyboard between the right Ctrl key and Windows key or between the right Ctrl and Alt keys. It goes by the name of “application key” or sometimes “menu key” but I suspect that many PC users have paid it little attention.

That’s too bad because pressing it provides quick keyboard access to the important context menu (also called the “shortcut menu”) that has a number of frequently used functions. The context menu is usually accessed by right-clicking a file or folder but having a keyboard method can be convenient.  

Shortcuts using keyboard combinations with the application key 

The item whose context menu you want to open has to be selected first so the application key shows its utility best in keyboard combinations that provide quick shortcuts to the various functions of the context menu. Below are two examples of this type of keyboard shortcut. In each case, the keys are pressed in sequence. Press and then release before pressing the next key of the sequence. 

Create a new folder inside an existing folder or on the Desktop:  Application key, w, f

Create a shortcut to a selected object:  Application key, s

Other shortcuts to context menu functions can be created by using the underlined letter in a context menu entry.

Remember that the item whose context menu you want to open has to be selected before pressing the application key. 

 Depending on what is installed on your computer, the letter part of a keyboard sequence in a shortcut may have conflicts if the context menu contains multiple entries beginning with the same letter. In that case, repeat the letter until the entry you wish is highlighted. Then press “Enter”. 

Opening the context menu within an application 

The application key will bring up a context menu within many (but not all) programs when the program is open. For example, the key works with Firefox 4, Chrome 11, Internet Explorer 9, and Microsoft Word. These internal context menus are not the same as the ones obtained by selecting the icon or file for an unopened program. They provide quick access to various functions, which vary with the program. 

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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