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| Page updated Feb 9, 2017
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| Windows underlined
<Alt> key shortcuts -
How to display hidden
underlines on menus
What are <Alt> key shortcuts?
These shortcuts are the underlined, single letters or numbers found on
most menus and many dialog boxes correspond to keyboard keys you must
press along with the <Alt> key in order to emulate mouse clicking
the same menu item or dialog choice. (Whew!)
Usually the underlined letters bear some
resemblance to the feature or function you wish to use, such as F
for File, or V for View, or 5 for F5.
Hence they are sometimes referred to as "mnemonic keys" (mnemonic = "designed to aid memory") or "accelerator" keys.
Most users -- and most help dialogs -- simply call them "shortcut keys" or "keyboard shortcuts."
Thus, when the menu or dialog is visible, you would normally press and hold the <Alt> key while you press the appropriate shortcut key.
Note - The <Alt> key is not the only key that can be used in this way: The <Ctrl> and <Shift> keys are also often used, either alone, together, or in combination with <Alt> and some other keyboard key. But here we are specifically discussing the underlined Windows <Alt> keys found on various menus and dialogs.
Sometimes the shortcut key's underlines are
hidden on menus and dialogs, even though
they are actually there. Pressing just the <Alt> key, then releasing it, should
temporarily display any underlines that exist on the menu or dialog. Then you can immediately
press one of the keys corresponding to an underlined letter on the menu
to display that menu, followed by making a menu selection. [See Footnote 1 for more on this method.]
Note that hidden underlines are most likely due to a
Windows "ease of access" setting, not a WordPerfect setting.
Here's how to activate them so they always display without having to use the <Alt> key to see them:
Setting a default: Displaying them in Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10
The Windows Vista/7/8/10 setting to always show underlines on menus and dialogs is normally disabled by default (i.e., to hide the underlines). Here's how to enable it so the underlines always show (without having to press the <Alt> key so you can see them).
[Tip: For Windows 10 you can use the 3-step alternative below -- or just use the next 5 steps, which does the same thing.]
1. Click the Windows Start icon (the round "orb" with a Windows logo in it, at the bottom left of your Windows desktop), then click on Control Panel, Ease of Access, Ease of Access Center.
2. Click on "Make the keyboard easier to use." The Make the keyboard easier to use dialog opens.
3. Enable (tick) the option, "Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys".
4. Click OK to save the setting and close the Ease of Access Center.
5. Click the <X> button at the top right of the remaining dialog to exit back to the Windows desktop.
1. Press and hold down the Windows logo (flag) key on the bottom row of your keyboard while you press the <U> key.
2. In the Settings (Ease of Access) window that appears, click on "Keyboard" on the left side of that window.
3. In the next window, under Other Settings, turn On the slider switch "Enable shortcut underlines."
Setting a default: Displaying them in Windows XP (and earlier)
The Windows XP setting to always show underlines on menus and dialogs is normally enabled by default. If it is disabled (i.e., to hide the underlines), here's how to enable it.
1. Click the Windows Start icon at the bottom left of your Windows desktop, then click on Control Panel.
2. The Control Panel dialog opens. [Be sure you are in Classic View (all Control Panel icons are showing); if not, in the Control Panel's left pane, select Switch to Classic View (you can also select it with <Tab>, then <Enter>).] Double-click on the Display icon to open the Display Properties dialog.
3. In the Display Properties dialog, click on the Appearance tab, then click the Effects button.
4. In the Effects dialog box, disable (un-tick) "Hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key". Click <OK> twice.
5. Close the Control Panel with File, Close (or the <X> button at the top right of the Control Panel window) to exit back to the Windows desktop.
As mentioned above, underlined ("shortcut") letters on menu items (e.g., F for File) might not be visible due to a Windows setting. Hence the recommendation given above to use the <Alt> key alone as a handy way to display the underlines on the menu.
Using the <Alt> key alone can also be helpful if you have assigned some feature or macro to the same <Alt+letter> shortcut that corresponds to a menu item. In this case the assignment will take precedence, so sequentially pressing the <Alt> key, releasing it, then pressing the underlined letter key can give you access to that menu item from the keyboard, rather than (e.g.) playing your macro.
However, it can also be problematic in one particular instance: First pressing <Alt>, then pressing an underlined menu letter, then pressing <Esc> (for example) will dismiss the menu, as expected -- but if you should immediately repeat that <Alt>-then-<letter> sequence the program will simply type the chosen letter into the document. Repeat it again and it will open the selected menu. In fact, if you keep doing it the sequence will alternate the opening of a menu with the typing of a letter.
Obviously this can be confusing.
Solution: The sequential pressing of <Alt> and then another underlined menu key letter works best when these two keys are immediately followed by a menu (or submenu) choice. No toggling should occur once the menu choice is executed (or you press <Esc> and go on to do something else).
[Note also that this strange toggling effect will occur regardless of the Windows "ease of access" setting described above.]