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Barry MacDonnell's
Toolbox for WordPerfect

Macros, tips, and templates for Corel® WordPerfect® for Windows®
© Copyright 1996-2021 by Barry MacDonnell. All Rights Reserved.

Page updated Jul 26, 2020

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Windows underlined
<Alt> key shortcuts -

How to display any hidden
underlines on menus
and dialogs

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, V for View, a for Table, 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 dialogssimply call them "shortcut keys," "keyboard shortcuts," "hot keys," or "key combinations".

Thus, when the menu or dialog is visible, you would normally press and hold down the <Alt> key while you press the appropriate shortcut key.


¤  Some dialogs, toolbars, and property bars might have more than one of the same letter or number underlinede.g., the underlined letter a might be found on both a menu and a toolbar, or on a dialog. In such a case, pressing Alt+a more than once will cause the items to be chosen sequentially (and continuously) as the focus jumps ("cycles") from one such identical item to the next.

¤  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.

Can't see the underlines on 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/7/8x/10 setting to always show Alt-key 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 belowor just use the next 5 steps, which does the same thing.

Note: Microsoft often changes how to access various features, so you might want to try those alternatives if you have a recent Windows version (such as Windows 10). They even might make such changes between updates to a given Windows version, so you might have to search a bit for some features.

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.

[Keyboard alternative: Press and hold down the Windows logo (flag) key on the bottom row of your keyboard while you press the <U> key.]

2. Click on "Make the keyboard easier to use." The Make the keyboard easier to use dialog opens.

[Keyboard alternative: Use the <Tab> or <Arrow> keys to navigate to this choice, then press <Enter> to open the dialog.]

3. Enable (tick) the option, "Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys".

[Keyboard alternative: <Alt+N>.]

4. Click OK to save the setting and close the Ease of Access Center.

[Keyboard alternative: <Alt+O>.]

5. Click the <X> button at the top right of the remaining dialog to exit back to the Windows desktop.

[Keyboard alternative: <Alt+F4>.]


Alternative for Windows 10 users:

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 (Keyboard), under Other Settings, turn On the slider switch "Enable shortcut underlines."

Can't find it? Depending on your version of Windows this option might not appear to be available, but it might only have been relocated and renamed. For example:

[UPDATE 2020:] In some newer updates to Windows 10...

On the right side of the Keyboard window (last step above), under "Change how keyboard shortcuts work," turn On the slider switch "Underline access keys when available".

Or just use the Search field on that (or any Settings) page and search for the word "underline," which should give you a clickable box to "Underline access key shortcuts in menus when available". Scroll down to the section entitled "Change how keyboard shortcuts work," and turn On the slider switch, "Underline access keys when available".

(Don't blame me. Blame Microsoft for this constantly shifting menu organization.)


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.

[Keyboard alternative: Press <Ctrl+Esc>, or press the Windows logo (flag) key on the bottom row of your keyboard, release it, then press the <C> key.]

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.

[Keyboard alternative (in Classic View): Press the <Arrow> keys to select Display, then press <Enter>.]

3. In the Display Properties dialog, click on the Appearance tab, then click the Effects button.

[Keyboard alternative: In the Display Properties dialog box, navigate to the Appearance tab by pressing <Ctrl+Tab>, then select the Effects button by pressing <Alt+E>.]

4. In the Effects dialog box, disable (un-tick) "Hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key". Click <OK> twice.

[Keyboard alternative: Press just the <H> key to disable (un-tick) the checkbox, then press <Enter> to return to Display Properties. Then navigate to the OK button by pressing <Tab>, then press <Enter>.]

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.

[Keyboard alternative: Press <Alt+F>,<C> (or <Alt+F4>)].

Footnote 1

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.]