In time, these lessons and "stubs" will be migrated to the Buzzwords site.
Until then, consider them historical.

The Computer Keyboard 1: Typing Controls


What color are these keys on the computer keyboard? What does each one do?
Alt (Alternate) key; Backspace key; Caps Lock key; Ctrl (Control) key; Enter key; Shift key; Space bar; Tab key


All of these keys (except "Ctrl" and "Alt") do things similar to the old electric typewriter keys in or near the same position. That's why they are sometimes called "typing control keys."

[Note: What I say here applies to Windows OS (operating system); Apple computers will be a little different.]

  • Backspace key (orange): This key is used to "back up" in typing. On the computer, that also means erasing (removing) what is typed. On an electric typewriter, it just moved the insertion point (the place where typing would start). To move back on a computer without erasing, you have to use the left arrow key.
  • Caps Lock key (blue): After this key is pressed, all typing is in capital (upper case) letters. Pressing it again returns typing to small (lower case) letters.
  • Enter key (green): On some computers, this key is marked "Return." It can be used when typing to end a paragraph and jump down to the next line. It is also used to make certain processes begin, like pressing an "OK" button. For example, when adding figures in a computer's calculator, pressing "Enter" gives you the final result.
  • Shift key (red): This is used to temporarily change to capital (upper case) letters. It also has some functions in combination with other keys, the same way "Alt" and "Ctrl" do.
  • Space bar (black): This is to type a "space" in a document. Notice that it is called a "bar," not a "key," because it is longer than most keys.
  • Tab key (yellow): This is used to skip larger spaces, like when people want to "space in" at the start of a paragraph.

The following two keys are different from the others; they cannot be found on a typewriter. I put them in this lesson because they're located near the other keys.
  • Alt (Alternate) key (pink): This is a computer key used in combination with other keys for "shortcuts" (fast ways to do something). For example, in Microsoft Word, Alt+IPF opens a window for inserting a photo. (Alt+IPF means "press the Alt key, then type I then P then F.") Note that some Apple computers call this key "Option." Some keyboards, instead of an Alt key on the right, have an "AltGR" key (sometimes called Alt Graph, Alt Graphics, Alt Grill, Alt Car or Alt Char) to help type other characters.
  • Ctrl  (Control) key (purple): Like the Alt key, this key is used for in combination with other keys for shortcuts." For example, in Microsoft Word you can use Ctrl+X to cut text, Ctrl+C to copy it, and Ctrl+V to paste it.

As I said before, these two keys work different ways in different programs. There are two more keys, sometimes marked "Win" (for windows, or with the Windows "flag") and "Menu" (or a picture of something like a page) that we won't be discussing, as they are quite different on different computers.


You probably already know how to use these keys. The important thing in this lesson is to know what they're called in English." So practice saying:
Alt key; Backspace key; Caps Lock key; Control key; Enter key; Shift key; Space bar; Tab key.

Or, often, just:
Alt; Backspace; Caps Lock; Control; Enter; Shift; Space; Tab.

For example:
Ann: How do I cut some text?
Bob: Mark it and press Alt X.

Ann: What do I do when I finish a paragraph?
Bob: Hit "Enter" (or Press the Enter key).

"Hit" is a casual way to say "Press."

A. Which key do you use for each of the following? Answer using:
a. Alt; b. Backspace; c. Caps Lock; d. Control; e. Enter; f. Shift; g. Space; h. Tab

1. Space in to indent a line.
2. Type in all capital letters
3. Move back one space and erase
4. Move forward one space and DON'T erase
5. Type one capital letter

B. Several specialized words were used in this lesson. Match them to their meanings. One answer will be used twice.

1. calculator
2. capital letter
3. erase (or erasing)
4. insert
5. insertion point
6. lower case
7. paragraph
8. skip
9. typewriter
10. upper case

a. small letters: a, b, c, etc.
b. a group of sentences with one common idea
c. a machine used for writing letters etc. We usually use computers for this now.
d. the place where typing will begin; on computers, it's marked with a cursor (often a blinking line)
e. a machine used for doing math, like adding or subtracting numbers. These days most people use the calculator in their computer or mobile telephone.
f. wipe out, eliminate, take away. The pink tip on top of a wooden pencil is called an "eraser."
g. jump over, don't use. "After you write your name, skip a line before you begin writing" means "Leave one empty line between your name and the next insertion point."
h. large letters: A, B, C, etc.
i. put in; "It's hard to insert thread into a needle."


1. Find a friend and give him or her instructions to do different things on the computer. For example: Type your name. Hit "Enter" twice. Press "Tab." Type my name. Press "Caps Lock" and type my last name. Hit "Enter." Press the "Space Bar" three times. Press "Backspace." And so on.
2. Use the words in Part B in sentences. You might include them in your instructions ion Question 1. For example: Type your name in lower case letters. Move the insertion point to the next line. Type my name in upper case letters. Skip a line. And so on.
3. Have you ever used a typewriter? How is it different from a computer? How is it the same?


A. 1 h; 2 c; 3 b; 4 g; 5 f
B. 1 e; 2 h; 3 f; 4 i; 5 d; 6 a; 7 b; 8 g; 9 c; 10 h

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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