Quickly Close Open Windows Using Shortcut Keys

Here's how to type your way out of a mess of Windows

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One of the advantages of Microsoft Windows PCs is that you can have many different programs and windows open at the same time. This advantage becomes a disadvantage, however, when you have to close a dozen open windows - that's where using keyboard shortcuts can help.

There's simply nothing like keyboard shortcuts to make you more efficient. That's especially true when you have to carry out a repetitive action like closing a bunch of program windows. It may feel somewhat strange the first time you try to control your PC from the keyboard since we're so used to navigating with the mouse. Nevertheless, you can't beat the ability to keep your hands on the keyboard when it comes to staying efficient and working fast on your PC. As long as you take the time to learn the keyboard shortcuts that are critical to how you work, that is.

But First A Mouse Trick: Close Group

Despite the fact that this isn't a keyboard shortcut, this is still a good trick to know about, and it will make things more efficient when you have to close up shop in one fell swoop. 

When you have numerous files open in the same program like a bunch of emails in Outlook, Word files, or several spreadsheets in Excel you can close all of them by:

  1. Right-clicking on the program name in the taskbar on your desktop.

  2. Select Close Group in Windows Vista and earlier, or Close all windows in Windows 7 and up. Selecting this option will close all files that are open in a single program.

    Close all windows right-click menu in Windows 10

The Hard Way - Alt, Spacebar, C

Now we come to the all-important keyboard shortcuts for closing a program window. Here is the first option:

  1. Go to the window that you would like to close using your mouse.

  2. Press and hold down the Alt key, press the Spacebar. This reveals a right-click context menu at the top of the program window you're trying to close. Now release both keys and press the letter CThis will cause the window to close.

If you use your left hand to do this sequence (in other words put your left thumb on the spacebar, and not your right hand), you’ll be able to close roughly a dozen windows in about as many seconds.

Alt + F4 Is Easier

For Windows XP and up an easier option is to select the window you want to close and then press Alt+F4though you'll probably need two hands for this one.

Close Alt+F4 menu in Windows 10

CTRL + W is Worth Knowing About Too

Another option is to use Ctrl+WThis shortcut is not the same as Alt+F4, which closes program windows. Ctrl+W only closes the current files you're working on but leaves the program open. This can be handy if you want to leave the desktop program open but get rid of all the files you're working on in quick succession.

Ctrl+W works in most browsers too allowing you to close the current tab you're looking at without taking your hands off the keyboard; however, in browsers, if you use Ctrl+W when only one browser tab is open this will typically close the program window.

Don't forget to Alt + Tab for Extra Efficiency

But what good is using a keyboard shortcut if you've already got your hand on the mouse to select a window? Well, here's a keyboard shortcut for that. Press Alt+Tab (Windows XP and up) to cycle through your open windows without taking your hands off the keyboard. 

Use this shortcut in conjunction with the close window shortcuts and you'll be an efficiency dynamo.

If You Just Want to See the Desktop

Sometimes you don't actually want to close all those windows. What you really want to do is just look at your desktop. This one is easy and works the same for Windows XP and up. Press the Windows Key+D, and you'll see your desktop. To bring back all your windows just tap that keyboard shortcut again. 

If you are running Windows 7 or later and want to learn more check out our tutorial on the "show desktop" feature in Windows.