How to use the Windows Keyboard Shortcut Alt + Underline

The "Alt + underlined letter" keyboard shortcut equals efficiency.

Firefox 49
The menu bar in Firefox 49 for Windows.

Here's another cool Windows keyboard shortcut for all you productivity fans out there.  For the uninitiated, shortcuts are commands that save you time by performing a Windows task in a few keystrokes--rather than using your mouse to clicking on a menu item, select a file, and so on. A very efficient keyboard shortcut is one we'll call the Alt + "underlined letter" shortcut.

Look at the graphic in this article. It's a snip of the menu bar in Firefox version 49. The menu bar isn't on by default in Firefox, but you can enable it by clicking on the "hamburger" menu icon and selecting Customize > Show/Hide Toolbars. 

Anyway, in the Firefox menu bar notice how a letter (typically the first one) is underlined for each menu item--the F in File, or the V in View, for example? That's part of the beauty of the Alt key shortcut. 

You could, of course, move your mouse and click on each menu item to open it. Or you could save time by clicking the Alt key on your keyboard and the underlined letter at the same time. To see your recent browsing history, for instance, just press the Alt and S keys, and your history pops up automatically.

If you are on an older version of Windows this feature is built-in and automatic, but later versions--such as Windows 10--do not have this feature turned on by default. On top of that, more recent programs are doing away with the traditional menu bar that we're used to seeing in Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows. 

Even some programs in Windows 7 have this more modern, "menu-less" look. Nevertheless, you can still use the Alt + "letter" shortcut in Windows 10. For many programs, the letter is no longer underlined, but the feature still works the same way. 

To enable this feature in Windows 10, type "ease of" into the Cortana search box in the taskbar. A control panel option named "Ease of Access Center" should appear at the top of the search results. Choose that. 

When the Control Panel opens to the Ease of Access Center scroll down and select the link that says Make the keyboard easier to use. On the next screen scroll down to the sub-heading "Make it easier to use keyboard shortcuts" and then click the check box labeled Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys. Now click Apply to save your changes and then you can close the Control Panel window.

Now open File Explorer by tapping the Windows logo key + E,and test your keyboard shortcuts by tapping Alt + F. This should open File Explorer's "File" menu. When you do that you'll notice that each possible item in that menu now has a letter label next to it. Just click the letter next to the menu item you need, and then continue following the various menu items with key taps until you carry out the action you need using nothing but your keyboard.

This works the same on other programs such as the Microsoft Office apps like Word and Excel. If you're using Internet Explorer 11 you can still use this feature even though you can't see the menu bar in the program. Get started by tapping the Alt key to reveal the menu toolbar. Now you can select the menu item you want according to its underlined letter--in this example you don't have to press Alt and the underlined letter at the same time. 

Users with newer versions of Windows will have to experiment with the various programs on their PCs to see which ones work with the Alt + "underlined letter" shortcut, and which don't. Right off the bat, you can exclude Windows Store apps since they do not support the same features that traditional desktop programs do. Most people still depend on desktop programs anyway so this issue shouldn't be a big deal for most. Besides, Microsoft may add more features to Windows Store apps in the coming years--Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, after all. 

I love using keyboard shortcuts; once you see how much time you save, I bet you will, too.

Updated by Ian Paul.