How to Use the Windows Keyboard Shortcut Alt + Underline

Navigate menus in Windows without using your mouse

Windows computer in front of mountain decor of mount Paektu, Ryanggang Province, Samjiyon, North Korea...

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Here's a Windows keyboard shortcut that may boost your productivity. By holding the Alt key on your keyboard, you can open menus and select items without using your mouse.

In most applications with menus, you'll notice that some letters have underlines (e.g., the "F" in "File"). To open these menus without clicking them, press the underlined letter while holding the Alt key.

These instructions apply to Windows 7, 8, XP, 10, and Vista.

Activating Underlined Keys in Newer Windows Versions

If you're on an older version of Windows, this feature is automatic, but later versions don't have this feature on by default.

Here's how to activate the feature if it isn't already on.

  1. Open the Start menu by clicking its icon or pressing the Windows key on your keyboard.

    A Windows 10 desktop with the Start menu highlighted
  2. Click the Settings icon.

    Start menu in Windows 10 with the Settings button highlighted
  3. Click Ease of Access.

    Windows 10 settings with the Ease of Access menu highlighted
  4. Scroll down to the Interaction heading and select Keyboard.

    Ease of Use menu in Windows 10 with the Keyboard menu highlighted
  5. Under the Change how keyboard shortcuts work heading, click the switch below Underline access keys when available to turn it on.

    Keyboard Ease of Use menu in Windows 10 with the
  6. Close the window to save your changes.

  7. Now, keys you can use with the Alt key in menus will have underlines. Hold Alt plus the underlined letter to open them.

    Notepad on Windows 10 with the File menu title highlighted
  8. Keep holding down Alt to keep making selections within menus. For example, hold Alt and press F to open a File menu. Keep holding Alt and press W to open a new window.

Modern Apps

More recent programs are doing away with the customary 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. In many applications, the letters don't have underlines, but the feature still works the same way.

Windows Store apps generally do not offer this feature.