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Weekly Computer Tip # 84
16 October 2004

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using the Esc(ape) button on your keyboard (Microsoft Office)

Some time ago I read that if you look like your passport picture, you probably need the holiday - so that's why there was no tip last week ;-) OK, I've mentioned before that escape isn't just a button on my keyboard (so I won't make that joke again) but let's have a closer look at that particular keyboard button ... Have you ever used it? You probably guess that with my love for keyboard shortcuts I use it regularly.

But why use the keyboard rather than the mouse? Well, one of the downsides of this computer age is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a problem that occurs when a person makes too many of the same motions over a long period of time, common among those of us who use a computer mouse extensively. Which is why the Repetitive Strain Injury Association in London (www.rsi.org.uk) recommends experimenting with reducing the number of clicks and avoid using the mouse as much as possible.

So back to the Esc(ape) keyboard button. This is a list of when and why I use it:

  1. In general the Escape button is the equivalent of pressing the Cancel or Close button on a dialog box. So one less mouse click, which follows the RSIA recommendation mentioned above.
  2. In Excel the Escape button is a way of aborting your formula entry, which makes it a quick way to leave the cell without saving your changes.
  3. In PowerPoint once you have reached the end of the slide show, or need to stop before you reach the end, just press Escape.
  4. In Access the Escape button will undo your last entries, so you can use it if you get stuck somewhere. To be more precise (in case this one appeals to you) ...
    • Press Escape to undo the changes you have made to the current field.
    • Press Escape twice to undo the changes you have made to the current record.

Try it out and see whether it puts less strain on your arms than mouse use. And, hey, if anything it will also help you to work faster and smarter! You probably know it takes about 21 days to break a habit and replace it with a new one (why 21 days? who knows, but it works!) so stick at it!

By the way, if you know of any other ways of using the Escape button, let me know and I'll publish it along with your name; the bragging rights will last a lifetime! Coming to think of it ... there is one more way I know of myself -- as suggested in Hal Bowman's "Computer Waiting Games: Activities for the Impatient" he introduces us to keyboard Scrabble (or Scrapple as he calls it out of fear of being sued). Bowman tells us that "the average person spends nine minutes every day waiting for web sites and files to download." So one of the activities Bowman suggests to do whilst waiting is the "Computer Scrapple Challenge" which involves removing all of the keys from your keyboard and spelling the longest word you can. Special computer keys such as Esc, Alt, End, Tab, etcetera have an extra points value (10, to be precise) and can be used in the order they appear on the key such as rESCue, dESCribe. As I'm thinking of other words to give as examples of using the Escape key I suddenly realise that when spelling the word "descend" I can use both the ESC and the END key, making the total a whopping 21 points, but I'm getting carried away now - you can probably tell I had a good holiday! ;-)

Until next week.

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October 2004