Shortcut Keys in Microsoft Access

As a user gets familiar with Microsoft Access it is likely they will want to start using shortcut keys. Shortcut keys make it faster to execute queries and enter data without the user having to remove their hands from the keyboard. Instead of having to move the cursor to the different menus, a user can simply press a couple of keys. While shortcut keys are not for everyone, knowing what the defaults keys are and how to create unique shortcuts can make users more efficient.

Access uses many of the same shortcut keys as other Microsoft products, but some of them are not as helpful in Access, such as Ctrl + N. When a user first starts to learn Access, it is best to become familiar with the default shortcut keys to make sure the user does not unintentionally create a new database or delete existing data. Once a user is familiar with the default keys and with all of the queries and data in the databases, it is probably time to start creating shortcuts specific to their needs.

When to Use a Shortcut Key

There is no right or wrong way to use shortcut keys; it’s entirely up to the preference of the individual. However, there are times when it makes more sense than others, particularly when it comes to repetitive actions that require opening several different areas on a menu. Creating new records, printing, and finding/replacing text are all actions that users do often, so knowing the shortcut keys will save time in the long run because users get to keep both hands on the keyboard.

When first getting to know Access, it is a good idea to become familiar with the different menus and options. Users can simultaneously learn to use shortcuts, but taking a week or two to become familiar will help users understand the program better.  

Learning the Default Keys

By default Access has a number of established shortcut keys, which saves users having to create them.

Perhaps the first shortcut key to learn is Shift + F10. This displays the shortcut menu, making it quick and easy to see what the default and created shortcuts are. Default shortcuts can be useful early on, even as users learn other beginner tasks. Learning shortcuts in tandem with the function library will make it easier to remember which shortcuts go with which actions.

Users who are already familiar with other Microsoft products will be familiar with many of the basics, like Ctrl + P to print or Ctrl + A to select all. The one thing to pay attention to is what some of those actions mean when dealing with databases because it is significantly different than what most users are accustomed to. When creating a new Microsoft Word page, users are accustomed to using Ctrl + N. The expectation for Access might be that the user is creating a new entry with the same key, but what it actually creates is a new database, which is likely not what the user wants to do. This is why it is important to familiarize oneself with how the standard shortcuts translate for databases.

Here are a few more examples of default shortcuts that are very helpful and what they do in Access.

- F2 switches between the Edit and Navigation modes.

- F6 or Alt + F6 makes a designated task pane active.

- Ctrl + down arrow lists all of the commands for a task pane.

When to Create a Shortcut Key

After a user becomes accustomed to the program and its default shortcuts, it may be time to create specialized shortcuts. While users should not get carried away by creating shortcuts for everything, if there are a few actions that a user does often a shortcut key will make it even faster to pull the data.

1. Go to View > Toolbars > Customize.

2. Right-click on the tool or menu item where you want to add the shortcut.

3. Select Properties > Shortcut Text.

4. Enter the shortcut keys you want to use. Pay attention to whether or not the keys are already assigned to another action, tool, or menu. Once you finish the assignment, any defaults will be overwritten by the new assignment if there is a conflict.

It is also possible to assign shortcuts to more complex actions, like queries, but it is more advanced and requires the creation of an AutoKeys macro.

Text and Data Specific Shortcuts

Many of the shortcuts used by Word and Excel apply to Access. To add the current date, all you have to do is press Ctrl + ; or for the current time Ctrl + :. This speeds up some of the usual data entry that can take a long time.

There are other shortcuts that execute actions that aren’t available in other programs or have entirely different uses. Ctrl + ‘ adds the value of the previous field into the current one, and Ctrl + Alt + Spacebar allows users to add a default value. This is particularly helpful for entering orders where things like the cost are standard but changes for sales and discounts. Being able to apply a default value decreases human error.

Navigating with Shortcut Keys

Shortcuts can help users maneuver through tables, forms, and other menus. Because Access is more complex than many of the other Microsoft products, knowing these shortcuts means being able to get around in a database or set of databases without having to constantly use a mouse. While Word menus usually apply to formatting, inserting, or editing, Access shortcuts let users easily glide through more complex designs, like different tables, databases, form, or queries.