How to use a computer keyboard

Whenever you use a computer, you'll probably use a keyboard

Keyboard using screenshot

The most common kind of keyboard is referred to as a ‘QWERTY’ keyboard after the keys on the top row of letters. It was invented by C L Scholes in the 1860s when he was working out the best place to put the keys on a manual typewriter.

Follow these step-by-step instructions to help you get to know what your keyboard can do
So that you can carry out the simple exercises below, you’ll need a document open to type into. Read our guides What is WordPad? and How to open WordPad. Then create a WordPad document and go through the following steps.
Step 1: Have a good look at your keyboard. The most important keys are labelled on the diagram below:
Computer keyboard diagram with labels
Click here for an enlarged version of the above diagram, which you can print out for easy reference.
Some keyboards, especially those on laptops, will have a slightly different layout. For example, yours might not have a number pad or the delete key may be in a different place. But virtually all keyboards will have these important keys somewhere.
Step 2: The main keys are the letter keys. When you type just using these, you get lower-case print. However, if you hold down a ‘shift key’ (there are two to choose from) at the same time as you type, you’ll get UPPER-CASE letters.
Try typing your name, including capitals (UPPER-CASE) and spaces. The ‘space bar’ (which you press briefly to make a space) is the wide key at the bottom of the keyboard.
Step 3: If you make a mistake in your typing, there’s always a remedy.
To delete a letter, place your cursor (mouse pointer) just after the letter and click. Then press Backspace briefly. (Always press briefly – otherwise, you’ll get repeated deletions, spaces, letters or whatever.) Or place your cursor just before the letter, click and press Delete.
Backspace and delete
Step 4: Now try typing a sentence:
This is a good sentence to practise because it contains most of the letters of the alphabet.
Step 5: You can move the cursor along this sentence without deleting anything by using the arrow keys:
The arrow keys
Try moving the cursor backwards and forwards through your sentence.
Step 6: Now try using the number pad, if you have one.
To use this to type numbers, you have to press the Num Lock key. There may be an indicator light at the top of the keyboard or on the ‘Num Lock’ key itself to show that it’s on.
Num Lock key
Step 7: You can also type using the numbers on the main keyboard. You’ll find them on the row of keys above the top line of letters.
Above these numbers are various symbols, which include ‘£’, ‘&’, ‘!’. To use these, hold down the Shift key while you type. So if you press ’7′ on its own, you get ’7′, but if you press ’7′ while you hold down the ‘Shift’ key, you get ‘&’.
Try typing:
You’ll find similar extra symbols elsewhere on the keyboard:
Extra symbols
They operate in exactly the same way as the ones above the numbers.
Step 8: If you want everything to appear in upper case, press the Caps Lock key and then type:
Caps lock key
Again, an indicator light may come on to show that your capitals are ‘locked’. Don’t forget to press this key again when you’re finished to turn ‘Caps Lock’ off.
Step 9: The ‘Windows’ key comes in a number of different designs, such as the example to the right. 
It does exactly the same thing as the Windows button on the taskbar on your computer screen. You can choose to open the ‘Start’ menu by pressing this key or by clicking the button on the taskbar with your mouse.
Step 10: There are a number of ways that you can move round a web page. Try using the keys below to see where they take you:
Move around a web page
Step 10: You’ll be told to use the ‘Control’ (Ctrl) and ‘Alternate’ (Alt) keys for some operations. When you do so, keep holding down one or the other key or both keys while you press any other keys.
Control and alternate key
For example, if you press Ctrl, Alt and Delete all at the same time, a menu will open. To make it disappear, press the ‘Escape’ (Esc) key in the top left-hand corner of the keyboard.
Escape key
Step 11: Some of the things that you use the mouse for can be done with keyboard shortcuts. These require you to hold down one key while pressing another, and often involve using the ‘Ctrl’ and/or ‘Alt’ keys. Some people prefer using them to using the mouse. There are many shortcuts – check out the list provided by Microsoft Support.
Stephen Baird-Parker is a qualified ICT teacher.



amir bashir's picture

By amir bashir on 5th September 2012

amir bashir
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 6th September 2012

Welcome, Amir. Did you have a comment or question about the guide?
Gilbert Radulescu's picture

By Gilbert Radulescu on 23rd September 2012

Hi...My name is Gilbert and I am currently studying my A levels...I've got an ICT project about keyboards and I don't really find answers for the following questions: 1) Why it is used / The main uses for this type of input device How it works (explaining how the device inputs the information into a computer) This project is due 26th of September, and I hope you would help me...Thank you!
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 24th September 2012

Dear Gilbert, You will probably get a better response to your questions if you post them in the community's Q&A section (click on Community in the top menu). Good luck!
kiyya's picture

By kiyya on 28th September 2012

hi my name is kiyya and i dont have a clue how to use a computer i men to open a file to save something its very hard for me is it possible to get help with a sound or there any website they can tech with sound?please i need your help thank you.
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 1st October 2012

Hi Kiyya, We have added this to our Q&A message board, if you click on this link you should see your question and any answers:
boniface kyalo's picture

By boniface kyalo on 19th October 2012

idont have any lue on how to write aletter can you please sssit me
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 19th October 2012

Hi Boniface, We have added your question to our Q&A forum, where it is more likely to get a helpful answer, quicker, than in these comments. Please visit the question here: (click on the link) Best wishes
WILLIAM's picture

By WILLIAM on 29th October 2012

I Have only started learning how to work a computer today
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 29th October 2012

That's lovely news, William - we hope you're enjoying the site and your learning!