Give me back my letters
June 5, 2007 5:02 AM   Subscribe

What do I do to make my keyboard switch to shortcuts instead of letters and how do I undo that?

Sorry in advance if I'm not very clear.

Quite often, when I type a text on Word, everything's fine until all of a sudden, instead of letters appearing on Word, new windows appear. For example, when I press on H, F and B, instead of seeing these letters on my Word document, the seach and replace window appears. When I press on A, Word selects my whole text and when I press on D, a new window opens with many options to change the font.

I guess that whenever it happens, it's because I changed something on my keyboard without realising it. What keys did I press? And most importantly, what keys should I press to undo that and come back to letters instead of shortcuts? I usually restart my computer but I'm sure there's an easy way to get back to the letters...

I don't know if it's relevant but I have a French keyboard (azerty instead of qwerty).
posted by celine to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In Windows, this stuff happens when you hold down the CTRL key, so either you are holding down the CTRL key, have somehow made it 'sticky', or the keyboard is flakey.

If you get into this mode, try hitting the CTRL (Windows) key a couple of times. Or turning the keyboard upside-down and getting the crumbs out.
posted by MtDewd at 5:23 AM on June 5, 2007

Just going to throw out some ideas.

Is one of your hands leaning on the "Ctrl" button?

CTRL-H is replace, CTRL-A is select all, so it's probably what's causing it. You also may have some MS assistance features such as Sticky-Keys enabled -- check by going through Start -> control panel -> accessibility options, select the 'Keyboard' tab and uncheck any "Use ***" checkboxes.
posted by Muu at 5:29 AM on June 5, 2007

The AZERTY 'CTRL' key might be the one that looks like a Trivial Persuit token??
posted by MtDewd at 5:29 AM on June 5, 2007

MtDewd and Muu may be onto something: you may have accidentally enabled StickyKeys, which lets you use keyboard shortcuts one key at a time. It's actually a little too easy to turn this on unintentionally, as the keyboard shortcut for activation is pressing the SHIFT key 5 times. You should be able to turn it back off by doing the same.

You can also prevent that happening in the future by disabling the activation shortcut. Go to Control Panel, Accessibility Options. On the Keyboard tab, there are a bunch of Settings buttons you can use to turn off the shortcuts that activate the various options.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:58 AM on June 5, 2007

This happens to me all the time. The Ctrl, Alt or Shift keys have crud in or near them, causing you to accidentally key Alt+H or whatever. Keyboards can be shaken out, cleaned w/ compressed air, or even cleaned with water (no soap) and allowed to dry very, very thoroughly. Drying time can be hastened with a hairdryer.
posted by theora55 at 6:40 AM on June 5, 2007

Pressing Alt momentarily will activate the menu bar. Thereafter, anything you type will activate menus.
posted by kindall at 9:22 AM on June 5, 2007

If the ALT key is your problem, pressing it again will turn ALT mod eoff, or you can press ESC to avoid getting into ALT toggle-hell.
posted by Four Flavors at 3:03 PM on June 5, 2007

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