Whoops, I didn’t mean to do that

By Charles Miller

A story I have retold many times is of my client who told me her keyboard needed to have one more key, a large wide key big enough to be labeled “Whoops, I didn’t mean to do that.” She was pleasantly surprised to learn that her keyboard already had such a key, albeit not labeled exactly as she had suggested.

Many users who do not read their instruction books, and who also do not read Atención are not going to know about this but their computer already has such a key. Microsoft Windows operating systems as well as Mac OS-X include a feature that usually permits reversing or un-doing your last action, and this is what many of us call the “whoops” command. When this is available it is usually found on the “Edit” menu and is usually called “Undo”. There is also a keyboard shortcut I find easier to use.

If you click on Edit/Undo, the computer will try to undo whatever you just did, but since finding the Edit menu is sometimes easier said than done I prefer to use the keyboard. No matter how badly lost I can become on the screen; I never have trouble finding my keyboard. The keyboard shortcut for the “whoops” command is [Ctrl Z]. This means to hold down on the [Ctrl] key while tapping one time on the letter [Z]. Mac users hold down on the [Command] key while tapping [Z].

The undo command is usually quite intuitive about what it does, or rather what it un-does. If you changed the font type or size or color, pressing [Ctrl Z] will put the font back as before. If just deleted a file or a bunch of files to the Recycle Bin then pressing [Ctrl Z] will put all those deleted files back where they were. You can even cheat at some games because in Spider Solitaire, pressing [Ctrl Z] lets you take back your last move. But without a doubt the most useful application of the whoops key is that it can bring back text you just deleted from the screen by accident.

Users of laptops often complain about typing a long email only to have it mysteriously and frustratingly vanish from the screen. In most cases this happens because the user brushes their thumb or a finger across the laptop scratch pad causing the cursor to move and to select the text on the screen. If the next action following this is to press an alphanumeric key then all the selected text is overtyped by the next key and vanishes. The whoops key is often able to correct this so long as you catch your mistake soon enough.

If you have just deleted text from the screen, stop and press [Ctrl Z] to see if this restores the erased text. Many programs, especially more advanced programs such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel include several levels of undo. In these as well as some applications, pressing [Ctrl Z] a second time will undo the second change back, and pressing [Ctrl Z] a third time will undo the third change back. Sometimes you are able to only go back one level, and if you have closed down a program it is unfortunately not possible to open it again and use the whoops command.

Once you have discovered the existence of the whoops command you are likely to follow with learning about its utility. There are many actions on your computer, Mac or PC that can be reversed by using this simple command. Delete a file? Press [Ctrl Z] to bring it back from the Recycle Bin. Make almost any mistake in a word processor document or spreadsheet? Press the whoops key to reverse whatever you just did.

The main thing to remember about using the whoops command is that it is ephemeral. If you make some mistake and then try fixing it in your own way and are unsuccessful, by then it is probably too late to use the whoops key. In order to be able to use this undo feature you really need to do so immediately, so the next time you make some mistake try pressing the whoops key first.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.


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