What Does Ctrl+Z Do? More Than You Think

Ctrl Z Guide Hero

If you’re a casual computer user, there’s a good chance you haven’t really taken advantage of keyboard shortcuts. That’s fair enough, as we’re all busy people and taking the time to learn these mundane things isn’t always a priority.

One shortcut you definitely should learn, however, is Ctrl + Z. It’s pretty much the perfect keyboard shortcut, letting you undo mistakes on all areas of your PC. Here we show you all the wonderful ways you can utilize the Ctrl + Z shortcut.

1. Undo Writing or Editing Mistakes

The most common way to use Ctrl + Z is in writing, video editing, image editing and other software. Whether you’re working in a Word Document, email, coding tool, input field in your browser, or just about any other program on your PC, hit Ctrl + Z to undo the last thing you wrote.

The same applies for programs like PhotoShop and InDesign. Whether you’ve just over-touched an image or misplaced a segment on an InDesign file, hit Ctrl + Z to undo the last thing you did.

Depending on which program you use, you can press Ctrl + Z repeatedly to undo multiple inputs. Each program has its own limits, but many set a cap of 20 undos before you can’t go any further.

2. Undelete Files and Folders

This is a very handy way to use the keyboard shortcut. Have you ever accidentally deleted a file or folder while managing your files in Windows 10? This usually isn’t a reason to panic, as you can just go to the Recycle Bin and restore the file from there, but if you want to save a ton of time, just hit Ctrl + Z instead to bring it back.

Ctrl Z Guide Undelete

As with undoing writing and editing mistakes, you can do this multiple times for multiple deleted files.

3. Redo Everything with Ctrl+Y

You can’t talk about Ctrl + Z without also talking about the Redo command. Anything you undo with Ctrl + Z can be redone again with Ctrl + Y (or Ctrl + Shift + Z in some apps).

Think of it as undoing the undo command. Sometimes maybe you pressed Ctrl + Z one too many times or have decided after deliberation that you do actually want that file deleted. Just press Ctrl + Y to reverse the undo command.

Play around with it. Delete a bunch of text by pressing Ctrl + Z five times, and you can get it all back by pressing Ctrl + Y five times.

4. Create Files in the Command Line

In the Windows command line, the Ctrl + Z shortcut takes on a different use. One of the ways it works here is with the copy con command, which is used to create files through the command line.

To try this out, in the command line type:

After you’ve entered the text you want to appear in your newly created file, hit Ctrl + Z (which will appear as ^Z in the command line). Once you’ve done that, hit Enter.

Ctrl Z Guide Copy Con

You can now browse to the directory in the command line and find the file waiting for you there.

5. Suspend Processes in Command Line

Another function of Ctrl + Z in the command line is to instantly suspend a process you’re running in the command line. This can be handy if it’s a long process, and there’s a particular point where you want to take a closer look without waiting for the whole thing to finish.

It does this by sending a SIGTSTP signal. To resume the process again, just hit Ctrl + Z again.

That’s all you need to know about the Ctrl + Z command. Remember that it works in just about any program – from word processing software to Photoshop and video editing. If you haven’t really used keyboard shortcuts, then let this shortcut be your gateway into a world of shortcuts and improved productivity.

You can’t do Ctrl + Z or any other shortcuts without a working keyboard, so see our guide on how to fix a keyboard when it malfunctions. You should also stay up to date on the latest Windows update problems and advice on how to fix them.

Robert Zak Robert Zak

Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.

5 comments

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the idea of using a personal computing device, be it a desktop, laptop, Chromebook or a smartphone, to make life easier for the user? Weren’t Windows and other Graphic User Interfaces created to make it unnecessary for users to have to learn the esoteric, byzantine and unintuitive keystroke combinations and commands? Wasn’t the mouse invented to make easier user’s interaction with a GUI?

    Then why are tech writers constantly pushing keyboard shortcuts?!!! What is simpler for the average user – use a mouse to click on menu items or try to learn and remember dozens, if not hundreds, of unintuitive key combinations? Granted that there are certain key combinations that are universal. However, for the most part, each application has its own meaning for existing key combinations and/or has a bunch of its own combinations. After a while, learning more and more keyboard shortcuts makes learning command line look easy.

    1. You are not exactly wrong, Dragonmouth, but you are only partly right. I use a mouse all the time but have to resort to the keyboard on occasion. That really slows me down while I remember the keys, find them and check the result (peering at the screen).
      My daughter can type fluently, sneers at mice, and is lightning fast. She and I are miles apart, and neither of us codes more than simple stuff.
      What I am trying to say is that tech writers have a broad spectrum of people to interest, and keeping experts happy whilest hand holding beginners is an almost impossible task. Good luck to any that attempt it.

  2. DM – I liked the article and I like the idea of shortcuts, but I also like you “philosophy” on all of this MORE!
    I totally agree with your premise and I say further that the modern PC, Chromebook, Ipad…….whatever!!!…….is turning these machines into European sports cars from the 50’s & 60’s. So complicated and back-asswards that they are no longer fun and easy to understand. Same darned thing with modern cars. Sensors for this, sensors for that, and sensors on other sensors. Geez-Louise!!!! Keep it simple!!! To quote the proverbial “Everyman”: I got a job and a family. I can’t be staring at a device 8-hrs every night trying to figure it out!!!

  3. Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-Y, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-A, F1, F2, F5 are all keystrokes and keystroke combinations that have served me well over the decades and continue to do so. Without them, using a computer would be far more tedious. People who object to learning them are categorically type B personalities. In other words, they’re people who can’t grasp the concept that if investing a little time in something (like learning these keystrokes and keystroke combinations) can vastly save you time over the long haul, it’s probably worth doing. Great article, Robert. Keep ’em coming!

    1. “can vastly save you time over the long haul”
      The estimates of amount of time saved by using K/B shortcuts are grossly exaggerated. Even if you spend 8 hours or more on a the computer per day, using shortcuts maybe saves you a total of couple of minutes during all that time. It wastes more than a couple of minutes each time you need to look up even one esoteric shortcut. In the 35+ years of working with computers, I may have “saved” a total of couple of days had I used K/B shortcuts. It would have taken me that much time to learn and memorize all the shortcuts I could have used. Instead I used that time to actually do some productive work.

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