Survey finds 90% of users don't know about CTRL+F

In the tech world, it's hard to believe that something as simple and well used as the "find" shortcut (CTRL + F on Windows, Command + F on Mac) is something that many don't know about. A survey conducted by Google recently concluded that 9 in 10 users don't know of the functionality, nor have they ever thought of it.

According to New Scientist, Dan Russell, Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness interviewed a bus driver who was searching for a transportation rule for a test. Apparently, she was scrolling line by line through a 100 page website to find the answer. When asked "Why don't you use 'CTRL+F' to find it" she responded that she didn't know such a function existed.

Google proceeded to do a survey on this, and found that 90% of users had no idea. Stuff reports that Mark Pesce, a futurist and honorary associate in digital cultures at the University of Sydney blamed the lack of education of the feature, and cited the lack of being taught in companies or schools for the users' behavior.

Even users with experience seem to get caught out on this, with one comment on the article saying:

Um, I'm a web designer of 10+ years and even I didn't know about ctrl F (actually command F on a Mac) though I had long used a similar feature in a browser plugin (FireBug) *embarrassed*

The question remains, whose responsibility is it to teach users about features such as search, or how to use shortcuts? Schools? Companies? Older generations' children? Perhaps it should be down to the software itself to teach users at the end of the day.

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Interesting, I got in trouble once when I used Win and Tab keys for switching windows because this high school teacher thought I was
"playing games" All computers should come with a manual of PC shortcuts or a list of these when you start your PC for the first time.

Duckie37 said,
How many people hit Ctrl F when they saw the title of this article?
If you hold your nose closed you can't hum, now how many people will try this?

This is my keyboard at work.
http://oi43.tinypic.com/35bxn5y.jpg

It has them listed, same as the one at home. Every keyboard I have has the shortcuts listed on the key. Unless you buy generic keyboards, any reputable keyboard, from Microsoft to Logitech to anything, will generally have it listed, as far as I know.

So this is quite surprising, kinda. Considering I started heavy computing and such on Windows 3.1, and a little bit of DOS before that, I, like a lot of "tech" friendly people I know, can fully navigate without the need or use of a mouse, with near the same efficiency. (Unless you come across a page in flash.) I love it when I go to fix a computer, and though rare, the mouse in unusable, the customer (or family member) gets worried about how I will do anything. Jaws usually drop when I get everything done on a keyboard.

Zappa859 said,
This is my keyboard at work.
http://oi43.tinypic.com/35bxn5y.jpg

It has them listed, same as the one at home. Every keyboard I have has the shortcuts listed on the key. Unless you buy generic keyboards, any reputable keyboard, from Microsoft to Logitech to anything, will generally have it listed, as far as I know.

So this is quite surprising, kinda. Considering I started heavy computing and such on Windows 3.1, and a little bit of DOS before that, I, like a lot of "tech" friendly people I know, can fully navigate without the need or use of a mouse, with near the same efficiency. (Unless you come across a page in flash.) I love it when I go to fix a computer, and though rare, the mouse in unusable, the customer (or family member) gets worried about how I will do anything. Jaws usually drop when I get everything done on a keyboard.

Perhaps its only printed on English keyboards.

The last time i saw more than "F" printed on the f-key here in Sweden, was on my old Sinclair ZX80.
And actually, that was an English keyboard too =)

http://home.micros.users.btopenworld.com/zx80/Keyboards.gif

MatsSvensson said,

Perhaps its only printed on English keyboards.

The last time i saw more than "F" printed on the f-key here in Sweden, was on my old Sinclair ZX80.
And actually, that was an English keyboard too =)

http://home.micros.users.btopenworld.com/zx80/Keyboards.gif

It's possible. I've owned a German keyboard before, but other than that English. I don't remember if the German one had it listed. It is more than likely different elsewhere, but for the majority of native English keyboards I come across, they are all on there.

I think the most interesting about that survey would have been if they had asked the 10% how they found out about the function.

How many actually found it by them selves, and how many where told by someone which where in turn told by someone and so on.

Maybe it turns out every grandfather passes these things down though the ages to the first born in alternating generations.

And it has been told that the very first to find out, was a Greek named Arthur T Efram

htcz said,
The only excuse is not knowing english (Ctrl+fIND)

That makes absolutely no sense.
Or does "F" ALWAYS stand for "Find" in the English language?

In that case, what does The "Find 1" - "Find 12" -keys do?

MatsSvensson said,

That makes absolutely no sense.
Or does "F" ALWAYS stand for "Find" in the English language?

In that case, what does The "Find 1" - "Find 12" -keys do?


In a computer environment, yes, it means F for Find.

Guess what Ctrl+D does and stands for?
Or Ctrl+M?

htcz said,

In a computer environment, yes, it means F for Find.

Guess what Ctrl+D does and stands for?
Or Ctrl+M?

Ctrl+D?

Well in Firefox it opens the "Edit this Bookmark" dialog.
So... eDit ?

Ctrl+M seems to do nada,
So... M as in Moot?

This is really surprising to me. I don't think ppl are stupid who don't know it, but I thought that was, well maybe not common knowledge, at least more than 10% of survey group should know it. I'm a little shocked. I guess ppl aren't all dorks like me who look up pc shortcuts for fun.

This is sad. People are more used to the mouse these days. Some of my IE9 daily used shortcuts:
Ctrl+a, ctrl+t, ctrl+e, shift+ctrl+L, ctrl+f, ctrl+F5, bckscapce.
then combos: ctrl+click

I blame the demise of flight simulator games! Anyone who had to play an F16 simulator game in the '90s had to learn between 20 and 50 shortcuts. That sticks for life! ;-)

I would be able to guess what Ctrl-F does, but in a browser window I use F3, same effect but easier. In Windows I use Win-F.

But I'm not at all surprised at how many people don't use/know shortcuts.

At first i was like: whats ctrl-f?, but then i remembered that its the most used key combination while browsing

that was probably one of the first shortcuts i ever learned years ago when messing with windows xp. But I mean, I dont really use this, like at all.

i only use the 'CTRL + F' on Firefox here and there to find text on a website here and there but i never use it in general windows though since i pretty much know where all my stuff is.

How about teaching people this instead:

which secret key-combo do you press to pop up a text that describes all the secret key-combos available to you?

And HOW exactly does the system tell the user that this feature exists?

Oh, it doesn't AT ALL, well then how DARE people not know about it !!!!

I have been using computers since 1981 or so, and i have never ever seen a trace of this anywhere.

MatsSvensson said,
And HOW exactly does the system tell the user that this feature exists?

Oh, it doesn't AT ALL, well then how DARE people not know about it !!!!

I have been using computers since 1981 or so, and i have never ever seen a trace of this anywhere.


want to see a trace of it? Open internet explorer > click "edit" in the menu bar > look for the word "find" and look at what it says to the right of "find". There it is. All you had to do was look.

Invizibleyez said,

want to see a trace of it? Open internet explorer > click "edit" in the menu bar > look for the word "find" and look at what it says to the right of "find". There it is. All you had to do was look.

Not to mention that the commands have been presented that way for ages…

MatsSvensson said,
And HOW exactly does the system tell the user that this feature exists?

Oh, it doesn't AT ALL, well then how DARE people not know about it !!!!

I have been using computers since 1981 or so, and i have never ever seen a trace of this anywhere.

*stares at my keyboard* uh every keyboard I've owned since the 90's has had these shortcuts printed on the fronts of the keys

Invizibleyez said,

want to see a trace of it? Open internet explorer > click "edit" in the menu bar > look for the word "find" and look at what it says to the right of "find". There it is. All you had to do was look.

And if you NEVER use IE ?

neufuse said,

*stares at my keyboard* uh every keyboard I've owned since the 90's has had these shortcuts printed on the fronts of the keys

Just checked about a dozen PC-keyboards i had laying around.
Not a single one had anything except "F" printed on the F-key.

So.... uh?

MFH said,

Not to mention that the commands have been presented that way for ages…

What way has it been presented "for ages"?
Ads in the personal section?

When customers watch me fixing their systems, I often use Windows+E or Windows+Pause/Break and get OMG and WOW responses from them, like I am perfoming some voodoo keyboard magic. The average computer user doesn't know a lot of the "special" key combinations. Those that use Office and such at work will be much more familiar with the CTRL- combos.

I like to think that I know a majority of the keyboard shortcuts, although I do admit that it was only recently that someone on Neowin told me about Windows+Pause/Break. I hardly ever used Pause/Break, now I seem to be using it daily!

ir0nw0lf said,
When customers watch me fixing their systems, I often use Windows+E or Windows+Pause/Break and get OMG and WOW responses from them, like I am perfoming some voodoo keyboard magic. The average computer user doesn't know a lot of the "special" key combinations. Those that use Office and such at work will be much more familiar with the CTRL- combos.

Alt + Enter is another one I like

gawd get almost any Microsoft keyboard and the common shortcut keys are right on the darn thing... Ctrl has a * on the button label then the F key has a *Find written on it, doesn't take too much to figure that out... underline, itallic, bold, paste, copy, cut, all are also printed on the keys.....

neufuse said,
gawd get almost any Microsoft keyboard and the common shortcut keys are right on the darn thing... Ctrl has a * on the button label then the F key has a *Find written on it, doesn't take too much to figure that out... underline, itallic, bold, paste, copy, cut, all are also printed on the keys.....

Are you sure that's not just on English keyboards?
I have never seen anything like that here in Sweden?

It depends on the app and OS. Most browsers have a find function. Some desktop environments don't assign Ctrl + F by default. Gnome 3 for example. But I tend to customise mine anyway so I can control mpd, terminal access, and GPU power profile etc.

In Nautilus, you don't even have to press a key combination to initiate a basic search, just simply start typing. Although, that's actually more down to the GtkTreeView widget. You actually get that functionality without writing any code yourself except setting the search column in the model [ gtk_tree_view_set_search_column(GTK_TREE_VIEW(view->tree), COLUMN_ID); ]. The full blown search can be still be done via Ctrl + F.

I find myself trying to teach people useful shortcuts when I see them do mundane tasks but they have no intrest in learning.

Fireyetti said,
What's next? Are you going to tell me that people also don't know that alt+f4 does an instant virus scan???

I used to tell people back in "the day" that format c: was the answer to all their problems. Amazing how people actually believed that.

S_Herbie said,
Ctrl F is not a universal shortcut - use the same combo in Outlook and it forwards the message you have selected.

It does the same thing in Evolution. I think that's pretty standard for Email programs though. But it does illustrate the adhoc usefulness of it. Ctrl + F/H does tend to work as standard in GUI text editors though like gedit.

The surveryers should have asked, if you have an open text document and if you press Ctrl+F. I bet many would have re-collected.
The moment you ask them, they have the picture of desktop in mind. And on desktop Ctrl+F does nothing.

Some people don't even use Ctrl + X/C/V for the clipboard (Terminal: add shift).

I couldn't stand having to use the mouse all the time. The same goes for closing tabs/windows (Ctrl + W, terminal: shift + ctrl + w ), resizing and moving windows, switching workspaces, and an endless amount of other functions.

So sad... but I'm sure they know the full names of all the participants on that Jersey Shore TV show... *shakes head*

Voice of Buddy Christ said,
A lot of people don't know ANY keyboard shortcuts. I can log in, lock, post comments, log out and shut down without using my mouse.

Very true. It becomes even more essential when you only have a terminal to work with.

I use CTRL-F all the time for school work, known about it for years. I can understand why people don't know about them, though. My middle school computer teacher made a statement about people who use Excel once. "It's very obvious to make a distinction between someone who is self-taught, and someone who learned from somebody more knowledgeable." I feel like this is similar.

Have to admit, I didn't know it. Don't use many keyboard short cuts at all anyway. Always thought of them as being similar to Linux commands!

How are you supposed to know of them when there is no info on any of it right at hand? I mean, you go buy a new computer. Bring it home and set it up. Where will you ever see anything telling you about shortcuts? Just like sudo mousepad /etc/hosts is some kind of crap you have to type to edit a file. See the similarities?

Who, in their right mind, would ever come up with something like smacking a ctrl+F key or typing out some weird command, off the top of their head?

cork1958 said,
Have to admit, I didn't know it. Don't use many keyboard short cuts at all anyway. Always thought of them as being similar to Linux commands!

How are you supposed to know of them when there is no info on any of it right at hand? I mean, you go buy a new computer. Bring it home and set it up. Where will you ever see anything telling you about shortcuts? Just like sudo mousepad /etc/hosts is some kind of crap you have to type to edit a file. See the similarities?

Who, in their right mind, would ever come up with something like smacking a ctrl+F key or typing out some weird command, off the top of their head?


When you use the menu options the shortcut is stated on it as part of the text!

cork1958 said,

How are you supposed to know of them when there is no info on any of it right at hand? I mean, you go buy a new computer. Bring it home and set it up. Where will you ever see anything telling you about shortcuts?

I wonder if this study was specifically about Ctrl+F, or being able to search on a web page in general. I mean, you can not know about Ctrl+F, but still know that you can click on the "Settings" Icon in IE, then select "File", "Search on this page".
And this is also the place where you then can find out about the shortcut, it is listed behind that item in the menu

I think this article/study is too much setting Ctrl+F and the ability to search on one level. There might be so many people who know how to search, but do not know the shortcut.

See, computers DO need manuals, but no one gives a full one anymore, and no bugger would want to read it. Sigh. The majority of keyboard shortcuts I probably learned from menus etc that actually show the keyboard shortcut beside the function. Except, now less and less programs have menus for that!

IE8 had "Find on this page" more discoverable with the dropdown menu from the separate search box. IE9 got rid of it and hides the menu bar too by default. How do you expect n00bs to discover Ctrl-F then? IE users asked for the clean, simple dumbed down experience.

Dead'Soul said,
its really time to have a dedicated search button on keyboard

I already have one on my multimedia keyboard. It starts a search in Firefox

I'm really surprised about this - I thought it was a well known thing. Obviously not.

I set Firefox to automatically start to find things on a page when I start typing, when not in a text box... But this feature is not done automatically, you have to set it - I'm surprised you have to set it yourself. If it was set out of the box, then more people would probably find it by mistake and continue to use the feature. It's a sort of replacement for "CTRL-F".

Neobond said,
Hah I knew about it and use it regularly! *pats self on back*

*scratches Neobonds' head and tosses him a biscuit* LOL

The problem isn't about people being taught or not being taught. It's that we're conditioned to not look for efficiency or usefulness from humanity.

The most fundamental systems that we live under encourage and reward inefficiency.

Beaux said,
The problem isn't about people being taught or not being taught. It's that we're conditioned to not look for efficiency or usefulness from humanity.

The most fundamental systems that we live under encourage and reward inefficiency.


That's because we're all spoon fed information in school when we should be taught critical thinking and autodidacticism. Forget memorising facts that we'll all forget in a couple of years, how about we teach kids to think independently and problem solve?

Maths is a good example. Instead of learning formulae, which by the way is already the solution to a problem, by rote, why don't we learn how to create a formula/equation/algorithm to solve a real world problem. That's why school is so boring, we're all just going over what other people have already discovered and solved instead of seeking the answers ourselves.

Joey S said,

That's because we're all spoon fed information in school when we should be taught critical thinking and autodidacticism. Forget memorising facts that we'll all forget in a couple of years, how about we teach kids to think independently and problem solve?

Maths is a good example. Instead of learning formulae, which by the way is already the solution to a problem, by rote, why don't we learn how to create a formula/equation/algorithm to solve a real world problem. That's why school is so boring, we're all just going over what other people have already discovered and solved instead of seeking the answers ourselves.

School isn't to educate people. It's to prepare people to be better slaves in the workplace.

About a year ago, I was surprised when I asked a group of students to search for a specific word on a web page and only one of them was able to find it. I believe the group consisted of six students so four of them didn't know about CTRL + F (or Command + F). I expected just about anyone in my university with a laptop to know about it.

Anaron said,
About a year ago, I was surprised when I asked a group of students to search for a specific word on a web page and only one of them was able to find it. I believe the group consisted of six students so four of them didn't know about CTRL + F (or Command + F). I expected just about anyone in my university with a laptop to know about it.

I hope you don't teach mathematics.

bouncingjohn said,

I hope you don't teach mathematics.
Although I thought this was implied, I failed to explicitly mention that I was a part of the group as well.

This happens when people aren't curious enough when meddling with a program. The more you meddle, the more you know.

For example, who knows how much I am under-utilizing Windows OS because I haven't bother to investigate or to meddle with it enough.

though I had long used a similar feature in a browser plugin (FireBug) *embarrassed*

See? This is another cause. How many of us get extra software (even pay for it) when it can be done within the OS for no extra cost?

Lack of time and fear are the main cause of this.

even if people didn't know about the shortcut, have they never clicked edit and seen the word find and wondered "hmmm what does that do"?

AntBug said,
even if people didn't know about the shortcut, have they never clicked edit and seen the word find and wondered "hmmm what does that do"?

I know right!

And in Office 2007 and Office 2010, they also display the Keyboard Gestures right inside the tooltips.

Of course they don't know. Why do you think we find such comments on youtube:
"Don't you hate when the top comment is a reply to someone, and you can't find the person's post"

Navan said,
Of course they don't know. Why do you think we find such comments on youtube:
"Don't you hate when the top comment is a reply to someone, and you can't find the person's post"

to be fair even with ctrl+f it's pointless because youtube has a "pages" system for comments

Navan said,
Of course they don't know. Why do you think we find such comments on youtube:
"Don't you hate when the top comment is a reply to someone, and you can't find the person's post"


Ya, i always reply with "Use CTRL+F... *facepalm*" to those kinda comments. ^^

The Teej said,

to be fair even with ctrl+f it's pointless because youtube has a "pages" system for comments


You can show all of the comments in one page too. =P

Twisp said,


Ya, i always reply with "Use CTRL+F... *facepalm*" to those kinda comments. ^^


You can show all of the comments in one page too. =P

Oh I didn't know that (although tbh I never really thought to look). Cheers!

InsaneNutter said,
Doesn't surprise me at all, the average person has no idea keyboard shortcuts even exist in my experience.

Yeah, I have to constantly tell people what the shortcuts for copy and past are. I like the keyboards that come with the shortcut written on the key somewhere although a lot of people still ignore them

InsaneNutter said,
Doesn't surprise me at all, the average person has no idea keyboard shortcuts even exist in my experience.
Surely they know about CTRL+C/CTRL+V to copy and paste.

Anaron said,
Surely they know about CTRL+C/CTRL+V to copy and paste.

CTRL + C to copy maybe, but they don't use paste because they complain it starts printing everything off

Anaron said,
Surely they know about CTRL+C/CTRL+V to copy and paste.

Heh, no, I'm happy to say I've taught them Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V at work though. I know how Prometheus feels.

Muhammad Farrukh said,
I*cough*didn't*cough*either

No worries man, I'm trying to teach all my employees the concept of ctrl-c/v/p/f/a/b/u/i/ etc. lol (and i'm talking about people that work on comptuers (at a bank) for a living)

For some reason I always associate ctrl+F with Firefox... even though I have used Chrome for a year or two now.