Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Keyboard Shortcuts in Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) for Navigation

Remote Desktop (RDC, Remote Desktop Connection or Microsoft Terminal Services Client) is an useful multi-channel protocol that allows user to connect to and administer remote computer with full screen support. However, as the Remote Desktop Connection screen is effectively running within the host Windows system desktop, users who use keyboard shortcuts frequently may get confused with keyboard shortcuts to use when working on remote PC’s desktop, or getting incorrect, erroneous or unexpected behavior with keyboard shortcuts and accelerators.
For example, Ctrl-Alt-Del keystroke combination is often used to invoke Windows Security dialog where users can run Task Manager, change password, log off, shutdown computer, lock desktop, switch user and etc. When pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del keys on keyboard, the escape interrupt sequence is always captured and processed by local Windows system, despite Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection window is maximized into full screen mode.

Another example is Alt-Tab to switch among multiple opened windows and running tasks or processes. In complete reversal, Alt-Tab works completely on remote box when Remote Desktop Connection is opened in full screen mode, but will only switch between local windows when RDC window is restored down, where RDC window is one of the window in rotation.

To get the intended result, a slightly different keyboard shortcuts are used when applied to a remote desktop session window. Here’s a list commonly used keyboard shortcuts key combination to use in Remote Desktop Connection navigation, together with the action the shortcuts perform and equivalent keyboard shortcuts on local desktop (in brackets).

  • CTRL+ALT+END: Open the Microsoft Windows NT Security dialog box (CTRL+ALT+DEL)
  • ALT+PAGE UP: Switch between programs from left to right (CTRL+PAGE UP)
  • ALT+PAGE DOWN: Switch between programs from right to left (CTRL+PAGE DOWN)
  • ALT+INSERT: Cycle through the programs in most recently used order (ALT+TAB)
  • ALT+HOME: Display the Start menu (CTRL+ESC)
  • CTRL+ALT+BREAK: Switch the client computer between a window and a full screen
  • ALT+DELETE: Display the Windows menu
  • CTRL+ALT+Minus sign (-): Place a snapshot of the entire client window area on the Terminal server clipboard and provide the same functionality as pressing ALT+PRINT SCREEN on a local computer (ALT+PRT SC)
  • CTRL+ALT+Plus sign (+): Place a snapshot of the active window in the client on the Terminal server clipboard and provide the same functionality as pressing PRINT SCREEN on a local computer (PRT SC)