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When closing a window (like notepad or Windows Explorer), I've been realizing that when I do Ctrl-W there will be a short lag but when I do Alt-Space-C there will be no lag.

Does anyone know what exactly is the difference between these 2 shortcuts?

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Why aren't you using Alt-F4? Alt-Space-C will not work with every program, nor will Ctrl-W. – MBraedley May 9 '11 at 11:03
@MBraedley the F4 key is too far. either Ctrl-W or Alt-Space-C is much much faster with some practice. Alt-Space-C works with every program that i use though.. – Pacerier May 9 '11 at 11:33
except Notepad z – Pacerier May 15 '11 at 15:56
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Alt+Space, C is a sequence that uses Alt+Space to open the window controls menu1, and then C to select the Close option.

Activating the Close option in this way is normally the equivalent to using Alt+F4, and so Windows will issue the process a WM_CLOSE signal, telling it to terminate.

As with Alt+F4, a program can catch and/or ignore this command (often for very good reasons - think of Word's "do you want to save before you quit?" dialog box, for example).

1. I've just made this name up for it, it probably has a real one somewhere.

Ctrl+W is a shortcut only provided by the program, and the program can choose to handle the shortcut in whatever way it sees fit.

This involves no action by the operating system.

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Actually, I was somewhat mistaken in my previous comment above. Pressing space while holding Alt will work it every program (with some very specific exceptions that I can't name right now). However, using Alt, then space, then C will not work with all programs. – MBraedley May 9 '11 at 12:37
@MBraedley, yes you're right. Using Alt+Space together is much more reliable at opening the window controls menu (as I'm calling it). Have now edited the answer to use than instead, thanks. – DMA57361 May 9 '11 at 12:43

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