The 14 most crucial Mac keyboard shortcuts


The 14 most crucial Mac keyboard shortcuts
Mac Tip #432, 14 April 2010

If you’re typing a document your hands are already on the keyboard. It can break your flow and waste time fumbling for the mouse to Undo an action, or to Save the file. On the web it’s really tiring to use the mouse to scroll down a long page or to move from one form field to another.

Wireless Keyboard.

Wireless Keyboard.

There are hundreds of keyboard shortcuts for carrying out hundreds of actions. If you don’t have time or inclination to learn them all, at least master these 14.

The modifier keys

First a refresher on the all-important modifier keys, and the symbols that are often used to represent them:

Command (also known as Apple): ⌘
This key is next to the Space bar (both left and right), and is often used where Windows uses the Control key.
Option (also known as Alt): ⌥
This key is to the left of the left-hand Command key, and may only be available on the left side of even larger keyboards.
Control: ⌃
This key usually allows you to call up a contextual menu. This key is to the left of the Option key, and may only be available on the left side of even larger keyboards.
Shift: ⇧
This key gives you upper case letters, and also sometimes ‘reverses’ the action of other key combinations.
Tab: →
This isn’t a modifier key, but instead allows you to move quickly between items such as form fields.

Undo and Redo

Oops, you made a mistake or simply changed your mind. Don’t reach for some Toolbar button, or the Edit menu. Instead press Command z. Some programs let you Undo several recent actions. In those programs just keep pressing Command z to keep on undoing.

Shift Command z reverses the Undo and acts as a ‘Redo’ command.

Save and Save As

Save your work with Command s.

You may find that Shift Command S allows you to Save As.

Close windows

Close a window from the application you’re working in with Command w.

If you have multiple windows open try Option Command w to close all of them at once.

Quit a program

This menu shows available shortcuts.

This menu shows available shortcuts.

Quit the program you’re working in with Command q. Remember: on a Mac closing a window doesn’t usually actually Quit the program, unlike on Windows.

Cut, Copy and Paste

  • Cut: Command x.
  • Copy: Command c.
  • Paste: Command v.

Depending on the specific software you’re using, you may find that holding down other modifier keys at the same time may do something special, such as pasting without formatting.

Move between fields

Entering information in a form? Use the Tab key to move quickly from one field to the next.

Use Shift Tab to go backwards between fields.

Quickly scroll through a web page

If you have a long web page to read first click in the body of the page (don’t click on a link!). Now press the Spacebar to go down one screen at a time.

Press Shift Space to go back up the page a screen at a time.

Find more keyboard shortcuts

There are hundreds of other shortcuts available. An easy way to find them is to look at the menus for the software you’re using. When a keyboard shortcut is available it’s listed beside the relevant menu item.

Tell us in the Comments at the website your most-used keyboard shortcuts.

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3 Comments

  1. Jo Fothergill said:

    I think cmd+option+esc is the life-saver of keyboard shortcuts – especially on my older/slower macs.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Thanks for that reminder Jo.

      For those who don’t know: that key combination brings up a window where you can select a running application and force it to quit.

  2. Miraz Jordan said:

    Ross MxT emailed this handy info:

    I may have mentioned this before: a useful Utility is called “KeyCue”. It is a Macility product copyrighted by Ergonis Software designed to enable you to use keyboard and menu shortcuts more effectively.

    At any time you can press and hold the Command Key and a display shows all the available shortcuts for the open application. Its screen display can be personalised.

    A free trial version is available.

    I’m happy for this comment to be shared around.

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