A selection of Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts

A common complaint users of other operating systems have about Mac OS X is its perceived lack of keyboard shortcuts. Many think you have to use the mouse for nearly everything in Mac OS X. I see many people who have switched from Windows to Mac do this while muttering about the lack of keyboard commands.

As a long-time Mac user and someone who likes to avoid touching the mouse as much as possible, I can tell you that this is about as far from the truth as you can get. You can in fact do just about anything in Mac OS X without ever touching the mouse.

Granted, some of the shortcuts are pretty obscure since they don’t appear in menus – you have to know them to use them. That is probably the main reason for people believing that they don’t exist. So to help Mac OS X users, new and old, to make better use of their keyboard I wanted to share the Mac OS X keyboard commands I find myself using the most. Some are obvious and well known, others are more obscure.

In the tables below, the Option key is the key that has either “⌥”, “Opt” or “Alt” printed on it. The Command key may have the text “Cmd”, an Apple logo or a cloverleaf symbol (⌘). Exactly what is printed on these keys depends on the age and manufacturer of the keyboard.

Global commands
Command Action
Option-Command-Eject Put the computer to sleep
Control-Shift-Eject Put the display to sleep
Control-Option-Command-Eject Quit all running applications and shut down the computer
Command-Tab Switch application (add Shift to cycle backwards)
Command-H Hide the current application
Option-Command-Esc Open the Force Quit Applications window
Control-F2 Move focus to the menu bar. You can then use the arrow keys to navigate the menus and the Return, Enter or Space keys to activate menu items.
Control-F3 Move focus to the Dock. You can then use the arrow keys to move between items in the Dock and the Return, Enter or Space keys to activate them.
Shift-Command-3 Take a screenshot of the entire screen and save it as a file on the desktop
Control-Shift-Command-3 Take a screenshot of the entire screen and save it in the clipboard
Shift-Command-4 Take a screenshot of a selected part of the screen and save it as a file on the desktop
Control-Shift-Command-4 Take a screenshot of a selected part of the screen and save it in the clipboard
Shift-Command-4 followed by Space Take a screenshot of a window and save it as a file on the desktop
Control-Shift-Command-4 followed by Space Take a screenshot of a window and save it in the clipboard
Command-Space or Control-Space Show the Spotlight search field
Finder commands
Command Action
Command-E Eject selected mounted volume(s)
Command-Backspace Move selected items to Trash
Shift-Command-Backspace Empty Trash
Command-N Open a new Finder window
Shift-Command-N Create a new folder
Command-O Open the selected item(s)
Command-D Duplicate the selected item(s)
Commands for navigating and selecting text
Command Action
Option-Left Arrow Move the cursor to the previous word boundary
Option-Right Arrow Move the cursor to the next word boundary
Option-Up Arrow Move the cursor to the beginning of the current or previous paragraph or chunk of code, depending on the application.
Option-Down Arrow Move the cursor to the end of the current or next paragraph or chunk of code, depending on the application.
Option-Delete Delete everything from the cursor to the next word boundary
Option-Backspace Delete everything from the cursor to the previous word boundary
Command-Left Arrow Move the cursor to the beginning of the current line
Command-Right Arrow Move the cursor to the end of the current line
Command-Up Arrow Move the cursor to the beginning of the document
Command-Down Arrow Move the cursor to the end of the document
Command-Delete Delete everything from the cursor to the end of the current line
Command-Backspace Delete everything from the cursor to the beginning of the current line
Shift-Left Arrow Extend text selection one character to the left
Shift-Right Arrow Extend text selection one character to the right
Shift-Up Arrow Extend text selection to the previous line
Shift-Down Arrow Extend text selection to the next line
Shift-Option-Left Arrow Extend text selection to the previous word boundary
Shift-Option-Right Arrow Extend text selection to the next word boundary
Shift-Option-Up Arrow Extend text selection to the beginning of the current or previous paragraph or chunk of code, depending on the application.
Shift-Option-Down Arrow Extend text selection to the end of the current or next paragraph or chunk of code, depending on the application.
Shift-Command-Left Arrow Extend text selection to the beginning of the current line
Shift-Command-Right Arrow Extend text selection to the end of the current line
Shift-Command-Up Arrow Extend text selection to the beginning of the document
Shift-Command-Down Arrow Extend text selection to the end of the document
Application commands
Command Action
Command-C Copy the current selection to the clipboard
Command-X Cut the current selection and save it in the clipboard
Command-V Paste what’s in the clipboard
Command-Z Undo
Shift-Command-Z Redo
Command-Q Quit the current application
Command-H Hide the current application
Command-W Close the current window
Command-M Minimise the current window
Command-` or Command-<, depending on keyboard layout Activate the next open window in the current application
Shift-Command-` or Shift-Command-<, depending on keyboard layout Activate the next open window in the current application
Command-D Don’t save (when closing a document with unsaved changes)
Command-T Open a new web browser tab
Command-L Select all text in the address field of your web browser. Type to enter a new URL.
Command-F Open a search dialog
Command-G Find Next. Add Shift to Find Previous.
Command-E Use selection for search.

There are many, many more (see Apple’s Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts document for a more exhaustive list of the default commands), and many are completely customisable as well. To customise keyboard shortcuts, open the Keyboard panel in System Preferences and choose the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. This is also where you can turn on Full Keyboard Access by selecting “All controls”. Doing so, which I strongly recommend, will allow you to use the Tab key to move between all controls.

Even though it’s possible I don’t go as far as using the keyboard exclusively – I do use the mouse when I find doing so is quicker or easier. But I use many keyboard shortcuts every day, and over time I find myself using the keyboard more and more.

Posted on February 9, 2011 in Mac, Productivity

Comments are disabled for this post (read why), but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact me.