Once you see my sweet moves you're gonna stay amazed, my fingers movin so fast I'll set the place ablaze
May 20, 2010 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Teach me some great Mac keyboard shortcuts. Nothing is too obscure.

I'm an absolute wizard at navigating Windows with the keyboard. I've moved nagging offscreen windows onto the screen by using Alt+Space, M, and then the arrow keys. I use Windows Key + PauseBrk to get to my device manager. To run IE, I hit Windows Key + R and type iexplore.

In the past few months, I've got a MacBook, and I'm struggling to get up to my Windows speed. I've finally deciphered the Mac OS modifier key symbols and learned the obvious stuff -- Command + Space for Spotlight, which I use to run most programs quickly, Command + ` to cycle between tabs/subwindows. I even picked up the pretty useless Command+Option+Control+8 to invert the colors.

But I'm really missing that extra oomph. I still fumble through file dialogs, having to switch to touchpad. The Finder still boggles me. So what are some really useful and great keyboard shortcuts in OS X?
posted by Herschel to Computers & Internet (62 answers total) 169 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Command-Shift-3 to take a screenshot and save it to your desktop.
Command-Shift-4 to do the same, but with a selection of the screen (drag a rectangle around your target),
Command-Control-scrollwheel will magnify the screen and follow your cursor.
Command-Tab switches applications. Hold Command to choose an open app by mouse; press Tab repeatedly to cycle through them in order from most recently used to least.
Hold Control and Shift while mousing over the dock to magnify icons (if that has been turned off in System Prefs).
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:35 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You know how you can adjust your volume from the keyboard? Well, if you hold down option+shift while clicking a volume button, the change will be much more precise rather than jumping by those incremental squares. Give it a shot!
posted by bjork24 at 2:36 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]

Command + Shift + 4 = a better screenshot tool than many commercial apps.
The awesome Macintosh Accent Codes.
posted by scruss at 2:37 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cmd-Opt-Eject to quickly put the Mac to sleep.
Cmd-Opt-Ctrl-Eject to shut it down.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:37 PM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: The screenshot shortcuts are good, but if you don't want to litter your desktop with screenshot files, try command+shift+control+4 or command+shift+control+3 to save the screenshot to your clipboard instead.
posted by bjork24 at 2:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here are a ton of OS X keyboard shortcuts.
posted by axismundi at 2:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Do you have the finder in column view (command - 3)? That's the one big thing I miss about Mac when I'm working in Windows, its such a nice way to see your file organization.
posted by Fifi Firefox at 2:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

For Quicktime, Apple+2 and Apple+3 grow or shrink the size of the video you're watching.

This is nice to know for when you open up a 1080p file and it decides (against all logic and precedent of how computer GUIs should work for the last 50 years) to size the player larger than your screen resolution so you can't even get to the corner to drag it smaller.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:44 PM on May 20, 2010

Hold down the option key when dragging a file or folder and it will make a duplicate of the file/folder.

Not really a keyboard shortcut but another neat thing you can do with macs is actually drag file onto dock icons to use them. For instance dragging a photo the the mail program will open up mail, then make a new message with photo attached.
posted by travis08 at 2:45 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the Finder, you can select a range of files in a list by clicking on the first, then shift-clicking the last. You can add or remove individual files by Command-clicking them.

You can send selected files to the Trash with Command-Delete.

You might want to look into multi-touch trackpad gestures too.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:45 PM on May 20, 2010

Adobe Creative Suite has its own incredibly useful, incredibly complex language of shortcuts.

Safari has some good ones-- I like Cmd-Shift-[ and Cmd-Shift-] to switch between tabs. (Terminal's tabs do the same thing.) I also like enabling the option that Tab key navigates through every link AND every text field on a website (in Preferences -> Advanced).

In Finder, highlighting a file (using arrow keys, of course) and pressing Space pulls up a quick preview. Arrow keys while the preview is still open previews next/previous files.

Cmd-Tab is very useful, but pretty universal. In fact, I think Windows 7 does it better with the mini-window preview.

I'll keep thinking about the ones I use most. Good question!
posted by supercres at 2:50 PM on May 20, 2010

Oh, Cmd-I is good for getting info about a file or folder. (Same as right-click -> Get Info.)

If you get a Magic Mouse (you should, except it eats AA batteries), get Magic Prefs. Whole new world of shortcuts accessible through your new multi-touch mouse. If you don't, I still nth the recommendation to become familiar with touchpad gestures.
posted by supercres at 2:53 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

While Command-Tabbing around, you can press Q to quit the highlighted application.

Also, you can use Quicksilver to keyboardize pretty much any kind of workflow.
posted by zsazsa at 2:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

command - shift - {} to switch tabs
command-l to go to the url field in most browsers
control-a to go to the beginning of a text field
control-e to go to the end
posted by doteatop at 3:05 PM on May 20, 2010

Option - dragging a file will COPY a file, as mentioned above.

Other dragging tricks are:

Command (Apple) - dragging a file will MOVE that file, i.e. copy & delete the original item.
Command - Option - dragging a file creates an alias (shortcut) the original item.

Easily overlooked but supremely useful are Command - W for closing a window and Command - Shift - N for creating a new folder.

I hesitate to mention tips so basic, but then I remember that I've run across folks who have been obliviously mousing over to that infernally small box in the upper left hand corner for decades.
posted by Aquaman at 3:07 PM on May 20, 2010

Command-i is pretty nice, while you're browsing - it sends the page into a new email message for you.

Try it on this page!
posted by plexi at 3:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In finder:
Command-Shift-A to go to the 'Applications' folder
Command-Shift-U to go to the 'Applications/Utilities' folder
Command-Shift-G to bring up an arbitrary 'Go to...' dialog (with maddening autocomplete behavior - still, if you know right where you're going, it's immensely helpful)
Command-K to bring up the network connection dialog

In many (most?) text fields and the Terminal:
Ctrl+A to go to the beginning of a line
Ctrl+E to go to the end of a line
Ctrl+K to delete from the cursor to the end of a line

Opt+8 to type a bullet character - •
Opt+g to type a Copyright symbol - ©

In the terminal, you can pipe the output of a command to pbcopy to copy it to the clipboard, and pbpaste to pipe the contents of the clipboard into a command.
posted by usonian at 3:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You know how you can adjust your volume from the keyboard? Well, if you hold down option+shift while clicking a volume button, the change will be much more precise rather than jumping by those incremental squares. Give it a shot!

shift-[volume button] changes the volume without making noise.
posted by OmieWise at 3:28 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

In Finder, COMMAND-[up arrow] takes you up one folder in the directory hierarchy. COMMAND-[down arrow] takes you back down.
posted by paulg at 3:41 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding quicksilver - it really speeds up everything almost everything.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:41 PM on May 20, 2010

I find command-H - the "Hide" command" - indispensable as a person who keeps tons of windows open in all kinds of applications. It makes your windows for whichever application just vanish (and you can bring them back by tabbing to the application they're open in or clicking it in the dock).
posted by bubukaba at 3:43 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ctrl-Shift-Eject will put the display to sleep immediately. I use it a lot at night on my laptop when I want to put some music on and then try to sleep without having to change the display sleep settings in power management.
posted by Kosh at 3:49 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Use Ctrl+mouse wheel up to zoom the screen. This may only work with an external mouse, not the trackpad.
posted by rabbitsnake at 3:55 PM on May 20, 2010

F11 minimizes all your windows and displays the desktop.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:17 PM on May 20, 2010

Command-i is pretty nice, while you're browsing - it sends the page into a new email message for you.

Try it on this page!

plexi, that one doesn't work for me, it just shows me page source info. I'm using Firefox, is that why?
posted by misha at 4:23 PM on May 20, 2010

plexi, that one doesn't work for me, it just shows me page source info. I'm using Firefox, is that why?

Yeah, that's a Safari shortcut, if I remember correctly.

Use Ctrl+mouse wheel up to zoom the screen. This may only work with an external mouse, not the trackpad.

Ctrl + two-finger scroll works on my trackpad; may not work for older models, though.

My favorite tip: If you go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts, you can not only see lists of shortcuts but set your own -- even for specific programs.
posted by danb at 4:40 PM on May 20, 2010

I even picked up the pretty useless Command+Option+Control+8 to invert the colors.

This is most definitely NOT useless if you happen to read in the dark, like on a laptop in bed.

It takes the eyestrain out of professional white backgrounds.
posted by rokusan at 4:41 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Comand + click on the file icon in a document's title bar for a pop-up of the file path, which you can then navigate to any depth of that hierarchy from. Alternately, did you know that in most apps, you can drag that icon to move/copy/paste the document?

Here's a fun one: control+option+command+8 will turn your screen negative. (If it doesn't work, enable it in System Preferences>Universal Access. This is fun to do when you're walking by a friend's unattended Mac.

Here's another fun one:
Control+clicking the minimize button at the top left of a window will minimize it in slow motion. Shift+control+clicking on the minimize icon will minimize it in SUPER slow motion.

If you pre-type "killall Dock" in a terminal window and have it at the ready, you can quick command-tab from the window that you just super-slow minimized and hit return, and the window will cease minimizing in its half-minimized state, and be somewhat functional. You can do this to browser windows and text entry still works. Fun!
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:48 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's another useful one -- if you want to move a window that's in the background without bringing it forward, command+click & drag the title bar, & it will maintain its stacking order while you drag it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:51 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

For file dialogs, I got sent this lovely hint through some other mefite, I believe:
In the keyboard/keyboard shortcuts settings, there is this little option down at the bottom for "Full Keyboard Access". If you set that to all controls, you can tab through the ok/cancel/whatever buttons with the tab key; no more switching to the touchpad!
posted by that girl at 4:52 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Try Command-~ to switch between open windows in the same application. I use a ton of keyboard shortcuts, but this one really helped m productivity at work.
posted by azpenguin at 4:54 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

In the Finder, in column view, double-click the column width slider thingy at the bottom of each divider to make the column just wide enough to not truncate any text in file & folder names.

Sorry about the multiple posts -- these just keep occurring to me. I'll stop now
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:11 PM on May 20, 2010

You can drag folders/shortcuts into the left side bar in finder. I keep frequently used folders there, saves me the trouble of digging through hierarchy. I also add frequently used commands to the tools panel of finder (like new folder).

Where ever you see a file icon, such as on the top of a word document window, it can be dragged and moved (or duplicated with holding command) as if it were the icon in a finder window.

Quicksilver, omg quicksilver. Launching apps and book marks is cool. Did you know you can also run apple scripts from quicksilver? iTunes universal hotkeys? Compose emails, select a recipient and send it? YES all of this is 2 keystrokes away. DL Quicksilver and start loving your mac.

Oh and it's free. <3
posted by fontophilic at 5:23 PM on May 20, 2010

Best answer: When you hit ⌘-tab to switch programs, you can quit whatever program is highlighted by pressing Q, or hide it by pressing H. You have to keep the ⌘ key down, of course.

Another screenshot tip: control + any screenshot combo will copy to the clipboard instead of saving a file. Also, ⌘-shift-4 followed by the spacebar (plus one final click) will capture whatever window the mouse is over.

One non-keyboard trick I find helpful is to command-click on the title bar of any open document window to get the document path. In Safari this gives you the webpage path instead.

In safari, Shift-⌘-L will google search whatever is highlighted (in a new window).

Umpteenth vote for quicksilver.
posted by O9scar at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you want to move windows around, you can't beat SizeUp. Shiftit is an open-source alternative.

This screencast highlights the usefulness of LaunchBar, which is a Quicksilver competitor--along with some others (including SizeUp). They are both way faster than Spotlight.

Finally, you might want to check out Keyboard Maestro.
posted by ajr at 6:36 PM on May 20, 2010

Did you know that you can easily add “curly quotes” to any text field without resorting to arcane alt-codes? Option-[ and option-shift-[ for double quotes, option-] and option-shift-] for single quotes. Also, you needn’t ever sully yourself with typewriter-style fake dashes again—a simple option-minus for an en dash and option-shift-minus for an em dash will do the trick every time. I’m neurotic enough to demand proper typography in my instant messages, and now I can have my way.

Believe it or not, those are the keyboard shortcuts I use most often. As far as more traditional window management shortcuts, command-w to close a window or tab is very useful, as is command-q to quit an application. Using command-tab to bring up the application switcher, tabbing over to the application you want to quit, and then tapping q to quit it sounds like a gimmick, but it has proven amazingly useful. Why should I have to switch to an application just to dismiss it?

Make sure you have Keyboard Access turned on in System Preferences. That way, tabbing through controls will work as you expect. Whenever you see the lickable Aqua buttons, particularly in modal, “Do you want to save the changes you made?” dialog sheets, return will trigger the default, dark blue button, and space will trigger the button with the selection halo around it. Tab moves the selection halo. I often find myself typing up little short-lived notes in TextEdit, and then killing them with command-q space; command-q to quit TextEdit, and space to tell it “don’t save.”

You should set a very easy keyboard shortcut or hot corner for the “show desktop” exposé command. Since I typically want to see the desktop as part of some mousing action, I have it set for my upper right corner. The motion of flicking my hand to the right and away from me feels very natural as a “clearing space on the desktop” gesture.

Finder shortcuts! Command-1 through 4 go through icon, list, column, and cover flow. Command-down arrow opens a selected file or folder. Command-up arrow takes you up to the parent folder. Unfortunately, the Finder sucks, so you should spend as little time there as possible.
posted by Ptrin at 8:47 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

shift-[volume button] changes the volume without making noise.

Nope, that's command - volume button.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:51 PM on May 20, 2010

would colour inversion via cmd-opt-ctrl-8 also save on battery life?
posted by Rumple at 10:32 PM on May 20, 2010

would colour inversion via cmd-opt-ctrl-8 also save on battery life?

Short answer: Yes, in my experience.

Longer-ish answer: My aging Macbook (2006) has experienced its fair share of battery issues, culminating in its inability to, well, retain a charge over two hours, even on a fresh battery. (It's been serviced twice, and I'm simply tired of dropping it off.) During long seminar classes, I invert the screen, getting me at least an additional hour of battery life -- more, if I decide to concentrate on taking notes by shutting off my wireless.

YMMV, as always.
posted by peeet at 11:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rumple: I doubt it, because I believe the backlight is still on at the same brightness level. (On preview: I guess peeet's experience would imply otherwise; curious!)

I humbly present a new contender for most useless keyboard shortcut: ctrl-cmd-opt-period and -comma, for adjusting screen contrast.

Also, not a keyboard shortcut, but: I frequently find myself dragging files into the Terminal window, which inserts the full path of the file at the cursor.
posted by caaaaaam at 11:04 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Once you've pressed Command-shift+4 to get the screenshot crosshairs, press the space bar to get a camera cursor with which you can click any window (even if it's partially hidden) to save a screenshot of just that window.

In Safari, Command+1, Command+2, &c. select the first ten bookmarks on your bookmark bar, which if they're bookmarklets can be very handy.

Go into the Keyboard system prefs and under Modifier Keys set the Caps Lock key to be a Control key.

This requires Keyboard Maestro: set up control+space to trigger a macro in the Mail application that clicks the mouse at (350,10), then types M, then type O, then types a right arrow. Now you can file the selected message(s) in a folder with just control+space and the first few letters of the folder's name.

Also using Keyboard Maestro, I have Applescripts that do 30-second-skip and jump-back in QuickTime Player set as global macros for control+right-arrow and control+left-arrow.

Lastly, get the program Zooom/2 which lets you move or resize any window by holding down fn or fn+control while the mouse cursor is over it. This is the single add-on without which I can't use a Mac now.
posted by nicwolff at 11:59 PM on May 20, 2010

In Firefox/Chrome: Command-Option-Left/Right will move you left and right through your tabs. Command-1 will selected the leftmost tab, Command-2 the next tab, and so on.

Nthing Quicksilver. I haven't taken the time to set up really learn to use many of the neat things it can do, but it indexes better than Spotlight and remembers what you pick when you type in letters and makes that the default for those letters after a few times - you can also just tell it to do so if you're feeling impatient.

I'm sitting in bed in the dark and I just hit Cmd-Opt-Control 8 and it BLEW MY MIND.

In System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts, you can create custom keyboard shortcuts for applications. For example, I have it set up so that in Pages cmd-opt-control-C sets the font to Courier, and cmd-opt-control-H sets the font to Helvetica. This makes it really easy to switch between typing code and not-code in my CS class notes. It's one of those things that seems only kind of neat until you actually do it and see how freaking seamless it is, and then you find yourself doing it all the time.
posted by joshuaconner at 1:36 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Shift - Command - Option - V = Paste and Match Style.

I use this all the freakin time, especially in mail message composition (whether GMail in Safari or Apple Mail). You can finagle a simple AppleScript to get this to work in Office applications as well, although I'm pretty sure it's a default keyboard shortcut in most native Mac applications.
posted by pants at 4:06 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

Nope, that's command - volume button.

Is it version dependent? Because shift-[volume] certainly works on my 10.5.8 Mac to change the sound without playing the little beeping sound.
posted by OmieWise at 4:59 AM on May 21, 2010

Apparently so. I use 10.4.11. Shift-volume changes the volume with clicking sounds.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:28 AM on May 21, 2010

Comma and fullstop (period) to cycle between tabs in Safari.

I use hotkeys programmed in Keyboard Maestro to make app windows fullscreen, half-screen (left or right) and quarter-screen (in each of the 4 corners). Possibly not that handy on a laptop, but fantastic on a 27" iMac.
posted by puffmoike at 9:17 AM on May 21, 2010

^ Follow up...

Having just looked at one of the previous links the windows resizing and positioning functionality I have created, and indeed thehotkeys I use, is almost identical to the aforelinked SizeUp
posted by puffmoike at 9:21 AM on May 21, 2010

would colour inversion via cmd-opt-ctrl-8 also save on battery life?

Actually, on an LCD, the more a pixel is 'on', the more black it is. A white backlight shines through the screen, and the liquid crystals turn on block the light. Turning down the display brightness actually turns down the backlight, which is what really saves your battery. There is one exception to this: some newer screens with LED backlights can turn down the LEDs in dark areas, but, for example, peeet's 2006 MacBook doesn't have an LED backlight.
posted by zsazsa at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Command-D while hovering over a word in Safari pops up a window with the dictionary definition. Actually, it works in any Cocoa application - Mail, Textedit, etc
posted by Anthrobug at 2:37 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Opps- Make that Command-Ctrl-D to pop up a definition window
posted by Anthrobug at 2:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shortcuts make me productive, but text-based commands get things done.

I use Quicksilver to launch applications and scripts, SizeUp to position and scale windows. I use the command line for lots of tasks like batch image resizing (e.g. Sips)

Bonus: Alt+Command+D hides your dock.
posted by wolfr at 3:20 AM on May 22, 2010

I'm going to hijack your question and hopefully some mac wizard will see this and have the answer.

I would really like to be able to tab to a drop down list, activate the list and scroll through it without using my mouse/trackpad. When filling in a form, you can tab to everything but the damn drop down lists -- always have to click it with my mouse. Not so on Windows. Is there a cure for this?
posted by amanda at 4:50 PM on May 22, 2010

amanda, are you using Safari or Firefox?

Safari does support tabbing to drop down lists and you can navigate them by typing the first few letters of words. option+tab will navigate to checkboxes and links.

If you're using Firefox you can enable "Full keyboard access" under Keyboard within the System Preferences. Which will allow you to tab between all buttons and elements within Firefox.

This site breaks it down in more detail.
posted by the biscuit man at 8:13 PM on May 22, 2010

Keyboard shortcuts are also represented by symbols in the menus, and OS X will update them live when you press new keys such as option, or control. By opening menus such as File and Edit, then pressing various combinations of command, option, control, and shift, you can learn many semi-hidden ones quickly.

They're so familiar, most of us don't even see them anymore
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:49 PM on May 22, 2010

Another vote for using CMD-h to hide the active windows, absolutely cannot live without.
CMD-shift-4 is by far the better screen shot combination, allowing you to crop before you shoot.
CMD-L in most browsers jumps your cursor in the URL box.
CMD-OPT-Escape brings up a force quit applications box
posted by MacChimpman at 6:04 AM on May 23, 2010

Thanks, Biscuit Man! The site you linked got me where I needed to go. My life will never be the same! ;)

I'll drop a tip here too for Firefox (may work for other browsers) when you have multiple tabs open command+1 quick switches to the first tab, command+2 switches to the second (left to right) and so on. If you have a dozen tabs open, this becomes a little difficult but great for five or so tabs. I'm always quick-switching between tabs to send people links with excerpts and this is a total time-saver.
posted by amanda at 10:32 AM on May 23, 2010

Best answer: Oh! And Command+Shift+T opens up the last tab that you accidentally closed. I use this once a day, minimum.
posted by amanda at 10:33 AM on May 23, 2010

Don't forget cmd-H's little, brother, cmd-opt-H, that hides all applications except the current one.
posted by fleacircus at 8:41 AM on June 19, 2010

Best answer: In an open/save dialog, Command-D will change the working directory to the Desktop. This is great if you use your desktop as a home for files you're currently working with.

Command-Option-Shift-V is another favorite of mine. It's Paste-and-Match-Style. Useful in email and wordprocessing, etc. when you copy text from somewhere else (say a web page) and the rich styling comes along for the ride. This strips the style out on paste, so that it matches your document style at the insertion point.

Others have advised that you create custom keyboard shortcuts using the Keyboard System Preference pane. Keep in mind that you can also modify existing shortcuts... For example, I used to accidentally quit Safari by hitting Command-Q when I meant to Command-Tab. I added a Control to Safari's Quit keystroke, to protect me from my own folly.
posted by mumkin at 9:26 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all! Tons of great tips here.
posted by Herschel at 3:41 PM on June 22, 2010

If you go into your System Preferences, and select the Universal Access preferences, and then click "Zoom" to the "on" position, you can then use command-shift-plus to zoom in on the screen as you're viewing it, and command-shift-minus to move back toward full size. There are settings there you can use to tweak how this performs. It's a feature I use often.
posted by hippybear at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2010

Gads, did I screw that up, or what?

it's command-option-equals and command-option-dash. The key-combos are listed on the preference pane. Sorry!
posted by hippybear at 11:34 AM on June 25, 2010

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