As long as we’ve had the Mac (or really, the Personal Computer), we’ve had keyboard shortcuts. The Mouse came along and made the GUI way easier to use. But if you want to fly through an app and get things done quickly, there’s nothing quite like a keyboard shortcut.
Our Top 15 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts
The Mac is filled with great keyboard shortcuts. Right from selecting and manipulating text to interacting with the UI without touching the mouse. Check out our recommended keyboard shortcuts for macOS below.
The Modifier Keys
If you’ve just moved from a Windows PC, it will take you some time to get used to the new keyboard layout on the Mac. While the QWERTY format is the same, there are some stark differences when it comes to modifier keys.
The equivalent of Control in Mac is the Command key. There is a Control key but it’s used as a tertiary modifier in shortcuts and in specific cases. What you’ll end up using often is the Option key, the equivalent of the Alt key in Windows. Also, there’s no Backspace key on the Mac. The Delete key functions as the Backspace key.
1. Window Management
When you have a window open, press Cmd + M to quickly minimize the window. Click on the app icon from the Dock to open the window again.
To close a window, use the Command + W shortcut. Let’s say you’ve got multiple windows open from the same app. It’s common to end up with 5 Finder windows. The Option + Command + W shortcut will instantly close all windows from the current app.
To flip between all windows in the current application, use the Command + Tilde (~) keyboard shortcut.
2. App Switching Shortcuts
To switch between different tabs, use the Command + Tab shortcut. This will bring up the app switcher. Now, while holding the Command key, press the Tab key again to move to the next app in the list. If you want to move to the previous app, use Command + Shift + Tab.
3. Command-Option-Esc to Force Quit
To quit an app, use the Command + Q shortcut. If an app is stuck, you’ll want to open the Force Quit menu. If your mouse isn’t responding, use the keyboard shortcut Command + Option + Escape to bring up the Force Quit menu.
4. Option Click Menu Bar Icons
Try clicking one of Mac’s menu bar utilities while holding the Option button. This will give you a different drop-down menu. For example, in the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth section, you’ll find new hidden information.
5. Bring up Spotlight
Spotlight search is one of the best things about using a Mac. You can use it to launch apps, open files, look up definitions, start a search and so much more. How to get to Spotlight Search? Just press Command + Space.
When you’re in Spotlight search and you’ve found the file you’re looking for, use the Command + Enter shortcut to open the file in Finder. This will show you the folder where it’s stored.
6. Tab Management in Browsers
When you’re in a browser like Chrome or Safari (or any app that supports tabs), use the Command + T shortcut to quickly create a new tab.
Then you can use keyboard shortcuts to move between all open tabs. For Chrome, use Command + Option + Left/Right arrow. In Safari, you’ll have to use the Control + Tab shortcut to switch to the next tab and Control + Shift + Tab to go to the previous tab. You can also use the Shift + Command + [/] to switch between tabs.
You can use Command + 1-9 to directly jump to any tab between the first and the 9th one. If you’re using pinned tabs, this is a great way to navigate between them.
7. Cut, Copy, Paste
Here are the classic cut, copy and paste shortcuts: Command + X, Command + C, Command + V. To undo something, use the Command + Z shortcut. To Redo something, press the Command + Shift + Z combination.
8. Find Everywhere
No matter in which app you are, just use the Command + F keyboard shortcut to instantly bring up the Search field. This will work when you’re in Finder, Safari, Notes app and more.
9. Screenshot Shortcuts
Mac’s built-in tools for taking screenshots are pretty good. Command + Shift + 3 will take a screenshot of the entire screen and will automatically save the image to the Desktop. Command + Shift + 4 option will turn your cursor into a crosshair. You can then highlight the specific part of the image that you want to screenshot.
10. Finder Shortcuts
When you’re in the Finder, you can use some keyboard shortcuts to change the view and to jump between frequently used folders like Downloads and Documents.
- Command + Option + S: Show or hide sidebar
- Command + I: Get Info
- Command + 1-4: Switch between icon, list, column and cover flow views
- Command + Shift + H: Go to the Home folder
- Command + Shift + L: Go to the Downloads folder
- Command + Shift + O: Go to the Documents folder
Another cool trick. When an item in Finder is highlighted, just press the Spacebar to view a quick preview of the file. This really useful when you’ve got a long list of image files. But it works for most file formats, including text files and PDFs.
11. Text Manipulation Shortcuts
Once you start tying on the Mac keyboard a lot, you won’t want to take your hands off of it. To increase your productivity when you’re typing about, use keyboard shortcuts to move around. This is way faster than using the mouse to do the same.
Here are our favorite text manipulation shortcuts. Pro Tip: this works with the iPad and an external keyboard as well.
- Command + Left: Go to the end of the line
- Command + Right: Go to the beginning of the current line
- Command + Up: Go to the top of the page
- Command + Down: Go to the bottom of the page
- Option + Left/Right: Move cursor one character at a time
- Option + Shift + Left/Right: Select previous/next word
- Shift + Left/Right: Begin text selection on the Left/Right of the cursor, one character at a time
- Shift + Command + Left/Right: Select the entire line, Left/Right of the cursor
- Shift + Command + Up/Down: Select all text in the document (above or below from the cursor)
12. Use Text Replacement to Speed Up Typing
As we’re talking about keyboard shortcuts a productivity, you should know about Mac’s built-in Text Replacement feature. It’s Apple’s brand name for text expansion. This is where you enter a shortcut (a couple of letters) and it automatically expands to a long string of text. For example, “@email” and expand to your email address. This is a great way to quickly expand snippets of text you used often during your day.
Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Text and click the + button. Then enter the shortcut in the Replace field and the phrase in the With field.
13. Mail Shortcuts
If you use the default Mail app, use the following keyboard shortcuts to fly through the app.
- Command + N: New message
- Command + Shift + F: Forward message
- Command + R: Reply
- Command + 1: Go to Inbox
- Command + E: Search using the selected text
- Command + Shift + U: Mark as read/unread
- Command + Shift + J: Mark as junk mail
Use the Command + Delete keyboard shortcut to send any selected file to the Trash. When you’re in the Trash folder, use the Command + Shift + Delete shortcut to instantly empty the Trash.
Every time you delete a file, the Mac doesn’t instantly delete it. In fact, it’s sitting in the Trash folder and is still taking up space on your Mac. If you don’t want to keep emptying the Trash every couple of days, you can use a keyboard shortcut to permanently delete files. Be careful, recovering files deleted this way is not as simple as placing them back from the Trash folder.
After selecting the file, use the Option + Command + Delete keyboard shortcut. From the popup menu, confirm and the item will be deleted permanently.
The following keyboard screenshots don’t really fit into any category but are really useful for specific actions.
- Command + Option + A: You might know that the Command + A shortcut selects all files. But the Command + Option + A shortcuts quickly deselects everything.
- Command + D: This shortcut works like the Delete key on Windows. It will delete the character in front of the cursor ( the Delete key on the Mac does the opposite).
- Command + ; (Semicolon): The Mac has a great spell check tool built-in that works with most text-based apps. Use this shortcut to bring up the tool. Hit the Semicolon button again to switch to the next misspelled word.
- Command + Shift + V: This shortcut works in browsers and it lets you paste text and match the current styling.
Your Favorite Mac Keyboard Shortcuts
What are some of your favorite keyboard shortcuts and apps to use on the Mac? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below.