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20 OS X Keyboard Shortcuts You Might Not Know

Mastering the keyboard will not only increase your navigation speed but it can also help with wrist fatigue. Here are some lesser known OS X shortcuts to help you become a keyboard ninja.

After our article last week covering keyboard shortcuts for Windows that you might be unaware of, we had lots of requests for the best OS X shortcuts as well, so we’ve compiled a list of shortcuts you may or may not be aware of.

Image by Daniel Novta.

Global Menu Shortcuts

Fn-Arrow Keys is the equivalent of the Home/End and PageUp/PageDown buttons on a PC; Left-arrow and right-arrow for Home and End, Up-arrow and down-arrow for PageUp and PageDown.

Fn-Delete deletes one character to the right of the cursor, same as forward-delete on a PC.

Ctrl-F2 moves focus to the Menubar. You can use the arrow keys to select menu items and enter to apply them.

Ctrl-F3 moves focus to the Dock. You can navigate around with the arrow keys to select applications and enter to switch to them.

Ctrl-Cmd-D displays a popup dictionary for a selected word. Just hover over the word with the cursor and hit the shortcut. Useful for quick definitions.

Cmd-Q quits the current application.

Opt-Cmd-Escape opens the force quit menu where you can selectively force quit applications.

Holding Shift-Cmd-Opt-Esc for three seconds force quits the frontmost application (Leopard and Snow Leopard only).

Ctrl-Eject opens the shutdown/restart/sleep dialogue.

Ctrl-Shift-Eject puts the display to sleep immediately.

Opt-Cmd-Eject puts the computer to sleep immediately.

Ctrl-Opt-Cmd-Eject shuts down the computer immediately.

Finder Shortcuts

Enter renames selected file.

Cmd-O opens the selected folder in the Finder.

Shift-Cmd-N creates a new folder in the current directory.

Cmd-J opens the View Options panel, where you can tweak settings for how a specific folder appears in the Finder, such as icon size.

Cmd-I opens the Get Info panel for the selected item.

Cmd-Delete sends selected file(s) to Trash.

Shift-Cmd-Delete empties the Trash with confirmation.

Shift-Opt-Cmd-Delete empties the Trash without confirmation.

Alex is a Mac geek and former hackintosher, as well as other stuff.

  • Published 12/12/10

Comments (36)

  1. Ivy

    Useful tips, but ctrl+f2 and ctrl+f3 don’t work for me, instead they bring up brightness control and expose respectively. Also, there’s problem with ctrl+cmd+d.

  2. player2704

    kool and very usefil shortcuts

    Thanks

  3. David

    @Ivy, if you’re on a MB/MBP you need to also use the “Fn” key for those shortcuts.

  4. ReynaldoRiv

    You don’t know how much I’ve missed that Dictionary shortcut ever since I’ve moved to Windows 7.

    Oh and the fact that the Mac had a Japanese dictionary baked-in was also pretty fucking sweet.

  5. Matthew Guay

    Woah, Ctrl-Cmd-D sounds like yet another thing to be jealous of Macs for. Quit tempting me!!!

  6. ninjaontherocks

    ctrl+shift+eject is amazing…. ive always wanted to lock a mac like window’s ‘windows+L’…. thank you again

  7. David

    Best one that I’ve found is CMD+’ which switches between different windows in the same application. So if you have 5 finder windows open, click finder then cmd+’ to cycle through them

  8. Hatryst

    Press F3 for Mac’s best feature.. ;) Expose !!

  9. Bron

    I keep looking for windows-like CTRL-Arrow navigation shortcuts in mac text/code editors but never seem to find the right combination. Basically allows you to move the cursor around, skipping whole words/paragraphs

  10. krishnaraja

    Thanks…your Great…

  11. cohoman

    Thanks for these shortcuts. I’ve been looking for an equivalent to the HOME and END keys, but when I tried your suggestion of Fn+(up arrow) and Fn+(down arrow) nothing happens. If I use Fn+(left arrow) the cursor moves to the first character if the page and Fn+(right arrow) moves to the last character of the page. BTW, I’m using TextWrangler to test this.

  12. Mark

    Ctrl-scroll ball to zoom in/out
    Cmd-space for spotlight find
    space to quick view selected file
    cmd down arrow to open

  13. Steve

    Hey David;

    I’m very interested in this “switching between windows.” It doesn’t seem to work for me. Are you sure your mentioned the correct buttons?

  14. RebateSense

    What would be the best way to open a folder after creation using a keyboard shortcut? Spacebar opens up the Quick View and Return again would allow you to rename the folder.

  15. The Shockwave

    Cmd-Delete! That’s how you delete stuff? I’ve been doing it with the mouse since I had to start using a Mac for work. Still, what the hell is wrong with just being able to use “delete”?

  16. Eric

    @Bron

    Use the option and command keys with the arrows for text navigation. Option right/left moves forwards/backwards word by word. Command right/left moves to the end/beginning of a line. Option up/down moves up or down a paragraph, and Command up/down will jump to the beginning/end of the document. Combine them with the shift key to perform selection of the text you are jumping past.

    @cohoman

    The Fn+arrow keys are indeed Home/End/Pg up/Pg down for left/right/up/down, but each application may interpret them differently. Try them on this page in Safari, for example, to see them in action.

    @Steve

    The ` character is actually the “Grave Accent” character (the same key where the ~ is), not the apostrophe key, which you were probably using. You can cycle forward through windows using the Cmd + ` key, or backwards using Shift+Cmd+ `. Similarly, since I don’t see it mentioned anywhere else here, you can open the Application Switcher using Cmd+tab. If you keep the command key held down you can cycle through these options, and use either the Cmd+` or Shift+Cmd+Tab to cycle backwards.

  17. Dave

    @Steve I think what David meant is the ` key it also has the ~ symbol on it. Directly under the esc key. Try the Cmd and that key in any application. Should work like a charm.

  18. Perry

    Ivy,

    use Fn+ctrl+f2 and Fn+ctrl+f3 respectively

    there is a toggle in the System Preferences that allows function keys to work without requiring Fn, however it’s the way it is by default

    Cheers, Merry Christmas

    Perry

  19. David Ferguson

    @Ivy, as mentioned by David, if it’s not working, press Fn too to get it to work.

    @Ivy, @David The reason you have to press Fn as well has nothing to do with the fact that its a Macbook Pro. Its a keyboard setting. If you go to the Keyboard prefpane, there is an option to use the F1-12 keys as standard function keys. If that is checked, it will work without pressing Fn too. By having it unchecked, it uses those keys based on their function (the image on the key). If its checked, it recognizes it as F2, and not Brightness.

  20. Michael

    @RebatesSense CMD + O

    That will open up whatever file is selected.

  21. GlowingApple

    @Bron,

    Option+Left or Right will move the cursor left or right by one word. Command+Left or Right will move the cursor to the beginning or end of the line. Command+Up or Down will move to the start or even of the text box. Hold down shift also and all of these will select the text instead of just move the cursor.

    @RebateSense,

    Command+O or Command+Down will open the folder/application/document. So hit Command+Shift+N to make a new folder, type in a name, hit enter, hit Command+O to open the newly created folder.

  22. Joe

    Control-tab to change tabs in web browsers. Very useful if you are a heavy tab browser like I am

  23. Dominick Tate

    Hello, I enjoy this post but can I please have the background. I can’t seem to find one but then I saw this and it look awesome. My email is dominick.tate798@gmail.com

  24. Tam

    In most dialogs, you can press Cmd+(first letter) to click that button. e.g. Cmd+D for Don’t Save.

  25. Sujit Kumar Sarker

    This is also not usefully. But no new.

  26. Nathalie

    Can’t seem to get the Dictionary shortcut to work. Thoughts?

  27. Nathalie

    Never mind. Dictionary shortcut just doesn’t work in Firefox.

  28. Name(required)

    cmd + tab cycles between applications which is really useful
    cmd + e ejects devices
    cmd + shift + c makes a finder window go directly to the equivalent of the “C:/” directory so you can naviagte to things quickly
    theres a lot of other quick navigation shortcuts you can find if you look in the go menu in finder

  29. Jimi

    How’s about CMD-Down (Open anything in Finder) and CMD-Up (Nav up in Finder window)? Probably the ones I use most often.

  30. Dr.Palaniraja

    Cmd-O seriously?

  31. Daniel

    Going with those function key – eject shortcuts, command-control-eject restarts the computer immediately.

  32. Radman

    My favorite and the one I use all the time is SHIFT-CMD-4 . This will bring up crosshairs and allow you to select-box a screen area for screen capture. The capture file is dropped right onto the desk top for use.

  33. fireball87

    Press option while closing a finder window to all of them. This works with the gui close button and with the command w shortcut. One of the best shortcuts for me, as I often don’t keep good track of my finder windows and can end up with tons of them open over time. Perhaps not little known, but still pretty important.

  34. Gharibeh

    thank you

  35. Notchegeva

    Many many thanks for these very useful shortcut. I mentally thank you each time I use one of them so I thought I might as well thank you for real!

  36. David

    Nice list of shortcuts…..one of my favorites is Control-Command-I which will get summary info on selected Finder items.

    Pressing the On-Off button is the same as Control-Eject.

    I’m really looking for the shortcut key which will let me see spelling suggestions for typos and select the one I want…..any ideas?

    @ivy Control-F2/F3 work, but you may have to configure the Keyboard control panel. Look for “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys”

    @David fully agree about Control-` (back apostrophe)

    @RebateSense I use “Command-Down Arrow” to open selected files/folders. Command-Up Arrow will open the folder/directory above the current level. Option-Command-Up/Down will also close the current folder while opening the other.

    @eric rock on! very comprehensive. I also love those text navigation commands. But, strangely, today my beginning/end of line (command left/right arrow) aren’t working. not sure why. arrows are fine. Both command keys work with other combos. but not home/end. :(

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