Keyboard shortcuts are a crucial way to do almost anything on your computer faster, whether it’s browsing the web, working with text, or just getting around your desktop. Among its other useful features, VLC is packed with keyboard shortcuts.

These are particularly useful when you have VLC in full-screen mode. Perhaps you’re using VLC to play videos at a distance — you can turn a wireless keyboard into a makeshift remote control.

Essential Playback Shortcuts

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Here are the most common — and most useful — VLC keyboard shortcuts you need to know. Bear in mind that these are customizable, so if they don’t seem to work, you’ve probably changed the keyboard shortcut settings on your own system.

Space: Play/Pause. This is the easiest way to pause a video while it’s playing, or to resume a video that’s paused. This shortcut also works in many other video players — for example, on YouTube.

F: Toggle full-screen mode. If VLC is in full-screen mode, you can press F again or just press Esc to go back to windowed mode. You can also double-click the VLC playback window to enter or leave full-screen mode.

N: Next track in playlist

P: Previous track in playlist

Ctrl + Up or Down arrow: Increase or decrease volume. This will change VLC’s volume slider, not the system-wide volume. You can also increase or decrease the volume by rolling your mouse’s scroll wheel up or down.

M: Mute.

T: Displays the time remaining in the media file and the time elapsed. This information will only appear for a second or two. When watching a video in full screen mode, it’s a quick way to see how much longer you have left in the video.

Skip Ahead or Back

VLC has several different key combinations that let you “jump” forward or back in the file without needing to use your mouse cursor. Use these keys to effectively rewind or fast forward, whether you need to hear something again or skip ahead.

Shift + Left or Right arrow: Jump 3 seconds back or forward

Alt + Left or Right arrow: Jump 10 seconds back or forward

Ctrl + Left or Right arrow: Jump 1 minute back or forward

Ctrl + Alt + Left or Right arrow: Jump 5 minute back or forward

Ctrl + T : Go to a specific time in the file. You can type the time in with your number keys and press Enter to go there without using the mouse.

Control Playback Speed

VLC also offers variable playback speed, so you can make an audio or video play back slower or faster. This can be convenient when you’re trying to get through a lecture, podcast, or audiobook and want to speed things up.

[ or : Decrease playback speed. [ decreases it by less, and decreases it by more.

] : Increase playback speed

= : Return to the default playback speed

Choose Subtitles and Audio Tracks

Some video files have accompanying subtitles, and some have multiple different audio tracks — for example, different languages or commentary tracks. You don’t have to bring up VLC’s menu to switch between these.

V: Toggles subtitles on or off

B: Cycle between available audio tracks. You’ll see the name of the audio track appear as an overlay when you switch to it.

Customize Your Hotkeys

All of these hotkeys are fully customizable. To customize your hotkeys, click Tools > Preferences in VLC. Select the Hotkeys icon in the Simple preferences view. You can also find these options under Interface > Hotkeys settings in the All preferences view. The All view has a few more options — for example, it lets you change the amount of seconds the “Jump ahead” and “Jump back” key combinations skip back or forward. Double-click a hotkey field to set a new hotkey.

You’ll find lots of options here, including a “Boss key” that isn’t set by default. Set your own boss key and you can make VLC automatically hide itself in the system tray with a single key press. “Boss keys” are so-named because you press them when your boss comes around to check on you so you can pretend you’re actually working.

There’s also an option to control what the mouse wheel does — if the default volume control option doesn’t work for you, you can have the mouse wheel skip back or ahead in the current media file, or tell VLC to ignore the mouse wheel if you just find yourself bumping it accidentally.

Set Global Hotkeys

All the hotkeys here only work while the VLC window is in focus. However, VLC also has the ability to create “global hotkeys” that work no matter what program you have visible. These are most useful if you’re using VLC as a background music or audio player — you can set Play/Pause, Next Track, and Previous Track keys to control VLC’s playback while using other applications. But any of VLC’s shortcut key actions can become global hotkeys.

Double-click the Global hotkey field to the right of any hotkey action to set a new global hotkey. If your keyboard has media keys for actions like Play/Pause, they make great global hotkeys.

These aren’t all of VLC’s hotkeys. You’ll find a complete list in its preferences pane, and you can see hotkeys associated with many of the actions just by opening VLC’s Media, Tools, or View menus. Whatever you want to do with VLC, you can probably do it with a keyboard shortcut.

Image Credit: Digital Nuisance on Flickr

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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