Sure, I know how to reveal my Mac’s desktop with a simple swipe on my touchpad (courtesy of the Mac’s “Hot Corners” feature). But there’s something undeniably satisfying about doing the same thing by tapping a single key.
Indeed, you can skip the mouse and use your keyboard to create new Finder folders, start a Spotlight search, snap a screenshot, log out of your Mac, or toss a file into the trash.
Read on for 20 (or, actually, several more than 20) of my favorites Mac keyboard shortcuts, starting with…
1. COMMAND + TAB
Just like on a Windows PC, this keyboard command calls up a horizontal bar of icons representing all your running applications; hold the Command key and keep hitting Tab until the cursor lands on the app you want to use, then release.
2. SHIFT + COMMAND + N
Instantly creates a new folder on your Mac desktop, or in the active Finder window.
3. COMMAND + ARROW KEY (within a document)
Miss the “end” key on your old Windows PC? Tap Command + right-arrow to zip to the end of the current line.
You can also press Command + left-arrow to send the cursor to the beginning of a line, Command + up-arrow to go to the very beginning of a document, or Command + down-arrow to zoom to the very end.
4. COMMAND + SHIFT + ?
Opens the Mac “Help” form, either for the Mac OS X “Finder” or the active application; just start typing to search for help.
5. FN + DELETE
Here’s another shortcut for Windows aficionados. On a Mac, the “Delete” key behaves more like a backspace key, deleting the characters behind the cursor. But what if you want to delete characters in front of the cursor, as the “Delete” key does on many Windows keyboards? Fn + Delete (or CONTROL + D) is the answer.
6. SPACEBAR (or COMMAND + Y)
Activates the Mac’s powerful “Quick Look” feature for the selected document—anything from a PDF or Word file to an image or an MP3.
7. OPTION + COMMAND + Y
Select a group of files, then use this keyboard command to jump to Quick Look’s “slideshow” mode—perfect for launching an impromptu slideshow of, say, a batch of images on your desktop.
8. SHIFT + COMMAND + U
Takes you straight to your Mac’s Utilities folder, where you’ll find such tools as Disk Utility (good for managing, repairing, and erasing drives mounted on the desktop), Grab (for taking screenshots), and Keychain Access (which stores the usernames and passwords you’ve saved in Safari).
9. COMMAND + SPACE
Opens the Spotlight search form in the top-right corner of the screen; start typing, and your search results will appear within seconds.
10. OPTION + COMMAND + SPACE
Opens the full-on Spotlight search window, good for performing a more thorough search of your Mac, complete with filters such as “Created date is within last 7 days.”
11. OPTION + COMMAND + EJECT
Puts your Mac straight to sleep, no Apple menu needed.
12. OPTION + SHIFT + COMMAND + Q
Need to log out of your Mac in a hurry? Then here you go; just keep in mind that this keyboard combo will log you out immediately, without waiting for confirmation.
13. OPTION + COMMAND + D
Press this keyboard shortcut once to hide your Mac’s desktop dock, then press the keys again to make it reappear.
Want to sneak a peek at the desktop? Press this key, and all your open windows will fly off the screen, revealing the bare desktop; press it again, and all the windows will zip back into place.
15. COMMAND + CONTROL + D
Displays a definition of the selected word. (Note: works best in Apple’s Safari web browser, less so in other applications.)
16. COMMAND + DELETE
Sends the selected file directly to the Mac’s trash can.
17. COMMAND + SHIFT + DELETE
Empties the trash once you click “OK” in the confirmation window. Want to dump the trash immediately, no confirmation needed? Then try Command + Shift + Option + Delete.
18. COMMAND + OPTION + PLUS (or MINUS)
Zooms in on (or out of) the entire Mac display.
19. SHIFT + COMMAND + 3
Takes a screenshot, then saves the image file to your Mac’s desktop. You can also take a screenshot of just a selected area by pressing SHIFT + COMMAND + 4.
20. CONTROL + SHIFT + COMMAND + 3
Takes a screenshot, again, but copies it to your clipboard rather than saving it to your desktop. Another option: copy a screenshot of the selected area to the clipboard (CONTROL + SHIFT + COMMAND + 4).
- Wish you could customize and/or create your own Mac keyboard shortcuts? Well, you can; here’s how.
- Having trouble wrapping your fingers around the longer keyboard shortcuts? If so, give “sticky keys” a try.
- Annoyed that you must press the “Fn” key while tapping a function key? Actually, you don’t necessarily have to.
Got more Mac keyboard shortcuts you’d like to share? Post ’em below!
Note: This updated and expanded tip was first published in January 2012.