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Lesson 8: Keyboard Shortcuts in macOS

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What are keyboard shortcuts?

Keyboard shortcuts are keys or a combination of keys you can press on your keyboard to perform a variety of tasks. Using keyboard shortcuts is often faster than using a mouse because you can keep both hands on the keyboard. Keyboard shortcuts are also universal, which means you can use many of the same shortcuts in a variety of applications. For example, you can use the same shortcut to copy and paste text in a word processor and in a web browser.


Using shortcuts

Many keyboard shortcuts require you to press two or more keys in a specific order. For example, to perform the shortcut Command+X, you would press and hold the Command key, press the X key, then release.

Stock photo of person performing keyboard shortcuts

You'll use the Command, Option, and Control keys to perform most keyboard shortcuts. You'll find these keys near the bottom-left corner of your keyboard.

Photo of left side of Mac keyboard

If you are not using a Mac keyboard, you may not have the Command or Option keys. This means you'll need to experiment with key combinations to perform some keyboard shortcuts.

Working with text

These keyboard shortcuts are useful when working with text in word processors, email applications, and more. They can help you perform commonly repeated tasks, like copying and pasting text.

  • Command+X: Cut the selected text.
  • Command+C: Copy the selected text.
  • Command+V: Paste the copied or cut text.
  • Command+A: Select all of the text on the page or in the active window.
    screenshot of using the Command+A shortcut to Select All text
  • Command+B: Bold the selected text.
  • Command+I: Italicize the selected text.
  • Command+U: Underline the selected text.

Working with files and applications

You can use keyboard shortcuts to open, close, and switch applications. When working with a file, such as a Microsoft Word document, shortcuts can be used to create new files, find words, and print.

  • Option+Command+Esc: Force an unresponsive or frozen program to quit. This shortcut opens the Force Quit Applications dialog box. You can then select an application and click Force Quit to quit it.
    screenshot of the Force Quit menu
  • Command+Delete: Send a selected file to the Trash.
  • Enter: Open a selected application or file.
  • Space: Preview the selected file.
  • Command+N: Create a new file.
  • Command+O: Open an existing file.
  • Command+S: Save the current file.
  • Command+Z: Undo the previous action. If you want to redo the action, press Command+Y (or Command+Shift+Z in some applications).

Internet shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can also be used to navigate your web browser. Many of the text shortcuts above are also useful online, including the shortcuts for selecting, copying, and pasting text into your web browser's address bar. Note that some of these shortcuts may work a bit differently depending on the web browser you're using.

  • Command+N: Open a new browser window.
  • Command+T: Open a new browser tab.
    screenshot of a new tab
  • Command+D: Bookmark the current page.
  • Command+B: View bookmarks.
  • Command+J: View recently downloaded files.

Finding more keyboard shortcuts

In many applications, you'll find keyboard shortcuts next to menu items.

screenshot of various shortcuts available in a File menu

When you look for shortcuts this way, you'll notice that macOS uses a few different symbols to indicate different keys on your keyboard, including:

  • Command key
  • Shift key
  • Option key
  • Control key
  • fn Function key

If you want to perform the shortcut ⌥ ⌘ P, press Option+Command+P on your keyboard. ⇧ ⌘ S would be Shift+Command+S, and so on.

If you want to learn even more keyboard shortcuts, check out this lesson from our Tech Savvy Tips and Tricks tutorial.

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