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20 of the Best Mac Keyboard Shortcuts to Encourage Better Productivity

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If you spend most of your 8-hour workday on a computer, you could save as much as 8 days every year by using keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse. That’s right, you’re probably wasting somewhere around 64 hours every year by moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse and back.

How much is 8 days’ of your time worth? I suspect it’s a lot more than the time you’ll need to learn some helpful keyboard shortcuts. Let’s look at 20 of the best Mac keyboard shortcuts to help you work more efficiently.

A Few Keys You Need to Know

Keyboard shortcuts work by using modifier keys with other keys on the keyboard. The modifier keys on a Mac keyboard are Command (⌘), Option (⌥), Shift (⇧), and Control (⌃).

Activate the keyboard shortcuts by holding the modifier key and pressing the other key. In some cases, you’ll need to hold two modifier keys at once.

1. Cut, Copy, and Paste

Most people use the cut, copy, and paste functions all day long. Instead of mousing up to the Edit menu or right-clicking to access the commands, use the following shortcuts:

Command-X: Cut
Command-C: Copy
Command-V: Paste

2. Undo and Redo

Undo is another function most people use throughout the day. Not as many people are aware of the redo function, which is like an “undo undo”. These functions use the following keys:

Command-Z: Undo
Command-shift-Z: Redo

3. Close Windows

It’s easy to end up with several windows open in an app if you’re working with more than one document. You can close one or all of them with these shortcuts:

Command-W: Close active window
Command-Option-W: Close all windows for active app

4. Minimize Windows

If you want to get rid of windows without closing them, you can minimize them to the Dock with the following keys:

Command-M: Minimize the active window
Command-Option-M: Minimize all windows for the active app

5. Open Preferences

If you want to open the preferences for the active app to make a change to its settings, use the Command-, shortcut instead of mousing up to the Apple menu in the top left.

6. Searching in Text

If you want to find a certain word or phrase in a text document, there are a couple of shortcuts that will help:

Command-F: Find
Command-G: Find the next instance once you start the search
Command-shift-G: Find the previous instance

7. Show Desktop or App

If you’ve got a bunch of windows open it can make it hard to get back to your Desktop. If you need to access a file on the Desktop, hold the Command and Option keys and click anywhere on the desktop to hide all windows.

Or if you want to hide all windows except for a particular app, hold the same keys and click on one of that app’s windows.

8. Spotlight Search

Spotlight is the built-in search feature in macOS. To activate the search box with the keyboard, press Command-space.

9. Switch Between Running Apps

You can switch between all running apps using the macOS Task Switcher by pressing Command-Tab. Hold Command and keep pressing the Tab key to move between the apps and let go to activate the one that’s highlighted. You can also use the arrow keys to move the selection by pressing Command-Tab and using the left and right arrows keys while holding the Command key.

10. Switch Windows in Active App

If you want to stay in the same app but switch between open windows, use Command-` (the uptick key to the left of the number 1).

11. Emoji and Symbol Picker

To insert an emoji or symbol in your text, you can use the emoji picker by pressing Command-Control-space. This opens a window where you can either click on the one you want or use the arrow keys to move to it then hit return.

12. Lock Your Mac

If you’re walking away from your Mac and want to lock it so nobody else can use it, press Command-Control-Q.

13. Force Quit

If an app ever crashes and won’t let you quit, the Force Quit function will close it. Press Command-Option-Esc to open the Force Quit window with a list of the running apps then use the arrow keys to move to the one you want to close and hit return.

14. Send a File to the Trash

If you want to send a file to the Trash from a Finder window, highlight the file you want to get rid of and press Command-Delete.

15. Take Screenshots

If you want to take a screenshot to save what’s on your Mac’s display, you can use the following shortcuts:

Command-Shift-3: Capture the entire screen
Command-Shift-4: Capture selection

You can find more information about Apple Mac screenshots at https://setapp.com/how-to/screenshot-on-mac.

Browser-Related Keyboard Shortcuts

The following keyboard shortcuts all work in Safari and most other web browsers on the Mac.

16. Go to Address Bar

If you want to search for something or navigate to a URL, press Command-L to go to the browser’s address bar. Whatever’s there will be highlighted and you can start typing immediately.

17. Go Back or Forward

If you want to go back to the last web page you viewed, press Command-left arrow. To move forward again, press Command-right arrow.

18. Switching Between Tabs

If you have several tabs open in your browser, you can switch between them using the following shortcuts:

Command-Shift-[: Move one tab to the left
Command-Shift-]: Move one tab to the right

19. See All Open Tabs

To see thumbnails of all your open tabs on a single page, press Command-Shift-. This shortcut isn’t limited to your web browser. It works in most apps that support tabs.

20. Re-open the Last Closed Tab

Occasionally, you might close a tab by mistake. If this happens, you can re-open the tab using Command-Shift-T. The tab’s history will come back with it so you can move forward and back as if it had never been closed.

The Best Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Are the Ones You’ll Use

These shortcuts are helpful to most Mac users but you don’t need to memorize them all at once. The best Mac keyboard shortcuts are the ones you actually use so pick a few that are most helpful and learn them.

Once they come naturally, pick a few more and use them until you don’t have to think about it. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to saving those 8 days every year.

Did you find this post helpful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more interesting articles.