20 Handy Apple OS X Keyboard Shortcuts

The contents of this article may be out of date. It has been archived and will no longer be updated, comments are closed and the page is provided for reference purposes only.

Keyboard shortcuts can be a real timesaver, if you get to know a few for common tasks you can cut hours off your working week. The keyboard shortcuts are not application specific and should work in virtually any program running on OSX.

The apple keyboard has some keys that do not appear on PC keyboards and so if you are new to the Mac the following keys are referred to below: the Command key also know as the apple key (in recent years the apple logo has been removed from new keyboards), the Option/Alt key, the Control key labeled “ctrl” on a British keyboards, the Shift key, the Tab key and the Delete key.

Cut, Copy & Paste

Using the keys to cut -X, copy -C and paste -V is much quicker if you master the keyboard shortcuts. When moving text to another application Paste and Match Style can be useful using this key combination ---V.


In almost all OS X (10.5 and above) programs if you are unsure of the meaning of a word, you can hold down --D while hovering the cursor over it. This then brings up the OSX dictionary definition of the word.

Jump Words

When working with text, holding down the key and pressing an arrow key will leap one word in that direction. Holding down will jump right to the start or end. Holding down Shift will select the range you’ve just leapt over.

Auto Complete Word

Much in the same way predictive test works on the iPhone in OS X if you start typing a word then press Esc (or F5) a suggested word list will appear.


The British keyboard is missing a hash symbol (#), an American keyboard the hash symbol is found above the 3 key where a British keyboard has a £ symbol. On a British keyboard -3 will produce a hash symbol. This is probably one of my most used shortcuts when I am writing CSS the hash symbol is used to apply styles by ID.

Application Switcher

The application switcher allows you to switch focus to any already open application. - opens the menu and will switch to the last used program. Pressing - and continuing to hold will scroll open applications, the highlighted application will then gain focus. You can also quite the highlighted application by pressing Q while using the application switcher or pressing H to hide the application.


To move selected items to the trash -. To empty the trash --, to empty the trash without the warning dialog ---.

Force Quit

If an application has stopped responding and all you get is the spinning beach ball you need to force quit the application. To bring up the force quit box use --Esc or to force quit the foremost application without confirmation hold ---Esc for about 4 seconds.

Close Window

-W. This shortcut will close the current window/document without quitting the application. This is also useful in Safari where it closes an individual tab.


To take a shot of a specific window/object --4, then press Spacebar, the cursor will become a camera then click on the window/object. The screenshot is saved to the desktop as a PNG file in 10.4 and later or a PDF in 10.3 or earlier. To capture the entire screen use --3. To take a screenshot of a selected area --4 and drag over the desired area. To copy the screenshot to the clipboard instead of making a file hold with the above keystrokes.


In finder as well as Safari (and most other browsers) pressing -[ will take you back to the previous page, while -] will take for forward, in the same way as the arrow buttons in the toolbar work.

Select All

Pressing -A in any application will select all irrespective of whether you have a full page of text, images in iPhoto or all the files and folders in a finder window.

Get Info

Opening Get Info gives you a files information like its size, date created, location, name and file permissions. Use -I to open Get Info for a single file. Adding the key brings up a single Get Info window but now it will automatically update when you click on a different file or folder or select multiple files or folders.


Searching using Spotlight can be far quicker than navigating the file system. -Space opens the Spotlight search box, within Spotlight, -Return opens the top hit, and and a mouse-click reveals the item in finder. Another time saving tip is you can also do simple calculations using the finder search box.


The spacebar has many uses. If you are in finder, pressing it when you have an item selected will bring up QucikView. If you’re in an application and something is selected (with a ‘blue halo’), pressing the spacebar does the same as a mouse click.


If you’re in the middle of an operation (whether you’re copying over some files or you’re in an open or save dialog) and you change your mind, you can stop the proceeding easily. By simply pressing -. (period) you will put a stop to the operation.


If something goes wrong try -Z this will undo whatever you have just done. In some applications redo will put things back with -Y as the shortcut.

Hide Application

If you press -H OSX will instantly hide all the windows of the application your working with. If you hold down Alt as well, it will hide all the applications except the one your working on.


To shutdown immediately with no confirmation ---Eject does the trick. To sleep --Eject or to bring up the shutdown dialog simply -Eject.

Startup Options

If you have Windows boot camp installed holding the key during startup lets you choose the startup disk before booting. To startup from CD hold down C during startup. To startup in FireWire target disk mode hold down T during startup.

This article was posted on 3 July 2009 in Apple, Misc

That's the end of this article. I hope you found it useful. If you're enjoyed this article why don't you have a look around the archives, where you can find some more tutorials, tips and general ramblings.