Best keyboard shortcuts for the Mac

Using keyboard shortcuts instead of reaching for your mouse or trackpad and hunting through menus is a great way to save time and get work done efficiently.

Even though for complex task you could use a keyboard assistant like Lacona — which will semantically understand any operation you need to perform — knowing essential shortcuts will speed up every repetitive action relating to the basic Mac functionality.

Learning them, however, takes time and practice; it’s only by using shortcuts repeatedly that you develop a habit. But then you start really saving time and boosting productivity, to the point where you won’t know how you’ve lived without them.

Top time-saving Mac keyboard shortcuts everyone should know

To help you, we’ve collected the best keyboard shortcuts for the Mac — those that will save you the most time every day. Remember: learn them and practice them.

We’ve avoided the obvious shortcuts, the ones that all casual Mac users will know, like copy, paste, and cut. But first, let’s take a look at all the modifier keys:

Cmd = Command key (the one either side of the spacebar that looks like this: ⌘)

Ctrl = Control key, usually labelled “ctrl”

Alt = old-time Mac users would call this “option” and looks like this: ⌥

Shift = ⇧

Tab = ⇥

1. Navigate quickly to a folder in Finder

When you’re in Finder, there are a number of shortcuts you can use to go directly to a folder. 

  • Cmd-Shift-D goes to Desktop; 
  • Cmd-Shift-H to your user folder; 
  • Cmd-Shift-A to Applications; 
  • Cmd-Shift-I to iCloud Drive; 
  • Cmd-Shift-U to Utilities.

cmd-shift-u to open Utilities folder

2. Find anything

Use Cmd-F to search for something. In most applications, including word processors and web browsers, it’s used to search for bits of text on the page you’re on. Cmd-F in Finder opens a new Finder search window, with the cursor already in the search box.

3. Switch applications quickly

Press Cmd-Tab and keep holding Cmd to pull up the macOS application switcher. Press Tab again to highlight the next app and let go when you reach the app you want to switch to. Pressing Cmd-Tab and letting go of both immediately switches to the next app without further interaction.

4. Quickly open any application’s Preferences

Press Cmd-comma to open any application’s Preferences window.

5. Show or hide the Dock

Press Cmd-Alt-D to show or hide the Dock in any application. Note: this doesn’t work when applications are in full-screen mode.

6. Invoke Spotlight from anywhere

Press Cmd-Space from anywhere to pull up Spotlight’s search bar.

7. Paste in the correct style

While Cmd-V will paste whatever is on the clipboard at the cursor, it does so in the style of the document from where it was copied. To paste text in the style of the document you’re pasting into, press Cmd-Alt-Shift-V.

8. Adjust the volume in small increments

Press Alt-Shift-Volume Key to move the volume of your Mac’s audio up or down by smaller increments than just using the volume key alone.

9. Undo

This one is a huge timesaver and can get you out of trouble, depending on the app you use it in. Press Cmd-Z to undo your most recent action. In apps that allow multiple undos, press it again to move back another step and so on. To redo something you’ve undone, it’s either Cmd-Shift-Z or Cmd-Y, depending on the app.

10. Open a new tab in Safari (or any other web browser)

Press Cmd-T to open a new tab. If you close a tab by accident, Cmd-Shift-T will re-open it.

11. Select all

To select everything in a document, press Cmd-A.

12. Navigate text

Press Alt-Right Arrow to jump a word or Cmd-Right Arrow to jump to the end of a line. Alt-Left Arrow and Cmd-Left Arrow jump backwards a word and a line, respectively. To select text as you jump, hold down the Shift key.

13. Take a screenshot

Press Cmd-Shift-3 to screenshot the whole screen. To grab a selection, press Cmd-Shift-4 and drag over the part of the screen you want to grab. To take a shot of a single window, press Cmd-Shift-4 then press Space and place the camera icon over the window you want to grab and click on it.

14. Put your Mac to sleep

Hit Option-Cmd-Power (or Ctrl-Option-Cmd-Eject) and your Mac will go to sleep, gently and effortlessly.

15. Shut down your Mac

To quit open programs and shut down your Mac without you needing to hit a confirmation button, press Ctrl-Option-Cmd-Power (or Ctrl-Option-Cmd-Eject). This will simply shut down your Mac safely and securely.

16. Restart your Mac

If you want to restart your Mac, hit Control-Command-Power (or Control-Command/Eject. This will quick reboot your Mac.

Keep on learning

Presented above are introductory shortcuts, just one level above the ones everyone is used to. Once you learn them and use them daily, you’ll notice how your workflow suddenly starts to speed up. Soon enough, it would be time to step up you game with a collection of intermediate time savers. But more on this later.