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) for complex tasks, knowing essential shortcuts will speed up every repetitive action related to the basic Mac functionality.

Learning shortcuts takes time and practice; it’s only by using them 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. Before we start with a list, let’s take a look at all the modifier keys:

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

Ctrl = Control key, usually labelled “ctrl”

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

Shift = ⇧

Tab = ⇥

Now, let’s dive right in.

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-d
  • Cmd-Shift-H to your user folder
    cmd-shift-h
  • Cmd-Shift-A to Applications
    cmd-shift-a
  • Cmd-Shift-I to iCloud Drive
    cmd-shift-i
  • Cmd-Shift-U to Utilities
    cmd-shift-u

Change the Finder view

In a Finder window, use the following shortcuts to change the view for all the items in a folder:

  • Cmd-1 to display Icons
    cmd-1
  • Cmd-2 for List
    cmd-2
  • Cmd-3 for Columns
    cmd-3
  • Cmd-4 for Cover Flow
    cmd-4

Navigate folders in the Finder

Going through folders in the Finder is especially easy with:

  • Cmd-[ to move left
  • Cmd-] to move right

Add a selected item to a Finder window sidebar.

Select the item you’d like to add and press Cmd-Option-S.

View a Quick Look slideshow of selected files

First Shift- or Cmd-click the files you want to preview and then press Cmd-Option-Y to see the slideshow.

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.

Invoke Spotlight from anywhere

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

Quickly open Accessibility options

Your Mac has a number of features, such as the ability to invert colors on the screen, to help those who have additional needs when it comes to using a computer. To access them quickly, press Cmd-Option-F5.

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.

Open any application’s Preferences

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

Open the Get Info window

Get Info is available for every file and folder on your Mac and provides information such as the size of the file and the application that will be used by default. To open this window, click on the file or folder and press Cmd-I.

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.

Add a Finder item to the Dock

Select the item then press Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-T.

Invoke AirDrop

AirDrop is a great tool for transferring files quickly between Macs or between a Mac and an iOS device. To get to it right away, press Cmd-Shift-R in the Finder.

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.

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.

Find misspelled words in a document

Press Cmd-semicolon to have misspelled words highlighted.

Select all

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

Paste in the correct style

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

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.

You can also copy and paste a screenshot in one move. If you add the Ctrl key to the shortcuts above, it will paste the screenshot to the clipboard rather than saving it. For example, Ctrl-Cmd-Shift-3 will take a screenshot of the whole screen and paste it to the clipboard. To paste it into your document, just press Cmd-V.

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.

Zoom into a web page

In Safari, Firefox, or Chrome, you can make the contents of a web page larger or smaller using Cmd and either the + or - keys, depending on whether you want to zoom in or out. This also works in some other apps.

Zoom in anywhere

To make the universal zoom work, you’ll need to go to System Preferences, then click the Accessibility pane and choose the Zoom option, checking all the boxes. After that, you can press Cmd-Option-Plus to zoom in anywhere. Cmd-Option-Minus will zoom out in stages. To return to 100%, press Cmd-Option-8.

Open Display Preferences

Press Option-F2 to show the Display Preferences window.

Open Sound Preferences

Press Option-F12 to show Sound Preferences.

Adjust the volume in small increments

Press Option-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.

Put your Mac to sleep

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

Shut down your Mac

To quit open programs and shut down your Mac without 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.

Restart your Mac

If you want to restart your Mac, hit Ctrl-Cmd-Power (or Ctrl-Cmd/Eject). This will 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.

Sign up to Setapp and try them for free.

Try for free