The Most Useful Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are the most useful keyboard shortcuts in Mountain Lion (and all OS X versions, starting with OS X 10.2 Jaguar), plus a selection of trackpad swipes, flicks, taps and pinches.

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Doug Aamoth / TIME.com

In architecting its latest operating system (OS) for Macs — OS X version 10.8, also known as Mountain Lion — Apple liberally mimicked iOS, the operating system that runs the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Many functions and features in Mountain Lion are accessed and controlled by swiping, flicking, tapping and pinching on the surface of a trackpad (or on the top of Apple’s accessory Magic Mouse), as well as by pointing and clicking. But like operating systems of yesteryear, when trackpads and mice were far less integral, Mountain Lion also lets you use a keyboard alone to summon a feature or function.

In fact, Mountain Lion contains so many “keyboard shortcuts” — combinations of key presses that invoke a command — that an Apple webpage lists hundreds of them.

What follows here is our choice of the most useful keyboard shortcuts in Mountain Lion (and all OS X versions, starting with OS X 10.2 Jaguar), plus a selection of our favorite ways to control the Mac OS with trackpad swipes, flicks, taps and pinches.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Shortcuts for navigating among applications, open windows and the desktop

Command Key + Tab – Move forward to the next most recently used application in a list of open applications

Command Key + Q – Quit the frontmost application

Command Key + W – Close the frontmost window

F9 Key – Tile or un-tile all open windows (for quick selection and access)

F10 Key – Tile or un-tile all open windows in the currently active (frontmost) application

F11 Key – Hide or show all open windows

F12 Key – Hide or display Dashboard (Note: Holding the F12 key when the computer is first starting up also ejects a removable disc — CD or DVD — from the drive)

Shortcuts to use within open applications and windows

Command Key + N – Create a new document in the frontmost application

Command Key + P – Display the print dialog box

Command Key + S – Saves the active document

Command Key + Shift Key + S – Display the Save As dialog box

Command Key + T – Opens a new tab in a web browser; while in other applications displays the Fonts window

Command Key + Z – Undo previous command (some applications permit multiple Undos)

Command Key + Shift Key + Z – Redo previous command (some applications permit multiple Redos)

Shortcuts for selecting and acting on selected items

Command Key + A – Selects all items in a document or window (or on the desktop if no window is open), or all characters in a text field

Command Key + B – Boldface the selected text or toggle boldfaced text on and off

Command Key + C – Copies selected item or text to the Clipboard

Command Key + E – Uses the selection for a Find

Command Key + I – Italicize the selected text or toggle Italic text on and off

Command Key + V – Paste the Clipboard contents at the location of the cursor

Command Key + X – Cuts the selected item and stores it in the Clipboard

Shortcuts for screen captures

Command Key + Shift Key + 3 – Capture the screen to a file

Command Key + Shift Key + Control Key + 3 – Capture the screen to the Clipboard

Command Key + Shift Key + 4 – Capture a selection to a file

Command Key + Shift Key + Control Key + 4 – Capture a selection to the Clipboard

Shortcuts for navigating the menu bar

Control Key + F2 – Puts the focus on the menu bar, so you can now use the following keyboard shortcuts to navigate through the menu bar menus. (Useful if your portable mouse or portable trackpad has dead batteries and won’t operate.)

Left Arrow and Right Arrow – Moves from menu to menu

Return – Opens a selected menu

Up Arrow and Down Arrow – Move to menu items in the selected menu

Type the menu item’s name – Jump to a menu item in the selected menu

Return – Select a menu item (within a selected menu)

Trackpad Gesture Controls

Perhaps the most fun way to use Mountain Lion is with gesture controls, and our favorites are listed below –– but you’ll find a lot more, and see video demonstrations of them all on Apple’s Mountain Lion gestures explanation page.

Show Safari Tabs – Pinch in with two fingers to reveal all open tabs at once (navigate among them with a two-finger swipe left or right; point and click or tap on a tab to open it)

Three-Finger Drag – Move a selected item from one place to another on the desktop or within an active window (where allowed)

Tap-To-Zoom – Double-tap the trackpad with two fingers within a PDF or web page to zoom in where the cursor is positioned (or zoom back out to a normal view)

Word Lookup – Tap a word with three fingers to look up its Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wikipedia entries

Show Desktop – Spread your thumb and three fingers to reveal the desktop (when you’re otherwise in an open window or active application)

Did we miss any of your favorites? Share them in a comment.

This article was written by Robert E. Calem and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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5 comments
rasher
rasher

"Most useful" keyboard shortcut on mac for me is; 

Control + Shift + Eject

This will darken your screen so that you can listen to music without distraction. :-)

mahadragon
mahadragon

@rasher You make it sound like it merely darkens your screen, as in dimming it. It made my screen turn completely black.

ztw
ztw

You missed Command+Option+Escape, which is the Mac version of Ctl+Alt+Del, and is very useful. 

mahadragon
mahadragon

@ztw This tip is so useful! thanks! I was wondering where the PC equivalent was.

AaronBurns
AaronBurns

You missed Command-Shift-4 then press spacebar and click to take a photo of only the window the little camera is on top of.