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10 incredibly useful Mac keyboard shortcuts you should use



If you do not use shortcuts on your Mac, you miss a lot of the reason why so many people love Apple's desktop operating system. Thanks to Apple's hardware and software integration, you rarely need to search for the mouse or trackpad once you've learned to speak the language of the keys.

MacOS has many shortcuts, but I consider those that everyone should know. I have tried to avoid (still useful) shortcuts with related Windows colleagues – such as ⌘ + A to select all or ⌘ + F open the Find command prompt – and focus on shortcuts you may not be familiar with if you're new to Mac .

And let's talk about the "" symbol. It's the command key, and it's the key to all the shortcuts listed here. It works the same as the control key on a Windows PC, except that it is in a more convenient location ̵

1; usually on both sides of the spacebar. In the examples below, an example such as “⌘ + A” means that you need to hold down the Command button and press A or press both at the same time.

If these shortcuts are hooked up, you can even create your own for everything from system to specific apps by going to System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts and then select one of the options on the left.

Open the Spotlight search tool

⌘ + Space bar : This is probably the most useful shortcut of all. When you want to find a file on your Mac, just tap this shortcut and type the name of the file you want to find in the prompt that pops up. The results are instantaneous. Spotlight will also search through things like iMessages, bookmarks and full text files on your hard drive. It's also a quick way to find and open apps you don't keep on the dock.

  spotlight search macos catalina Leif Johnson / IDG

It will change the way you work.

Immediately End Any App

⌘ + Q : Use this command to turn off any app immediately. This command not only minimizes the app (which sometimes happens when you press the red "X" button at the top of a Mac app) – it turns it off completely.

Take screenshots or record the screen

As you can imagine, we use these shortcuts a lot here at Macworld. There are actually several ways you can take a screenshot on a Mac.

⌘ + Shift + 3 : Screen the entire visible window. If you can see it on your Mac screen, it will appear on the screen capture.

⌘ + Shift + 4 : Screen of a specific area on the screen using a rectangular cropping tool. This is the one I use the most, and it's also great for sharing photos or snippets on social media.

⌘ + Shift + 5: From the macOS Mojave, Apple made it easy to see all of your display tools at the same time with this shortcut. Touch it, and you will see a toolbar that gives you the ability to capture the entire screen, capture a specific window, to capture a specific part of a window. You can also use it to record the entire screen or part of it and choose where to save the picture or video file. (By default, screenshots are stored on the desktop.)

Learn more about Mojave's screenshot tools.

Hide apps immediately

⌘ + H : Here's one for shabby people. If you look at something you do not want a related boss, parent or friend to see, tap this shortcut and the active open window will disappear. To start using the app again, tap the app's icon on either the dock or the App Switcher.

You can do this for all active apps by holding down ⌘ + Option and pressing the mouse on any visible part of your desktop. Each app will "hide". It's a great way to declutter your desktop.

If you just want to minimize an app, press ⌘ + M, but the preview will still appear on the right side of the dock.

Quickly switch between active apps

⌘ + Tab : Holding ⌘ and then tapping the tab opens the App Switcher, which lets you easily switch between all active apps by tapping Tab until you land on the one you want.

  app switcher macos catalina Leif Johnson / IDG

Honestly, I usually just click on apps from the dock, but many Mac users love this feature.

Switch between different windows in an app

⌘ + ~ : This makes research a lot easier. Let's say you have two documents open from Apple's Pages app: one with your notes and one with your draft. This shortcut allows you to easily switch between the two (or more) documents. I find it especially useful if I work with a MacBook with a smaller screen where the shared display interface can feel too cramped.

Quickly access the search / address field in Safari

⌘ + L : When searching for the mouse to activate Safari's search field, it throws away a lot of time. Press this shortcut while using Safari, and the cursor will jump up to the search field, where you can print either a keyword or a URL. This shortcut also works with Google Chrome. (You can also use it on Windows with the control key.)

Safari has some other good keyboard shortcuts as well: ⌘ + T opens a new tab, and ⌘ + Z opens the last the tab you (possibly accidentally) closed. If you want to open an unhappy closed tab in Chrome or Opera, you can press ⌘ + Shift + T .

Forcing to quit an app

⌘ + Option + Q : If an app is locked (and ⌘ + Q doesn't work for any reason), use this shortcut to force the app to quit.

You can also select multiple apps that you want to force by pressing ⌘ + Option + Esc (Escape) which is about to use Control-Alt + Delete on a PC. Instead of Task Manager, however, you will get a window that says Force Quit Applications, and you can choose which app you want to close from there.

  command options escape macos catalina Leif Johnson / IDG

It's also just a handy way to turn off many apps at once.

Lock Your Mac Instantly

⌘ + Control + Q : If you walk away from your desk at home or in the office and you don't want anyone to snoop around on your Mac, tap this shortcut, And the Mac will immediately switch to the lock screen. It's a lot quicker than doing it through the menu bar.

Use Quick Look to preview files

Click + Space Bar: To see how a file looks, but you don't want to waste time opening the associated app, select the file in a Finder folder and then press spacebar. (This also works with files on the desktop.) A full page preview appears – and also with selection options. This works for everything from images and PDF files to Microsoft Excel files.

You can also select multiple files to preview at the same time by holding down the Command key while selecting them and then pressing ⌘ + Y . (⌘ + Y also works for single files, but in that case it is less convenient.) When this window is open, you can navigate between the files with the arrow keys at the top left.


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