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Apple rarely mentions keyboard shortcuts, you just kind of expect to find them. So here are ten AppleInsider favorites, each guaranteed to speed up the work on your Mac.
You should probably take your fingers off the keyboard from time to time to avoid straining your hands. But every time you reach for a mouse or trackpad, you slow down a little, you break your focus a little.
It’s the last part that matters the most. Even if it takes, for example, a fraction of a second to move the cursor up file, Save on computerit takes longer to get back to what you were thinking about.
Holding down the Command key and tapping S does the same thing slightly faster. Pressing that four-leaf clover-like key and the S becomes muscle memory, so much so that you don’t think about saving the document, you just save it.
It’s not like Command-S is a big secret. It’s not like there are a lot of shortcuts, but there are tons of shortcuts, each speeding things up a bit dramatically.
Accelerate app launches
Whatever you’re doing on your Mac, whatever document or website you’re looking at, if you want to open something else, press and hold command and tap the spacebar.
By default, Spotlight launches, which is a gateway to everything on your Mac. Here, just start typing the name of an app and you can press Enter to launch it.
You may never use your dock again. And you may never go to your Documents folder again, not since you can open any document in exactly the same way.
Use Quick Look
There’s one more key combination that affects the spacebar – and only the spacebar. In the Finder, select any file, app, or document, then tap the spacebar.
This will launch the Mac’s Quick Look feature. It will show you a preview of what you have selected. If it’s an app, you just get a larger image of the icon.
But if it’s an image, video, or document, you’ll get a preview of the content on a big screen. And if it’s a text document, Quick Look will show you the contents – and you can drag your cursor over the text to copy it up and copy it.
Move around in the Finder
Spotlight takes you anywhere, even if you can’t quite remember the name of the document or folder you want.
However, if you remember, if you know exactly which folder you want to go to now, you can go straight there.
This only works in Finder, you can’t be in any other application. But if you’re in Finder, press Shift-Command-G and you’ll get the Go dialog. Type in any folder path, hit enter, and you’re right there.
Switch between apps
Once you have all the apps you want open, you need to switch between them. Hold down the Command key and hold it, then tap the Tab key once.
This will give you an on-screen bar that lists all your open apps. This bar stays on screen until you release the command key.
You can use your mouse, trackpad, or even your keyboard arrow keys to select the app you want. But you’re already holding down the Command key and you’ve just tapped Tab, so press Tab again.
As long as the Command key is held down, each time you press Tab you highlight the next app and then the next and so on. Release both keys and the highlighted app comes to the front.
Macs rearrange the order of apps in this bar based on when you use them. That can cause you a bit of a problem as it’s very easy to press Tab one too many times and miss the app you want.
When that happens you can hold down Tab and it will go to the bottom of the bar and then start over. Or you can press Command-Shift-Tab to move backward through the bar.
However, this rearrangement when you’ve been using an app gives you another benefit when using the keyboard like this. If you keep switching back and forth between two apps, you can just quickly press and release Command-Tab.
You don’t have to wait for the bar to appear, you just do that button press and switch from the current app to the last used one.
And then back again the next time you quickly tap Command-Space.
Switch between windows in the same app
Last but not least, that keypress is forgotten because no one remembers the tilde key or where it is. The tilde character is a slightly squiggly “~” and is located on the key to the left of Z on a regular keyboard.
Perhaps it’s the position that prevents widespread use, since Command-~ might cramp your hand when using the left Command key for it.
Whether you’re using the left or right command key, hold it and tap the ~ key to switch between windows of the same app. Unlike Command-Tab, you don’t get a visual cue as to which windows are open in your app, but you do move between them.
Sometimes you don’t want to switch between apps or windows, you just want to focus on what you’re doing.
There’s no keystroke to hide everything but the front document window in an app — but there is a way to make all other apps disappear from your site. In any app, hold down the Option and Command keys, then tap the H key.
This will hide every app except the one you’re currently in.
In practice, it almost always does just that. No other apps are killed, they’re still there if you want them, but they’ve all disappeared from your site.
But the thing is, some apps just don’t play well. They tend to be utilities, and particularly those that have been ported over from Windows to Mac.
You can’t change that, not with Command-H. However, you can click the yellow traffic light icon in the top left of their window and minimize them out of the way.
Also, there are some apps that interfere with this hiding process. For example, Screenflow has its own option to hide icons on the desktop — and using that will prevent the Command-H hotkey from doing its job.
Make screenshots and screen recordings faster
You may never take screenshots of your Mac, but enough people do that Apple keeps adding ways to do so.
On the keyboard, you can just press Command-Shift-3. This instantly creates an image of your entire screen and saves it to your desktop.
Or you can run Command-Shift 4. This turns your cursor into a crosshair and you can drag over any part of the screen you want.
However, if you just want to take a screenshot of a window, you can use the keyboard to speed things up. Press Command-Shift 4, position your crosshair cursor over a window and tap the spacebar.
This selects the current window and you can then click with your mouse or trackpad to capture the capture.
Command-Shift-3 and Command-Shift-4 are the fastest ways to take screenshots, but they don’t give you many options. Instead, press Command-Shift-5, and you can also configure screenshots and screen recordings.
Force quit applications
Command-Q should always kill an app for you, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Usually the app is frozen or something else went wrong and you can’t even get it to recognize Command-Q.
Instead, press Command-Option-Escape.
This brings up the Force Quit dialog. Select the faulty app and then press Enter.
You will be asked to confirm this, but you can confirm this by pressing Enter again.
Note that once you’ve force-quit an app this way, the dialog box stays on screen. Get rid of it by clicking the red traffic light icon — or press Command-W.
Speed up any web browser
Suppose you are working in your web browser and you want to switch to another website. You could take your hands off the keyboard, grab your mouse or trackpad, and then click in the address/search bar at the top of Safari, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or another browser.
Then you can select what’s already there, delete it, and start typing the address of the website you want to go to.
Or you might instead realize you want to go to a new site, press Command-L and start typing its address immediately. Command-L brings your cursor to the address/search bar—and also highlights anything already there.
So once you start typing, everything that was there before will be erased without you having to think about it.
That’s the real trick here, the real way to speed up your Mac. Keyboard shortcuts become so familiar that you don’t have to think about them anymore.
Without you having to think about which keystroke executes which command, they’re practically executed before you realize you’re executing them. This means that the cognitive load affecting your concentration is radically reduced.
So keyboard shortcuts don’t actually speed up our Macs, they speed up us.