in How To's, macOS

Here are some crazy useful shortcuts for macOS users. Of course there are plenty more (full list linked at the bottom), but knowing these in particular will help a lot to increase a user’s productivity. I’m skipping most of the most common ones, like those used to create new documents, print, copy/paste, etc.. For reference, here’s the symbols used by Apple (in bold are the notations I’m using throughout):

  • ⌘ = Command / CMD
  • ⇧ = Shift
  • ⌫ = Backspace
  • ⌥ = Option / ALT
  • ⌃ = Control / CTRL
  • ←↑→↓ = Arrow Keys
  • ⇪ = Caps lock


Global (where not overridden):

  • CMD + Space bar: launch Spotlight search
  • F3: Show all current Desktop windows
  • CMD + F3: Show Desktop
    • Extra tip: while on show desktop, select and start dragging any file, press CMD+F3 again and you can drag the file to an open window
  • F5: Show all windows of the current Application (across Desktops)
  • CMD + Q: Quit an application
  • CMD + W: Close the active window/document
  • For keyboards that do not have a full set of keys:
    • CMD + ALT + Eject: Sleep a computer with no specific Power key on the keyboard (like the Apple Wireless Keyboard)
    • Fn + Backspace: serves the same purpose as a Delete key
      • Extra tip: It also works when using a virtualised Windows OS, for issuing CTRL + ALT + DEL when required
  • CTRL + Left/Right arrows: move to next/previous Desktop


  • CMD + Shift + 3: Screenshot of the current screen (saved as PNG on the Desktop, by default)
  • CMD + Shift + 4: Screenshot of a selection (including cursor and active selections)
    • Bonus tip: press Space bar to make a screenshot of a single window

Finder / OS File Prompt Dialogs:

  • Shift+CMD+D: Show the Desktop folder in Finder or an open Open/Save dialog window
    • Extra tip: for the dialog windows CMD+D will also work, but it’s easier to memorise just one shortcut for this.
    • Extra tip: Drag a file or a folder onto an open Finder dialog box (such as a Open or Save As prompt) and it will browse instantly to that container
  • Space bar over a file: launch Quicklook and see a preview
  • CMD + Backspace: Move file to Trash
  • CMD + D: Duplicates a File
  • In a file Save prompt (screenshot below), the blue filled selection (Save) can be issued with Enter / Return, and the highlighted border (Don’t Save) with Space bar:


  • Press ALT to zoom in at 100% and then you can touch and drag around
  • Press any of the directional keys to move the file/folder selection from where you launched Quicklook
  • Click on a thumbnail and then you can use the Up/Down arrows to move within that document.

Writing text:

  • CMD + ALT + V: paste plain text (works where supported, which is in most apps)
  • CMD + Left Arrow: Move to the beginning of the current line of text
  • CMD + Right Arrow: Move to the end of the current line of text
  • CMD + Top Arrow: Move to the top of the current document/textarea
  • CMD + Down Arrow: Move to the bottom of the current document/textarea
  • ALT + Right/Left Arrow: Move one word at a time
    • Extra tip: on any OS this type of shortcut will go over underscore characters “_” but not over dashes “-“, making the latter a better option as a suffix, prefix or divider for filenames you know you will edit.
  • Fn + Up: Page Up
  • Fn + Down: Page Down
  • Fn + Left: Home (beginning of the document)
  • Fn + Right: Eng of the document
  • Combine all the previous shortcuts with Shift to make a selection of text
  • Ctrl + CMD + Space bar: add emojis to your text! 😀
  • One pretty nifty for those of you who write in multiple languages: if you long press a given character key it will present you with the alternative accentuation possibilites, for which you hit the related displayed number. Here’s a screenshot:

In Terminal:

  • Ctrl + R: type to search through the last issued commands
  • Up/Down arrows: iterate through the last issued commands
  • Use TAB to fill in file/folder names while typing


  • It’s not builtin; this is a 3rd party open source app, download here) that brings desktop window organisation to your macOS. Can’t live without it.

  • I have mine setup to do the following:
    • CMD + ALT + Arrow keys: Move the current window to occupy half of the screen (Left -> left half of the screen, and so one)
    • CMD + 2 (or 3,4,5): place and resize window to a quarter of the screen (in my case: top-left, bottom-left, top-right, bottom-right)
    • Bonus tip: Issue any of the previous shortcuts again and the window will enlarge by an extra 1/6, and again to reduce it an extra 1/6

Want More?

Here’s the full macOS shortcut list from Apple:


And here’s the shortcut list for your Mac while booting up: