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10 Less know Mac keyboard shortcuts

by Mrinal Saha
mac keyboard shortcuts

Everyone loves keyboard shortcuts. And why shouldn’t they? It’s the quickest way of GTD (getting things done) on computers. I like keyboard shortcuts because of 2 reasons:

1. Time saver: Switching hand between mouse and keyboard, take too long. Whereas using the keyboard shortcuts is faster. Thus more work in less time.

2. Add less strain to eyesight: While using a mouse, one has concentrated on small mouse pointer, which adds stress to eyes.

Recently I made a switch from Windows to Mac OS. And out of many other problems, one big issue was adjusting to new Mac’s keyboard. In Windows, most keyboard shortcuts require the use of Windows and control key. However, in Mac, most keyboard shortcuts use ‘Command key’ as a modifier.

Similar to Windows key on Windows computer, we have Command key for Mac. But there is a difference. Command key on Mac work like control key of Windows. For instance Cmd + C for copy, Cmd + V for paste, Cmd + A to select all, Cmd + Z to undo last action, Cmd + S to save workspace and so on.

Therefore it’s safe to assume that for most situation-

(Win +Ctrl) windows = (Cmd) Mac

Some of you may say, why do we have ctrl key in Mac then ? If you are using a Mac for while, you may have noticed the Ctrl key on the keyboard, but it’s not much of use. And the only time I find it useful is while working in the terminal.

So as you can see, common Mac keyboard shortcuts are not distinct from Windows. All we are doing here is, replacing the CTRL key of Windows with CMD key of Mac and rest is same. However, this is not all.

After using Macbook, I discover some less know Mac keyboard shortcuts that are super productive. So what are they, let’s check them out.

mac keyboard shortcuts

Useful Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

1. Cmd + Space:  search on spotlight

Unlike Windows, Mac search is robust. Although this keyboard shortcut is known to many, the only reason to include it is that of its usability. Pressing command + space display spotlight search.

You can type in your search queries. And it will show, applications, files, and folders whose names match your search criteria. For instance let say you want to open Photoshop, then all you have to do is, press ‘cmd+space’ and type in ‘Photoshop,’ use the arrow key to select the application from the drop down option and press return key to open the app.

2. Cmd +O to open file

Typically every user, spend a lot of their time in opening files. Right ? However in windows, when we press enter after selecting a file, it opens up. But if you do the same on Mac, then you will notice that it will bring up rename option. The command to open selected files in Mac is cmd+O.

3. Cmd + Q to close

Now that you know, how to open files/programs using the keyboard shortcut, let’s find out, how to close them.

Unlike Windows, clicking on the small red cross-like symbol on the top right do not close the program. Doing this will close the program window, but the parent program is still running. And you can verify it, by looking at the small white dot under it that means the program is still open.

Therefore to quit a program on Mac, you will have to do it from its menu. But a quick way to doing it is by using Cmd +Q shortcut.

4. CMD + m to Minimize program

Let just say you don’t want to close a program but want to minimize it. To do this, you can press keyboard shortcut Cmd+m.

However, I will suggest you use Cmd+h. This shortcut will hide your current active window. But the advantage of using it over Cmd+m is that you can access it quickly using cmd+tab.

Quick Tip: Cmd + control + space will get you emoji on the go

5. Cmd + Shift + Option + Esc force quit

Whenever a program is not responding in Windows, we use CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Right ? Well the analogy to that on MAC is the combination of Command+Shift+Option key. Pressing this buttons, will bring for quit task manager and then you can quit a nonresponding application.

6. Cmd + Delete to move to trash

In Windows, if you select some files and hit the delete key, then it will move all the files to recycle bin, But if you do the same on Mac; nothing will happen. The delete key in Mac mostly acts as backspace key while editing documents.

But to make the delete key work like a delete key, you will use keyboard combination of Command + Delete. Select the item and press Command + Delete; this will move the file to the trash.

7. Cmd + Shift +4 to take screenshot

You probably know that cmd+shift+4 take the screenshot of your screen and save it as png on your desktop, but you may not know that if you press space after it, i.e., command+shift+4+space and place your mouse over the window. This will save your windows with (.png) transparent background on your desktop.

8. Hide Dock Option + Command + D

Dock is taskbar like thing; that appear at the bottom of your Mac. Let just say, you want to hide it, then press Command + Option + D and it will slide down out of your screen.

Things will give your more space to work. But if you want to bring it back press the same combination, once again.

9. Command + up/down for page up/down

Mac don’t have dedicated keys for home, page up or page down. But while working with long document, you may feel the need to this keys.

And you will be glad to know that you can press the combination of Cmd+ up or Cmd + down arrow key for page up and page down respectively.

10. Shift + Option + brightness/volume for slight change

And finally, saving the best keyboard shortcut for the last. You can increase/decrease the brightness and volume on the Mac by using the function keys.

But let say you are working in your bed at night and the lights are OFF. In such situation you would want to change the brightness of your screen by little, so that it acts like night mode and doesn’t hurt your eyes.

The simple workaround to this is, by using keyboard Option+Shift and F1 or F2 to increase your brightness by 1/4 the of its original value. Similarly, if you want to slightly increase or decrease your sound press Option+Shift and F1 or F2.


Learning keyboard shortcut is hard. It takes practice, to get used to them.

The muscles memory that one develops while using windows keyboard is not entirely useless in Mac’s keyboard. Since the basic shortcuts are the same, all you need to do is replace Ctrl key with Cmd key.

Initially learning these new keyboard shortcuts may feel little overwhelming. But once you get hold of it, you will see a significant increase in your productivity.

Bonus Tip:

Use hotkey Eve a free Mac utility, to learn keyboard shortcuts in Mac. Every time you execute an action using the mouse, let say like copying text to the clipboard. The program will show, it’s the corresponding shortcut on the screen.


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