Getting used to a new Mac – Keyboard shortcuts

It’s a bit of a shock to the system getting used to a Mac after years on Windows. So much muscle memory to relearn on well practiced shortcuts for instance. Keys that no longer exist. A trackpad that does all sorts of weird and wonderful things. I’ve put together a quick summary of a few regularly asked questions and things that I’ve learned that will hopefully be useful to other new mac users. This post focusses on keyboard shortcuts.

There are new keys to use for shortcuts. Going from the bottom left there are:

  • fn (function) – normally used with the f keys. By default the keys do the actions marked on them (e.g. F10 to mute), and press them with function held down if you actually need F10 in an application
  • ctrl (control)
  • alt – also called option, and with the icon ⌥ – is used in shortcuts and can be used with letter keys to enter unusual characters or accents.
    command – is used in many shortcuts

So some simple shortcuts to get going:

  • Delete – fn-backspace
  • Cut/copy/paste is the same as on windows but using command – command-c command-v etc instead of control
  • Move to end of line or start of line – command and left arrow / right arrow
  • Move a word at a time – option and left arrow / right arrow
  • Page up / page down – fn and up arrow / down arrow
  • Exit application – command-q
  • Close window (e.g. if you have multiple word documents open, this will only close the current document not all of them) command-w
  • Save – command-s
  • If you’ve maximised a window to full screen and can’t get out, escape works with most mac apps. If it’s not working with Notes / Office then command-control-f will restore it to normal
  • Lock pc – function-power. The wifi connection may drop after a while though.
  • Launchpad to open an application is F4 by default
  • Spotlight search – to search for files, applications and anything else is command-space

You can also use shortcuts for window management on Mac. This works a bit differently to on Windows. You can switch between applications, or you can switch between open windows within an application (e.g. between multiple spreadsheets open in Excel)

  • Command-tab to switch between open applications
  • Command ` (back-tick) to switch between windows within an application

To configure keyboard interaction further, go into system preferences (the cogs icon on the dock), select keyboard. In the shortcuts tab I enable full keyboard access for all controls, this allows tabbing through menus, which is familiar from Windows. You can also control a variety of other keyboard preferences here.

Some more advanced shortcuts that I use fairly often:

  • Take a screenshot to desktop – command-3
  • Take a screenshot of a selected part of the screen, to desktop – command-shift-4, then select the area to grab.
  • To move between browser tabs (works in FF and Chrome) alt-command and left arrow / right arrow

Also you can create your own shortcuts. For example I regularly want to create line connectors and angled connectors in Keynote. To do this, go to system preferences -> keyboard -> shortcuts and choose app shortcuts. Click the + symbol to choose which application it is for, then type the exact name of the menu item (e.g. Angled Connection Line) and pick your shortcut. It isn’t clear if there is any warning that you’re overwriting an existing shortcut, so it’s worth testing the ones you want to use first. I created shift command and a, l and d, for angled line, straight line and curved line for instance.

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