25 Basic Mac Keyboard Shortcuts To Be More Productive

Executing on Plans / June 3, 2021 / Kristie Holden

All about productivity and saving time when it comes to using your Mac? Us too! We interviewed David Sparks of MacSparky and host of the Mac Power Users Podcast, and asked him to share his top 25 basic Mac keyboard shortcuts that help him save time everyday. 

25 basic Mac keyboard shortcuts, command plus S key

Using basic Mac keyboard shortcuts can save you time while you’re working. Instead of wasting time with a mouse or trackpad to navigate around your screen, you can use keyboard shortcuts that are lightning fast!

David Sparks is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves writing and podcasting about getting more out of Apple technology, automating your life, and becoming more focused. David Sparks has been a dear friend of ours for years so we thought, “Who better to ask about Mac keyboard shortcuts than him?”

The challenge with learning Mac keyboard shortcuts

When chatting with David about his favourite Mac keyboard shortcuts, he cautioned that the problem with learning a bunch of new Mac keyboard shortcuts at once is that you can get overwhelmed trying to learn them all, meaning that they don’t stick. You end up using very few (if any) of them. For sure, we’d love to absorb 25 different  Mac keyboard shortcuts all at once, but unless you have a photographic memory, it’s going to be difficult to put these keyboard shortcuts into practice.

To solve this dilemma, David recommends starting small and learning one basic Mac keyboard shortcut at a time. If you focus on just one at a time, you’ll increase your chances of remembering and using that one keyboard shortcut.After doing this one by one, you’ll build up the memory in your fingertips and be able to use them all without even thinking about it.

You could try by committing to learning one of these 25 basic Mac keyboard shortcuts per day by putting an appointment in your calendar for each new one. Before the full month is over, you’ll have learned and started using 25 Mac shortcuts! If you find that’s too much, try learning one new Mac keyboard shortcut per week. 

We’ve included a 25 basic Mac keyboard shortcuts PDF at the end of this article that you can save and use later as you’re learning one at a time. 

So without further ado, here’s our top list of Mac keyboard shortcuts and examples of how each one can be used.

Top 25 Basic Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Command-O
Open file.
Command-O is key to opening files in any app on your Mac. 

Command-S
Command save.
This is one of the easiest and most go-to shortcuts. Your Mac is acting funny? CMD-S. About to close a window? CMD-S. While some apps automatically save for you, many still don’t and a CMD-S habit is something everyone needs.

Shift-Command-S
Save as …
Again, this isn’t supported in every app, but it is supported enough to have it under your belt. Want to save a copy of a document? Shift-Command-S.

Command-W
Close window.

“I hit this shortcut so many times a day. As my desktop gets crowded, CMD-W is the key. Don’t waste your time mousing onto that red button. That’s madness! Just CMD-W.”
– David Sparks, MacSparky 

Command-M
Minimize window.
If you don’t want to close a window but instead minimize it, CMD-W is your friend.

Command-Q
Quit app.
This is equally powerful, but more permanent than CMD-W. It is the easiest way to quit your app though. When in doubt, CMD-S first. Then CMD-Q.

Command-Comma (,)
Preferences.
Nearly every Mac app supports this shortcut. Again, it is way easier to get to preferences with Command-, than mousing around menus.

Command-Plus(+) and Command-Minus (-)
Zoom in and out.
Ever want things on your screen to look bigger (or smaller)? Nearly always these two keyboard shortcuts come to your aid. This is particularly useful in Safari.

Command-N
New (object).
Any app that is capable of creating a new *anything* uses CMD-N to do so. This gets you new documents in Pages, a new window in Finder, and a new browser tab in Safari.

Command-F
Find.
Most apps have some sort of search built in and (almost) always, CMD-F is how you get started.

Command-I
Inspector.
There are a lot of apps that use inspectors to get more details on a selected file or record. In nearly all of them, CMD-I opens the inspector.

Command-P
Print.
Anytime you need to print, CMD-P is your friend. For bonus points, you can also script macOS to make this same combination “Print as PDF”. David explains it further here on his blog: Fixing The Print To PDF Trick for High Sierra.

Shift-Command-R (in Safari)
Reader Mode.
Ever stumbled on a website that has good content but bad layout and typography? Just hit Shift-Command-R to make things much more readable.

Command-L, then Command-C (in Safari)
Copy Safari link.
Ever spent way too much time trying to get the mouse in exactly the right spot to copy a link from the link box in Safari? This is much easier with keyboard shortcuts. CMD-L selects the link of the current page. Then CMD-C copies it.

Control-Tab (in Safari)
Next Tab.

“I hate navigating tabs in Safari with my mouse. Use Control-Tab to go forward and SHIFT-Control-Tab to go backward. Problem solved.”
– David Sparks, MacSparky 

Command-R (in Safari)
Reload page.
If Safari ever gets stuck on a page, don’t go hunting for the reload button with your mouse. Instead press CMD-R.

Command-D (in Save Dialog Box)
Go to Desktop.

“A lot of times I just want to save a temp file to the desktop but the save dialog opens up to some deep, nested folder. CMD-D in the save dialog box puts you on the desktop.”
– David Sparks, MacSparky

Shift-Command-D (in the Finder)
Open Desktop in Finder.
Later, when you want to see those same files in the Finder, Shift-Command-D opens the Finder window to the desktop.

Option-Command-L (in the Finder)
Open Downloads in Finder.
This opens the Finder window to your downloads. 

Command-R (in Apple Mail)
Reply.
You can use this one numerous times a day to save you time while going through your inbox. If you want to reply to all, add a shift for Shift-Command-R.

Shift-Command-F (in Apple Mail)
Forward.
Forwarding emails also has a simple shortcut, Shift-Command-F.

Shift-Command-D (in Apple Mail)
Send Mail Message.
David uses this one so many times that it is second nature. Once you start using this one, it’ll become second nature to you as well!

Control-Command-Q
Lock Screen.
Anytime you want to walk away from your computer and keep folks out, this one is your friend.

Command-Delete
Trash.
In most apps, this combination will move the selected item to the trash. However, if you have a volume mounted on your Mac, the same key combination will eject it. 

Option-Command-Escape
Force Quit Menu.
If an app ever hangs up on you, the easiest way to quit is with this keyboard shortcut.

We hope you find these 25 basic Mac keyboard shortcuts helpful! Remember to try learning just one of these at a time so you can commit them to memory and they’ll become second nature. Once you start these your fingers will eventually be moving without you even having to think about it!

To help you keep these top of mind, download our 25 Basic Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet. Save this to your desktop or use your newly learned keyboard shortcut Command-P to print it out and have it by your desk. 

About the author:
Kristie Holden is an online marketing consultant. She helps startups get more leads by clarifying their message and creating a marketing strategy to attract and convert their ideal client. Connect with her on Instagram.

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