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Work with Keyboard Shortcuts

Most actions that you can do with the mouse and menus can also be done with a keyboard shortcut. Often this is not only faster, but more convenient because you don't have to take your hands off the keyboard to pick up and maneuver the mouse. You will see lots of keyboard shortcuts in the menus across the top of the screen, such as the ones shown below in the illustration of the Window menu. You'll use a keyboard shortcut instead of going to the menu.

Recognize the common modifier keys

Keyboard shortcuts work with modifier keys, which are those keys that don't do anything by themselves. For instance, the Shift key doesn't do anything when you press it down by itself, but it changes the behavior of other keys.

Each key has a symbol by which it is known. These are the key symbols you will see in menus and charts:

shift.gif Shift

escape.gif Escape (esc)

command.gif Command

pageuporpagedown.gif PageUp or Page Down

option.gif Option

delete.gif Delete

control.gif Control

arrowkeys.gif Arrow keys

return.gif Return

enter.gif Enter

Fkeys are those keys across the top of the keyboard that are labeled with the letter F and a number, such as F2 or F13.

The fn key is on a laptop in the bottom-left corner. It helps individual keys do more than one function.

Keyboard shortcuts typically use one or more modifier key(s), plus one number, character, or Fkey, as you can see in the example of the Window menu above: the keyboard shortcut to minimize the selected window (to send its icon down to the Dock) is Command M.

Use a keyboard shortcut

The trick to using a keyboard shortcut is this: hold down the modifier keys all together and keep them held down, then tap the associated letter, number, or Fkey just once for each time you want to perform an action.

For instance, the keyboard shortcut to close a window is Command W, so hold the Command key down and then tap the letter W just once. If there are three windows open on your Desktop, you can hold the Command key down and tap the letter W three times and it will close three windows.

Notice gray vs. black commands

When commands in a menu are gray instead of black, that indicates an important visual clue that the Mac is giving you.

  1. Click on an empty spot on the Desktop.
  2. Now take a look through the Finder menus and notice the shortcuts for different actions, or commands. Notice how many commands are gray.

    If a command is gray, that means you cannot use that command at the moment. Often this is because you have not selected an item first, an item to which the command should apply. For instance, you can't use the command to close a window unless an open window is selected.

  3. So open a Finder window and select a folder (click once on it).
  4. Now look at the File menu again, and notice how many more commands are available.
  5. Find the keyboard shortcut to “Open,” but don't choose it. Click somewhere off the menu to make the menu go away.
  6. Make sure the folder is still selected. Now use the keyboard shortcut to open it.

Navigate the Desktop and Finder windows

If you so choose, you can get around your entire Desktop and inside Finder windows using the keyboard. For instance, you can get to every menu across the top of the screen and choose commands, without ever touching the mouse.

Access the menus on the Desktop or in any application

  1. Press Control F2 to focus on the menu bar across the top of the screen.
  2. Use the left and right Arrow keys to select menu items across the menu bar, or type the first letter of the menu you want to select. When a menu is selected, you'll see it highlight.
  3. When the menu name you want is highlighted, press the Return key to drop down its menu.
  4. Press the down and up arrows to choose a command in the list, or type the first letter or two or three. (If there is more than one command that starts with the same letter, type the first two or three letters quickly to select a specific one.)
  5. Hit Return to activate the selected command.

    To put the menu away without activating a command, press Command Period (Command .).

Try these shortcuts in a Finder window

  • Type the first letter or two or three to select files.
  • When you're in the list or Column View, use the Arrow keys to select the columns to the right or left, then use the letter keys to select files.
  • Select a document, hit Command O to open it, and get to work!

If you are interested in using more of these kinds of keyboard shortcuts, go to the “Keyboard & Mouse” preferences, as explained on page 149 and 403–404. There you will find an extensive list of keyboard shortcuts for getting around your Mac.

Keyboard shortcuts in dialog boxes

You can use keyboard shortcuts in the Open and Save As dialog boxes. Use the Tab key to select different areas of the dialog box and the Arrow keys to select items in the columns. When you Save As, you can title your document, select the folder in which you want it stored, and save it—without using the mouse.

Use the Tab key to select the other parts of the dialog box

The first Tab will select the Search field.

The next Tab will select the Sidebar. Use the up and down Arrow keys to highlight the folder or disk you need.

Hit Tab to select the columns. Use the up and down arrows to select a file in the first column, then hit the right Arrow to select the next colum.

When you select the folder into which you want to save the file, hit the Return key.

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