The Most Useful Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac in 2024

Keyboard shortcuts are an essential aspect of every productivity hacker’s workflow and the Mac operating system is famed for its long list of hotkeys designed to make users complete their work more easily and thus, quicker.

In fact, it’s possible to operate your system from boot to shutdown without touching your mouse or trackpad – but the efficiency varies from task to task so wisdom is especially profitable to direct.

In any case, today’s article focuses on macOS shortcuts that are important to know. I’ve deliberately excluded common shortcuts like ⌘+A to select all, ⌘+S to save files, ⌘ + Q to quit the app in focus, and ⌘+F to launch the Find prompt for the currently open application.

The Command, Control, and Option/Alt Keys

The three keys next to the spacebar on your Mac are really important for both left- and right-handed people. But sometimes, they can be confusing. That’s why our shortcut guide starts by explaining what Control, Option, and Command do.

Mac Keyboard
Mac Keyboard

Command Key

The Command key on a Mac computer is a modifier key that’s unique to Apple keyboards. It’s marked with a symbol that looks like a four-leaf clover or a squiggly square. The Command key (which is often called the “cmd” key.) is located on either side of the spacebar, next to the Option key.

The Command (cmd) key works like the Control key on a PC. On a Mac, you use the Command key instead of the Control key on a PC.

Here are some common uses of the Command key on a Mac:

  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Many keyboard shortcuts on a Mac involve using the Command key. For example, Command + C is used to copy text, Command + V is used to paste, and Command + Z is used to undo.
  • Accessing System Features: Command + Spacebar opens Spotlight, which allows you to quickly search your Mac for files, apps, and more. Command + Tab switches between open applications, and Command + Q quits the active application.

Option/Alt Key

The Option key on a Mac computer is a special key that’s used for various functions. It’s located next to the Command key on the keyboard and has the word “Option” written on it. Sometimes it’s also labeled as “Alt“especially on keyboards outside of the US.

Here are some common uses of the Option key:

  • Typing Special Characters: Pressing Option along with other keys can produce special characters. For example, Option + e followed by a vowel can create accented characters (e.g., á, é, í, ó, ú).
  • Accessing Alternate Menu Items: Holding down the Option key while clicking on a menu item in many applications can reveal alternate actions or additional options.
  • Changing Behavior in Certain Applications: In some applications, holding down the Option key while performing an action can change its behavior. For example, holding Option while dragging files can sometimes copy them instead of moving them.
  • Booting into Alternate Startup Modes: The Option key can be used during startup to access different boot options, such as selecting a different startup disk or entering macOS Recovery mode.
  • Force Quitting Applications: Option + Command + Escape is a shortcut to force quit applications that are not responding.

Control Key

The Control key on a Mac computer is one of the modifier keys located on the keyboard. It’s typically found at the bottom left and bottom right corners of the keyboard, next to the Command key.

Here are some common uses of the Control key on a Mac:

  • Right-Clicking: If you’re using a Mac with a trackpad, you can simulate a right-click by holding down the Control key while clicking on an item.
  • Accessing Contextual Menus: In many applications, you can access contextual menus by right-clicking on an item or by holding down the Control key while clicking.
  • Launching Mission Control and Spaces: Control + Up Arrow is used to activate Mission Control, which gives you an overview of all open windows and desktop spaces. Control + Left/Right Arrow is used to switch between different desktop spaces.
  • Force Quit Applications: Control + Command + Escape is a shortcut to force quit applications that are not responding.
  • Navigating Web Browsers: In web browsers like Safari or Chrome, Control + Tab is used to switch between tabs.

Useful Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Now we will explain to you some of the useful key combinations or keyboard shortcuts that we use on Mac computers.

1. Forward Delete Function

If you’re new to Mac, just converted from a Windows or Linux PC then you might have gotten frustrated so many times from not having a backspace button.

On a Mac keyboard, the “Forward Delete” function, which is equivalent to the “Delete” key on Windows keyboards can be achieved using the combination of keys.

To perform a “Forward Delete” action on a Mac:

  • Press the “Fn” (Function) key, which is located in the bottom left corner of the keyboard, next to the “Control” key.
  • Hold the “Fn” key and press the “Delete” (labeled as “Delete” or “” and is located above the “Return” (or “Enter“) key.
  • The combination keys perform the “Forward Delete” function, which deletes the character to the right of the cursor, similar to how the “Delete” key functions on a Windows keyboard.

2. Switch Between Different Windows in an App

This is a nifty shortcut for quickly switching between the open applications. ⌘ + tab moves to the right and ⌘ + ~ moves to the left. You can quit any of the apps by hitting Q when it is highlighted.

Here’s how to switch between the open applications:

  • Press and hold the Command key (⌘) and press the Tab key that is located above the Caps Lock key on your keyboard.
  • Continue holding down the Command key while pressing the Tab key multiple times. Each time you press Tab, the selection will move to the next open application in the order they were last accessed.
  • When you reach the application you want to switch to, release the Command key to open that application.

3. Force-Quit an App

There are times when you hit ⌘ + Q but the app refuses to quit. The typical next move to make is to launch an activity monitor and forcefully close the app. But you wouldn’t have to do that any longer now that you know the function’s shortcut.

Here’s how to force quit an unresponsive application:

  • Press and hold the Command (⌘) key.
  • While holding down the Command key, also press and hold the Option (⌥) key
  • While holding down both the Command and Option keys, press the Escape key
  • Holding down all three keys for a few seconds will bring up the “Force Quit Applications” window.
  • Release all keys when the “Force Quit Applications” window appears. This window will list down all currently running applications.
  • Select the unresponsive application you want to force quit:
  • Click the “Force Quit” button: This will forcefully close the selected application.

4. Open Spotlight Tool

Apple’s spotlight is one of the coolest features on Macbooks because, with it, users can make calculations, launch apps, search for files or directories, run scripts, etc.

In fact, it’s possible for a complete newcomer to macOS to find anything she/he wants by simply invoking the spotlight. And while the spotlight (magnifying glass) icon lives in the top-right corner of the desktop’s title bar by default, you don’t have to move your mouse any longer.

Here’s how to quickly access Spotlight:

  • Press and hold the Command (⌘) key and press the Spacebar
  • Once you’ve pressed Command-Spacebar, release both keys.

5. Take Screenshots or Record Screen

If you need to take screenshots often then you’re in luck because macOS ships with nifty shortcuts that enable you to do so by combining 3 buttons.

Here’s what each does:

  • ⌘+Shift+3 captures the entire screen and saves it as a file on your desktop.
  • ⌘+Shift+4 activates your cursor into a crosshair, allowing you to select a specific area of the screen to capture.
  • ⌘+Shift+5 activates or opens the screenshot toolbar, which gives you options to capture the entire screen, a selected portion of the screen, or a specific window
  • Once completed, the screenshot image or screen recording (video) will open in the default viewing application in case editing is necessary.

6. Immediately Lock your Screen

Imagine that you have to quickly move away from your Mac to talk to a colleague; answer a call privately, or take a quick break. The Command+Control+Q keyboard shortcut on a Mac is used to quickly lock your screen.

When you press Command+Control+Q, your Mac will immediately lock the screen and ask for a password when it wakes even when you don’t have auto-lock enabled.

This is a handy shortcut for quickly securing your Mac when you need to step away from it momentarily.

7. Quick Preview Files

The Click+Space Bar command allows you to open the quick Look preview window, which allows you to see the contents of the selected file without opening its associated application.

This is especially efficient when you want to preview a PDF, word document, MP3, or video file without fully launching the app.

Here’s how to quickly preview files:

  • Select the file you want to preview. You can select a file in Finder, on your desktop, or in any open folder.
  • After selecting the file, press the Space Bar key on your keyboard. you will now be able to preview the contents of the selected file
  • To close the Quick Look preview, simply press the Space Bar key again or press the Escape (Esc) key.

If you want, you can preview multiple files at once by holding down and clicking on the files of choice and then pressing Y. So, ⌘ + Y. This is a cool feature every other OS user envies.

8. Shift+Option+Volume / Brightness Controls

Using Shift + Option with the volume or brightness controls allows you to increment/decrement the respective control options using smaller units since each bar is divided into quarters. Try it out right now and see for yourself.

Volume Controls:

  • Volume Up: Press F12 or Fn + F12.
  • Volume Down: Press F11 or Fn + F11.
  • Mute: Press F10 or Fn + F10.

Brightness Controls:

  • Increase Brightness: Press F2 or Fn + F2.
  • Decrease Brightness: Press F1 or Fn + F1.

If you’re looking to adjust volume or brightness incrementally or with more fine-grained control

You can use the following shortcuts:

  • Shift + Option + Volume Up/Down – Adjusts the volume in smaller increments.
  • Shift + Option + Brightness Up/Down – Adjusts the brightness in smaller increments.

Remember, the exact key combinations may vary depending on your keyboard settings and Mac model. If you’re using an external keyboard, the function keys may require pressing the “Fn” key in combination to activate their standard function.

9. Minimize Apps

Would you like to quickly minimize an app window? ⌘+M saves you anything from 1 to 5 seconds depending on how conversant you are with your trackpad. Bear in mind, though, that this doesn’t work on app windows in full-screen mode.

Here’s how to Minimize Apps:

  • Ensure the application window you want to minimize is active. Click on the application window to make it active if it’s not already.
  • Press the Command (⌘) the key along with the M key.

10. Hide Apps Instantly

Would you like to quickly hide the apps on your screen from an approaching person within a second? Hit ⌘+H and the active application will vanish.

That means it will not even show up on the right side of your dock. Even cooler is the shortcut to make all non-full-screen app windows vanish – just hold down ⌘+Option and click on any visible part of your desktop.

Well, now that the apps do not show in the dock how do you bring them back? Click on the app’s icon on either the dock or the App Switcher. Abracadabra!

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Below is a table presenting key combinations that are essential to learn:

Troubleshooting Shortcuts

These shortcuts can help troubleshoot issues with your Mac and perform various actions like shutting down, restarting, putting the computer to sleep, logging out, and force quitting applications.

Shortcut Function
Ctrl + Eject Shows restart/sleep / shutdown dialog
Shift + Control + Eject Puts your displays to sleep
Command + Option + Eject Puts the computer to sleep
Command + Control + Eject Saves/quits all applications then restarts Mac
Command + Option + Control + Eject Quits all applications then shuts down the Mac
Command + Shift + Q Logs out of your user account (confirmation required)
Command + Shift + Option + Q Logs out of your user account immediately (no confirmation)
Command + Option + Esc Force quits an application
Command + Shift + Option + Esc (held for 3 seconds) Force-quits the front-most application

Startup Keyboard Commands

These shortcuts and modes are useful for troubleshooting and performing maintenance tasks on your Mac.

Mode Shortcut Description
Safe Mode Hold Shift at startup (Intel Macs) Starts Mac in a basic state, useful for troubleshooting issues
Recovery Mode Hold Command+R at startup (Intel Macs) Allows access to macOS recovery tools for system repairs
Resetting NVRAM Hold Option+Command+P+R (Intel Macs) Resets certain settings, helpful for resolving various issues
Apple Diagnostic Mode Hold D key at reboot (Intel Macs) Runs hardware diagnostics to check for issues

Finder Commands

These shortcuts are useful for quickly performing various actions in Finder and managing files and folders on your Mac.

Shortcut Function
Command+D Duplicate the file
Command+E Eject the volume
Command+F Search
Command+I Get Info
Command+K Connect to the server
Command+L Make an alias
Command+Delete Send the selected item to Trash
Shift+Command+D Open the Desktop folder
Shift+Command+F Open the All My Files folder
Shift+Command+H Open the Home folder
Shift+Command+G Open the Go To folder window
Shift+Command+I Open iCloud Drive
Shift+Command+K Browse the network
Shift+Command+O Open the Documents folder
Shift+Command+R Shortcut to AirDrop window
Shift+Command+Delete Empty the Trash (hold Alt to bypass confirmation)
Alt+Command+L Open the Downloads folder in Finder
Alt+Command+P Show path in Finder
Option+Command+S Show/hide the Sidebar in Finder
Option+Command+N Start a new Smart Folder in Finder

Text Editing Commands

These shortcuts help perform various tasks quickly and efficiently on a Mac.

Shortcut Function
Command+A Select all
Command+I Italic
Command+B Bold
Command+Z Undo
Command+P Print
Command+S Save
Command+C Copy
Command+X Cut
Command+V Paste
Command+F Find
Command+G Find again
Command+T Show/hide Fonts window
Command+Left Arrow Move the cursor to the beginning of the line
Command+Right Arrow Move the cursor to the end of line
Command+Up Arrow Move the cursor to the beginning of the document
Command+Down Arrow Move the cursor to the end of the document
Shift+Command+P Page setup (print preview)
Shift+Command+S Save As or duplicate document
Shift+Command+ T Show or hide Fonts window
Shift+Command+(-) (minus sign) Decrease font size
Shift+Command+(+) (Plus sign) Increase font size
Control+H Delete the character on the left
Control+D Delete the character on the right
Control+K Delete text from cursor to end of line
Control+A Move to the beginning of the line
Control+E Move to the end of the line or paragraph
Control+F Move forward one character
Control+B Move backward one character
Option+Left Arrow Move to the beginning of the previous word
Option+Right Arrow Move to the end of the next word
Option+Shift+Up Arrow Select text above the cursor
Option+Shift+Down Arrow Highlight the text below the cursor
Option+Command+F Open Find and Replace
Option+Command+T Show/hide toolbar
Option+Command+C Copy style/formatting settings to the clipboard
Option+Command+V Paste formatting settings
Option+Shift+Command+V Paste and match style
Option+Delete Delete the word to the left of the cursor

Basic Keyboard Shortcuts

For both new and experienced Mac users, these keyboard shortcuts are likely to be the ones you use frequently

Shortcut Function
Command+Q Quit
Command+W Close window
Command+N Open new document
Control+Command+Power Button Restart Mac
Control+Shift+Power Button Put display to sleep
Control+Option+Command+Power Button Quit all apps and shut down Mac
Option+Shift+Command+Q Log out of user account
F1/F2 Adjust brightness (up/down)
F4 Access all apps on Mac
F10/F11/F12 Adjust sound (volume)

Browser Shortcuts

These shortcuts are commonly used in web browsers to navigate and manage tabs efficiently and cannot be overemphasized.


Shortcut Function
Command+L Jump to the URL field in the browser
Command+T Open a new tab in a browser
Command+W Close the currently active tab in a browser
Command+Shift+T Reopen the last closed tab in Chrome and Opera
Command+Z Reopen the last closed tab in Safari

Did you know that you can create your own keyboard commands? Here’s how to create different types of shortcuts:

  • Go to the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen.
  • Select “System Preferences
  • Click on “Keyboard
  • Choose the “Shortcuts” tab.
  • Select the type of shortcut you want to create (e.g., App Shortcuts, Services, Function Keys).
  • Click the “+” button to add a new shortcut.
  • Enter the Menu Title and the Keyboard Shortcut you want to assign.
  • Click “Add” to save the new shortcut.

What are your favorite Mac keyboard shortcuts? You’re welcome to add yours in the discussion section below.

Divine Okoi is a cybersecurity postgrad with a passion for the open-source community. With 700+ articles covering different topics in IT, you can always trust him to inform you about the coolest tech.

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