October 7, 2016 Last updated October 4th, 2016 2,085 Reads share

15 Essential Keyboard Shortcuts For Mac OS

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Day by day, the number of Mac users is increasing. Apple continues to take a bigger piece of the operating system market’s pie. This is accomplished through employing the greatest minds in the technology sector and giving them the opportunity to express their ideas. While some people (incorrectly) believe that the Windows operating system is better for doing work, they fail to realize that the Mac operating system is just as, if not more than, capable.

Today we are going to cover 15 essential keyboard shortcuts that will allow Mac users to increase their productivity and master the operating system.

Below you will find each keyboard shortcut, along with a brief explanation of its function. The “>” key will be added between each key necessary for the command. For example, in our first command, Cut, you will see “Command>X”. This means press command, then X, not Command, >, and X.

Got it? Good. Let’s get into it.

Before We Get Started

We have found that many Mac OS users actually use a keyboard intended for use on a Windows machine. This is simply because Windows hardware is more prevalent and people do not always want to buy new peripherals for their devices. If you are one of these users, take note, otherwise, skip ahead to shortcut #1.

If one of the keyboard shortcuts listed below calls for the use of the “Command” key, you will instead use the key with the “Windows” on it.

If one of the keyboard shortcuts listed below calls for the user of the “Option” key, you will instead use the “Alt” key.

Special Note About Shortcuts #1 – #5

Possibly the most commonly used functions on a computer are Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo, and Select All. They are often used in conjunction. When working on a document, an email, or other application where editing is done, there is inevitably a lot of using these functions. I cannot count how many times I use them daily. Knowing these 5 keyboard shortcuts will save a lot of time for any and all Mac users.

#1. Copy

Keyboard shortcut: Command > C

The Copy function takes a selection of highlighted text (or graphic) and puts it into the computer’s memory, or “Clipboard”.

#2. Cut

Keyboard shortcut: Command > X

Cut is similar to the Copy function, however, it is slightly different. The Cut shortcut allows you to delete a highlighted selection while adding it to the Clipboard at the same time. This is contrary to the Copy function, which puts an item into the Clipboard but does not delete the selection at the same time. This was created to allow you to easily copy and delete an item, in order to place it somewhere else.

#3. Paste

Keyboard shortcut: Command > V

Simply enough, once you grab a highlighted item using the Copy or Cut function, you use the Paste function to place it from the virtual Clipboard into wherever you have clicked.

#4. Undo

Keyboard shortcut: Command > Z

When altering a graphic in an editing program or working with a document, mistakes will happen. Undo is a function created to reverse the last change that you have made. If you would like to Redo, which is to reverse your Undo, use the shortcut Command > Shift > Z. That will put your work back to the exact way it was before you used Undo.

#5. Select All

Keyboard shortcut: Command > A

This will highlight every available selection within a window. It is the fastest way to Copy and Paste (or just delete) an entire page at once. Remember that if you accidently delete the entire page when you were attempting to Copy it, you can use the Undo function to replace what was lost.

#6. Find

Keyboard shortcut: Command > F

This is used to quickly find a word or phrase. It can be used in either a text document or a web page.

#7. Take A Screenshot

A screenshot is a function that captures what you see on your screen. This can then be printed out or used to send a copy to someone via the internet (often used in troubleshooting). Contrary to every other function on the list, there are actually three different ways to take a screenshot on a Mac. Each has a specific purpose in order to make it easier for you to capture exactly what you need.

  • Keyboard shortcut #1: Command > Shift > 3

This shortcut will take a screenshot of the entire screen at once. It will create a file and save it directly to the Desktop. If you are using more than one monitor, it combines each of them and saves them all to one file.

  • Keyboard shortcut #2: Command > Shift > 4

Using this shortcut, you will be able to select any part of the screen to capture. When used, a cross hair will pop up that will allow you to drag a box around any part of the screen. This box will then be saved as a file on the desktop.

  • Keyboard shortcut #3: Command > Shift > 4 > Space

Sometimes you will want to take a screenshot of a particular window on the screen. Once you use this function, a little lens will replace your pointer cursor. All you have to do is then click on the window you want to capture, and it will automatically save a photo to the desktop.

#8. Print

Keyboard shortcut: Command > P

This function is useful to quickly print any file that you have open. This can be a text document or a graphic file.

#9. Save

Keyboard shortcut: Command > S

If you are editing a text document or a graphic file, you will want to save your work often. This is the fastest way to do it.

#10. Quit

Keyboard shortcut: Command > Q

In order to close any application, use this command

#11. Force Quit

Keyboard shortcut: Option > Command > Esc (hold for 3 seconds)

There are times when working in an application that you will run into the spinning wheel of death. This function is used when the Close icon is not clickable, and the Command > Q shortcut will not close the application. Force Quit will quickly force the program to end, however, it will not save your progress, so use it with caution.

#12. Switch Windows

Keyboard shortcut: Command > Tab

This function will simply open your last application used. It is very useful when working with multiple applications at once.

#13. Open Preferences

Keyboard shortcut: Command > ,

The Preferences screen is where you can adjust all of your system settings. This shortcut will quickly open it up.

#14. Spotlight

Keyboard shortcut: Command > Space

Use this shortcut to open Spotlight which will allow you to search for any application or file on your machine.

#15. Quit All Applications and Shutdown

Keyboard shortcut: Control > Option > Command

In a rush? Use this to quickly close all programs and shut your Mac off. Don’t worry – it will allow you to save any unsaved work first.


These 15 shortcuts are essential to saving time and mastering the use of a Mac. At first, it may seem like a big undertaking to memorize all of these functions. I promise that if you take the time to learn each of them, they will eventually become second nature. Soon, you will not even have to think about what the shortcut is, you will just do it.

Image: KIEV, UKRAINE – JANUARY 29, 2015: Woman working on a brand new Apple MacBook Air Early 2014, designed and developed by Apple Inc., it was released on April 29, 2014

Tony Tran

Tony Tran

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