How to Maximise Keyboard Shortcuts, Gestures, in OS X

Keyboard Shortcuts

Below, you’ll find a detailed list of more than 40 keyboard shortcuts that we think are the absolute must-know for any Mac user. We’ve carefully curated them from 100s of keyboard shortcuts available for the Mac.

Apple Macintosh Plus Keyboard

These are OS specific shortcuts. If you want to learn about app specific shortcuts for Safari, Chrome, Evernote Mail etc, check out our dedicated guide to the most useful keyboard shortcuts for popular services.

Just Switched to a Mac? Get our eBookThe Ultimate Guide to OS X Yosemite for a Mac Beginner. It is the perfect eBook for people who want to get a hang of a Mac and how to get the most out of it.

Startup Options

1. Option : Display all startup volumes

2. Shift : Start up in Safe Mode

3. Cmd + R : Boot into the Recovery menu

Take Screenshots

1. Cmd + Shift + 3 : Capture the entire screen to a file

2. Cmd + Shift + Control + 3 : Capture the screen and copy it to the clipboard

3. Cmd + Shift + 4 : Capture the selection of the screen to a file, press the spacebar to capture the window.

4. Cmd + Shift + Option + 4 : Capture the selection from center

System Wide

1. Cmd + Space bar : Show Spotlight search

2. Cmd + Tab / Command + Shift + Tab : Move to the next/previous most recently used app

3. Cmd F3 : Show desktop (when you’re not in a full-screened app)

4. Cmd + Tilda (`) :  Switch to the next open window in the app you’re using

5. Option + Shift + Command + Esc : Bring up the Force Quit application menu

6. Cmd + Delete : Move the selected file to trash

7. Cmd + Shift + Delete : Empty Trash

8. Cmd + S : Save

9. Cmd + Q : Quit

10. Cmd + N : New

11. Cmd + W : Close Window

12. Cmd + M : Minimize Window

Shortcuts For Finder

1. Cmd + A : Select app items

2. Cmd + Shift + A :  Open the Applications Folder

3. Cmd + D : Duplicate selected item

4. Cmd + Shift + N : Create a new folder

5. Cmd + 1/2/3/4 : View as icon/list/columns/cover flow

6. Cmd + [/] :Go to the previous/next folder

7. Cmd + Up/Down Arrow : Navigate up/down one level

Text Related

1. Cmd + Left/Right Arrow : Takes you to the beginning/end of the current line

2. Cmd + Up/Down : Takes you to the beginning/end of all the text on a page

3. Alt + Up/Down : Go to the beginning/end of the current paragraph

4. Cmd + Z : Undo

5. Cmd + Shift + Z : Redo

6. Cmd + F : Find

7. Cmd + Control + D : Define the highlighted word

8. Option + Escape : Auto complete the word that you’re writing

9. Cmd + B : Bold

10. Cmd + I : Italics

11. Cmd + U : Underline

Trackpad Gestures

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Another great thing about switching from Windows to a MacBook is that the trackpad’s usability is of epic proportions. The trackpad on a MacBook is pretty big compared to that on a standard Windows laptop and it’s made from one smooth piece of glass that you can easily glide 5 fingers on.

Now, I love keyboard shortcuts. When I’m writing and my fingers are already on the keyboard, they sure do come in handy.

But when I’m browsing the web or catching up on RSS, I mostly just rely on the trackpad. Even doing normal Mac app switching and other mundane operations become a joyous affair with the trackpad.

Go to System Preferences -> Trackpad.

Here you’ll see three tabs for Point & Click, Scroll & Zoom and More Gestures

Tap to click is disabled by default. Some people, especially the ones used to the loud mouse clicks from the 90s, like the physical click feedback. If you’re not a fan, enable Tap to click from Point & Click section.

Trackpad 1

In your shiny new MacBook, the scrolling works like this: when you swipe up, the page actually moves down. This change was made in OS X 10.7 Lion way back in 2011 and it’s been pulled straight from iOS touchscreen scrolling. Because when you’re using a touchscreen, you push the content up using your fingers to scroll down.

I personally find this behavior annoying because I’m used to old ways. If you feel the same, you can uncheck the Scroll direction: natural option from the Scroll & Zoom section.

Trackpad 2

Here are the more advanced gestures you need to know about:

  • Four finger swipe up : Mission Control
  • Four finger swipe left or right : Switch between desktops or fullscreen apps
  • Swipe in with two fingers from the right edge : Bring up Notification Center
  • Pinch with three fingers and thumb : Launchpad
  • Spread three finders and thumb : Show Desktop

The great thing about the Trackpad section is that it shows you a video of how to engage a gesture and what it does right there. All you need to do is mouse over to one.

Spend some time here getting to know all the gestures. They will make navigating the Mac much, much better.

Improving Window Management in OS X Using Keyboard Shortcuts and Trackpad Gestures

Snap Apps

The one thing Windows is really good at is window management. I mean, how can it not be, it’s right there in the name. And this is something Apple just doesn’t seem to care about. Yes, fullscreen apps are great, but what if you want to use two or three apps side-by-side on one screen? Resizing them just right manually using the trackpad is nightmare.

This is where we’ll take help of third party apps. This guide is more about the core functionalities in OS X, and we’ll cover third party apps and productivity features in OS X in a guide in future, but this is something I just can’t let go.

BetterTouchTool and Spectacle are the two apps that will help us out today.

At launch, BetterTouchTool will ask if you want to enable the Window Snapping feature. Say yes.

Window Snapping Activate

If you’re familiar with the window docking in Windows, you know that dragging a window to the left edge docks it to the left half of the screen (taking up exactly 50% of the screen).

The Window Snapping feature in BetterTouchTool does exactly that. What’s better, you can assign apps a quarter of the screen space by dragging the window to the diagonal edges of the screen.

Snapping Apps

BetterTouchTool is an awesome app whose main feature is customizing specific actions for a trackpad gesture. So for example, you can create a gesture to refresh a page when you make a circle on the trackpad and a lot more.

The setup is a bit too complicated to go in-detail here but lucky for you, I’ve written a guide on it.


The other app, Spectacle is a simple one. Install it and it will live in the menu bar. It essentially gives you customizable keyboard shortcuts for docking windows (as seen in the screenshot above).

Just Switched to a Mac? Get our eBookThe Ultimate Guide to OS X Yosemite for a Mac Beginner. It is the perfect eBook for people who want to get a hang of a Mac and how to get the most out of it.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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