Everyone likes a shortcut because they save you time, this is true even of Mac keyboard shortcuts. The great thing with the Mac shortcuts is that you get two benefits, the first is of course the traditional benefit of a shortcut which is that it can be a real time saver. The second benefit of some Mac keyboard shortcuts is that they can be a life saver if your Mac won’t respond to your mouse’s commands.

This is why every Mac user should know at least a few Mac shortcuts, not just to save a little time or make a process easier, but particularly so they can get themselves out of a jam if their Mac misbehaves. Finding all of these shortcuts can be difficult as there are hundreds of Mac keyboard shortcuts. Mac shortcuts are in these areas and more:

  • Mission Control Shortcuts
  • Finder Shortcuts
  • System Shortcuts
  • Application Shortcuts
  • And More Misc. Shortcuts

Many you can find by just looking through the menu bar for that application. You can find system ones by looking in the System Preferences under Keyboard, where you can also create your own Mac keyboard shortcuts. This article is going to show you some of the most used and most important Mac shortcut keys.

Time Saving Mac Shortcuts

Time saving shortcuts can be found in every area mentioned earlier. In this article I will give you a few of each that can help you save time by taking you directly to an area instead of having to navigate through several different apps or windows to find where you want to go or to get whatever is you want quicker. Some of these shortcuts are very universal, meaning that you can try them in various applications and they will still work. All of these are great, but some of the best, meaning really useful and a must try are marked with a .
* Command key is sometimes listed as  and also known as the “Apple key”

Most Used System Wide Application Shortcuts

  • Command + N to open a new window, file or other item
  • Command + O to open an existing file
  • Command + Q to completely quit an application
  • Command + W to close a window or tab
  • Command + P to print from the application  nice shortcut to print from anywhere
  • Command + S to save a file  great for saving work while working
  • Command + F to find something in a document, file, or webpage  saves you from scouring through an entire page or document for a word, phrase, or other information.

Most Needed / Used Text Shortcuts

  • Command + B makes the currently selected text bold
  • Command + I makes the currently selected text italic
  • Command + U makes the currently selected text underlined
  • Command + A selects all text
  • Command + C copies the highlighted text 
  • Command + X cuts the highlighted text
  • Command + V pastes the highlighted text 
  • Shift + Alt + Command + V pastes the highlighted text and matches the destination style
  • Command + Z undoes an action even if you accidentally deleted it ? this one can go under lifesaver too as you can fix multiple mistakes.

Mac Shortcuts to Trash a File, Empty Trash and Restore Trash

  • Add to Trash: Select File and Hold the cmd / ⌘ key + delete key.
  • Empty the Trash: Hold the cmd / ⌘ key + Shift and press the delete key.
  • Restore Files From Trash: Select File and use the ‘add to trash folder’ shortcut (cmd / ⌘ key + delete key) or right click and choose the Put Back option.

Life Saver Mac Shortcut Keys

Ever get stuck on your Mac? That swirling beach ball just keeps swirling and swirling and won’t let you do anything but stare at in frustration. You then may feel forced to quit your Mac using the power button, which is not good for your Mac but in these situations you can’t do much else. Well, maybe before you couldn’t do much else, but now with a few quick Mac shortcut keys you can save your power button for turning your Mac on.

Force Quit / Shut Down Options:

  • Force-Quit Application: Command+Option+Esc 
  • Reboot: Ctrl+Command+Eject / Will reboot Mac immediately,
  • Shut Down Immediately: Ctrl+Option+Command+Eject / No alerts or warning dialogs.
  • Power Management: Ctrl+Eject / Allows you to select reboot, shut down, sleep, or do nothing.
  • Sleep Immediately: Ctrl+Shift+Eject / no warnings or delay OR Option+Command+Eject.
  • Log Out Immediately: Command+Shift+Q OR Command+Option+Shift+Q to bypass the countdown timer.

Some Miscellaneous and Cool Mac Shortcuts

There are some Mac shortcuts that help you do something you either didn’t know you could do in the first place, or to just be able to do it in a whole new way. Here are a few:

Take a Screenshot:
Command + Shift + 3 = Take fullscreen picture (  + + 3 )
Command + Shift + 4 = Take picture you select (  +  + 4 )
Command + K = Cut / Crop in Preview (use with screenshot) (  + K )

click here to read more about how to take screenshot on mac 

Make a Sticky From any Source:

Select the text from any source and press Command + Shift + Y + + Y) . Even cooler is that if you copy text from a web site, it retains any links making it easy to go back to the original source.

Get a Truly Full Screen & Focus on the One App You Need:

All you have to do is press Command+Shift + F (  + + F) and press the same to return to normal.

Get Definitions:

Just press Command+Shift+Y (  + + Y). That’ll bring up the definition box in many apps, even in Google Docs. You can also highlight a word and press ⌘ + ⇧+ Y and it will provide you with that word’s definition.

Make Your Own Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Even if there is already a shortcut available you can still make your own, or change it to one you like better. Follow these directions:

  1. Open System Preferences and choose Keyboard
  2. Select the Keyboard Shortcuts tab
  3. Select Application Shortcuts from the left-hand side panel
  4. Add a new shortcut with the Add (+) button

When the drop-down menu appears, choose an application and enter the menu title of the existing item that you want to assign a shortcut to. With the Keyboard Shortcut field highlighted, press the keyboard combination that you want to use and then hit Add. If the shortcut is already in use in another application, it will just be re-assigned to the menu item entered here.

Want More Mac Shortcuts? Me too!

Like most people, I love shortcuts. Shortcuts are there to make life easier and in some cases much more efficient. Learning all of the Mac keyboard shortcuts can be hard of course, but you can print out some articles like this one from me, or you can go through every single menu option until you find something you need.

Another way to find some more (and not have to remember them on your own), is by finding an application that is designed to show you every single shortcut available to you in your given program, including your Mac’s system. There are not many out there, but one I have seen is called KeyCue. You can also go to Apple Support where they have a great list of Mac keyboard shortcuts, or you can go to our Mac Shortcuts page where we’ve added over a 100 Mac keyboard shortcuts just for you, enjoy!

Have more shortcuts, or questions? Please comment and share below

50 Kimberly Carver


Kimberly Carver is a trained Mac Specialist/Expert. Trained both in school and on the job she continues to educate herself about Macs at every opportunity she gets. Kim’s official training and areas of expertise include: Mac specialist, AOL IT Tech, certified paralegal, research specialist, and licensed private investigator.