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Top 5 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts…

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Top 5 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

My last post on the Top 5 Windows Keyboard Shortcuts prompted the need for a followup post for those of the Mac persuasion. Here are my top 5 Mac keyboard shortcuts that everyone should know.

5. Command + C, Command + X, Command + V: Copy, Cut, Paste (respectively)

The concept is simple. “Copy” will temporarily save the highlighted text (or item), “Cut” will do the same as “Copy” but remove the item from its location in the process and “Paste” will put that item where you have the cursor.

Anyone familiar with these commands on a Windows PC will have a bit of retraining to do with their fingers; using Command instead of Ctrl. Where “Paste” is Ctrl+V on Windows, that same combination on Macs will bring your cursor to the bottom of the document.

(Pro Tip: Most of the Ctrl + [key] combinations that you are used to on Windows will work the same on a Mac, but with the combination of Command + [key] instead.)

4. Command + Tab: Switch Running Apps 

Top 5 Mac keyboard shortcuts - Command + Tab
Command + Tab gives you simple look at the running apps and a way to switch between them.

If you are like most Mac users, your Dock at the bottom of the screen is chocked full of icons. The only way to know which ones are actually running is to look for a very subtle dot or white glow (depending on your version of macOS) below the icon. Without easy visual cues or a simple task bar (such as the one found on Windows) it’s not easy to navigate back and forth between your running applications.

Enter the handy dandy Command + Tab keyboard command. This simple two key combo will have you shuffling between your running apps faster than any mouse could ever hope to. Hold down the Command key while tapping Tab and you’ll be able to select the right program from and easy to see bar of icons in the middle of your screen.

(P.S. I neglected to add this to my list of Top 5 Windows Keyboard Shortcuts, but there is a similar command in that environment as well, Alt+Tab.)

3. Command + Shift + 4: Screenshot Top 5 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts - Screen Capture

Sometimes you really want to capture an image of what you are seeing on your computer. Most Windows computers have a convenient “Print Screen” key that will make that happen (no, that does not send the image to your printer). But there is no such key on a Mac. But, of course there has to be some way to do it, right?

Actually, there are a few different ways create a screen capture on macOS. The Command + Shift + 4 is my favorite, because it gives you crosshairs allowing you to then draw a box over the part of the screen you want to save. If you want the whole screen captured, do the same combination but with a “3” instead of “4.” By default your captures will be saved to your desktop with the timestamp in the file name. There are more options, so Apple has a full list of screenshot options here.

2. Option + Command + Esc: Force Quit

Top 5 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts - Force Quit
The “Pinwheel of Death”

We all know that Macs can crash just like any PC. While many know the “three finger salute” on Windows, there isn’t an exact counterpart for Macs. However, there is a similar escape hatch for a frozen program.

When a program no longer responds, navigating the System Preferences to find the right option to shut that program down (called “Force Quit”) is not very intuitive. Luckily, a simple three-finger combination of Option + Command + Esc will take care of that in a heartbeat. With any luck, you won’t need this much, but I’d keep it handy for when that “pinwheel of death” inevitably shows up.

1. Command + Spacebar: Spotlight Search 

A well-used computer will fill up with files very quickly, and often the files are all saved on the same cluttered desktop or scattered across the hard drive almost randomly. Either way, it can be hard to find what you are looking for. macOS is perhaps the best in the league for quick and powerful system search, which they call Spotlight Search. Simply use the easy-to-remember Command + Spacebar pairing and up pops the search box. Type in any part of the file name, or even something contained in the file, and Spotlight does a bangup job finding matches.

Spotlight Search will search through emails, documents, media files, and even the web. If you ask a simple question or type in a math formula, you may get your answer right there. This is my #1 keyboard shortcut because it is the most useful, and perhaps underutilized, feature of macOS.

Top 5 Mac keyboard shortcuts - Spotlight
Top 5 Mac keyboard shortcuts – Spotlight


Naturally, there are more shortcuts than I could mention in a single post. If you want to explore more, check out this list from Apple’s support website. Check out my Top 5 Windows Keyboard Shortcuts if you want to savvy on both platforms.

These are my top 5 Mac keyboard shortcuts. Do you agree with me? What are your favorites? Feel free to comment!

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