This article was first published on 2008-02-28. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.


If you make heavy use of keyboard shortcuts, one of the biggest challenges is learning them on the Mac. What was once ingrained in your memory now can leave you feeling frustrated and bitter that you ever switched. Don’t throw your Mac out the window yet! Thankfully, in many cases it’s simply shifting your pinky a couple of keys to the right.

If you feel new to the keyboard shortcut thing, we are talking about how you can involke commands usually found in the your computer’s menus by pressing a combination of keys on the keyboard instead. Many people find this way of working much faster and efficient both on Macs and PCs. The trouble is, the key combinations are slightly different from Mac to PC. Find out more about Mac shortcuts in our MFM article, Mastering Keyboard Shortcuts on the Mac.

To keep things simple, we’ll stick to the standard full-size keyboards that ship with most Windows machines and Macs. We’ll also skip specialized keys that may control things like brightness, iTunes and such.

Let’s start with the keys. Windows and Mac Computer Keyboards sport nearly all the same keys although placement and naming might be slightly different.

However, Macs add the “Command” (⌘) key (also known as “Apple” or “Open-Apple”) and Windows the “Windows” key (also known as “Start”). Here is the (very) basic breakdown:

Windows
Macintosh
Control
Command (Most of the time); Control
Alt

Option

Windows/Start
Command/Apple
Backspace
Delete
Shift
Shift
Enter
Enter
Return
Return

For the most part, a Control + Key in Windows translates to a Command + Key in Mac OS. This is the fundamental conceptual shift to understand. Instead of hitting that Control key in the corner with your pinky, try to use your thumb to nail the Command key on the Mac keyboard. Some even think the thumb on Command provides a better "pivot" to reach most of the keyboard with one hand.

When looking for a shortcut, look in the menus for the keyboard equivalents (listed to the right of the menu item in orange below) or search in the Help menu for “Keyboard Shortcuts”

Here is a list of commonly-used Windows keyboard shortcuts and their Mac equivalents.

System Shortcuts

Action

Windows

Macintosh

Backwards Delete

Backspace

Delete

Capture Entire Screen to Clipboard

Print Screen

Command + Control + Shift + 3

Capture Frontmost Window

Alt + Print Screen

Command + Shift + 3

Close Current Window

Control + W

Command + W

Copy a File/Folder

Control + drag icon

Option + drag icon

Copy to Clipboard

Control + C

Command + C

Create an alias or shortcut

Right mouse click and select Create Shortcut

Command + L

Cut to Clipboard

Control + X

Command + X

Exit a dialog box without changes

Escape

Escape

Find/Search

Control + F

Command + F

Force quit a frozen application

Control + Alt + Delete

Command + Option + Escape

Forward Delete

Delete

Delete (For Mac notebooks, press the Function (fn) and Delete key)

Get item info or properties

Alt + Enter

Command + I

Logout Current User

Windows + L

Command + Shift + Q

Maximize Window

Control + F10

None

Minimize Windows

Windows + M

Command + M

New Folder

Control + N

Command + Shift + N

Open File

Control + O

Command + O

Paste Clipboard

Control + V

Command + V

Print

Control + P

Command + P

Quit/Close a program

Alt + F4

Command + Q

Rename a file/folder

Select item + F2

Select item + Enter

Save File

Control + S

Command + S

Select all items

Control + A

Command + A

Select more than one item in a list (non contiguous)

Control + click on each item

Command + click on each item

Send items to Trash/Recycle Bin

Delete

Command + Delete

Send/Receive Email

Control + K

Command + K

Shut Down

Windows + U + U

Command + Option + Control + Eject

Switch to Next Window

Control + F6

Command + ~ (tilde)

Switch to Previous Window

Control + Shift + F6

Command + Shift + ~ (tilde)

Toggle through open applications

Alt + Tab

Command + Tab

Type special characters

Alt + key

Option + key

Undo

Control-Z

Command-

 

MS Office / iWork

Action

Windows

Macintosh

All Caps

Control + Shift + A

Command + Shift + A

Bold

Control + B

Command + B

Extend selection word left

Control + Shift + Left

Option + Shift + Left

Extend selection word right

Control + Shift + Right

Option + Shift + Right

Font Menu

Control + D

Command + D (Office); Command + T (iWork)

Italics

Control + I

Command + I

Move to the beginning of current or previous word

Control + Left

Option + Left

Move to the end of current or next word

Control + Right

Option + Right

Move to the end of the current line

Control + End

Option + End

New Document, Email, Etc.

Control + N

Command + N

Underline

Control + U

Command + U

 

Internet Explorer / Safari Shortcuts

Action

Windows

Macintosh

Back

Alt + Left OR Backspace

Command + Left OR Delete

Find A Word/Phrase on a page

Control + F

Command + F

Forward

Alt + Right OR Shift + Backspace

Command + Right OR Shift + Delete

Go To Home Page

Alt + Home

Command + Shift + H

Open a new browser window

Control + N

Command + N

Open New Tab

Control + T

Command + T

Print Page

Control + P

Command + P

Refresh A Web Page

Control + R

Command + R

Switch to Next Tab

Control + Tab

Command + }

Switch to Previous Tab

Control + Shift + Tab

Command + {

Toggle Full Screen

F11

None

Enlarge Text Size

Control + + (plus)

Command + + (plus)

Reduce Text Size

Control + – (minus)

Command + – (minus)

Okay, that was a long list. Remember, start out by trying to swap Command for Control in your memorized shortcuts from PCs. Also, if you’ve been trying and trying and still want to smash your Mac, before going back to Windows try altering the shortcuts to make them what you want them to be. Some applications let your "remap" the shortcuts by using that ability in the program, and Mac OS X lets you do that to some extent in the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane. Open it and click on Keyboard shortcuts to see what you can do. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to add application specific shortcuts.

Have you struggled with this issue before? Do you have some tips to share or questions about it? What about important shortcuts that aren’t in the tables? Let us know in the Comments section below!