Learn about the Undo and Redo functions for Macs and iOS. The Undo function is available in almost every app and situation on the Mac, and many on iOS too. However, what the Undo function does depends on the type of app and the last action you took. Many apps allow you to undo multiple steps and redo them as well.



Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
On today’s episode of MacMost Now let’s take a look at the Undo function.

I was surprised recently to find out that not every computer user knows about or uses the Undo function. For me, someone who has been using computers for twenty years, the Undo is kind of like the spacebar. It is just always there and I use it all the time and don’t even think about it.

So the basics are very simple. When say you are in TextEditor and you are typing something and you want to take back what you have just typed you go to Edit and Undo. In this case it will tell you it is going to Undo Typing. Do that and it takes back that last line.

Now I can continue to use Undo, and I can either do Edit and Undo or use Command Z. Command Z is pretty much the universal command on Macs for almost every application out there for Undo. So I’ll do Command Z and you can see it takes back what I had previously typed there.

The cool thing about the Undo function is in most cases in most apps you have a Redo function as well. You can see it right here. The keyboard shortcut is usually shift Command Z but not always, sometimes it is Command Y for instance. I can Redo and I can do it in steps. So you can see there were two steps there. The first section I typed and the second section I typed.

Now what constitutes a step that an Undo is going to undo. Well it depends on the app you are using. For instance in TextEdit there I types those first three lines very quickly so it took them as one step. Then I typed that fourth line later on so it took that as a second step. Some apps will take each line as a separate step. Some apps will take each word or some apps will just look for pauses when you are typing and it will use those as steps. So it varies from app to app.

Graphics programs use Undo as well. For instance here is Pixelmator and I’m going to draw and draw and draw. I can then go to Edit and Undo Brush, or just Command Z, and you can see the Redo function is shift Command Z here so I can redo those steps as well.

However not all apps are the same. Here I am in Photoshop and I’m going to do the same kind of thing. If I go to Undo you can see I’ve got Command Z, and I can undo that there and I can only just Undo and Redo. Basically Command Z shifts between the two of them. Photoshop uses Steps and shift Command Z and I can basically Step Backward and then Step Forward using those commands there. So it is a little different in Photoshop.

How about things that are not where you are editing documents. Say in the Finder. The Finder can Undo for several different things. For instance I can select a file here and I’m going to Command Delete and move it to the Trash. Now I can go Edit and Undo Move that project. So I can Undo moves and pull things back out of the trash. I can also Redo them as well.

Likewise if I were to change the name of a file I can use Undo to undo that rename. So the Finder can use Undo in a variety of different ways. Undoing what your last action was.

So what Undo does depends on the app. Just look in the Edit menu and see what is listed there. Kind of observe how that edit menu changes and what commands it actually does according to the edit menu when you do different actions. You can get familiar with using Undo in your favorite apps.

Another thing to keep in mind is how many levels of undo, how many steps can it undo. Older apps may only have one undo. You undo the last things that you did and that is it. Other apps may be able to undo many steps. Sometimes there is even a preference in that app’s Preferences for how many steps you can go back. Of course the more steps you allow the more memory is going to be used by that app especially like a painting app or something like that that may store large chunks of data for each step.

But how about on iOS. Well, on iOS it depends on the app. Of course you are not going to have Command Z in the keyboard. You are never going to have that keyboard shortcut. There is no menus at the top so there is no Edit/Undo. So a lot of apps have an Undo button.

For instance here in Pages you can see the Undo button at the top left. I tap it and it does an Undo there. Tap it again and it does another Undo. I can Redo by tapping and holding and I get a Redo button and it will stay there and I can Redo both of those until I tap elsewhere.

Now apps that have an Undo button, and even some that don’t, well then you can Undo by shaking your iPad. That’s right! You do this and you will get this button that pops up and allows you to hit Undo. So it is kind of a different thing but it is something to try.

If you think an app should have an Undo function but you don’t see an Undo button try shaking it. Of course other apps use shaking for something completely different. Like say shuffling or doing something randomly or something like that.

As I see it the Undo function has two purposes. One of course is to allow us to take back mistakes very quickly and easily. The other one is to allow us to take more risks when we are creating something. Like say writing a document or editing some graphics. We can go ahead and try something new. Try a new menu item or try a new filter or try typing a few words of text or making some changes to text and if it doesn’t work out, Command Z and you are back to where you were before.

So learning to use Undo can actually make your work better and make you more creative.

I hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.


7 Responses to “MacMost Now 859: Undo and Redo”

  1. Jim says:

    Very useful instructions. Concise, clear explanation.

  2. carole weinberg says:

    great thing to know Thanks

  3. Lynn says:

    I use undo all the time when editing photos. However, I did not know you could use it in text. This is great information.

  4. Debbie says:

    Had no idea you could use Undo in a Finder window. Thanks for the info!

  5. Mr Anthony Cotton says:

    To be quite honest I do not use Text Edit I do it all in Photoshop,and it has preferences to undo,and are practically limitless. You still have to set it.
    It`s a stupid thing to ask is Text Edit used mainly for emails,and documents?
    Gary.

    • TextEdit is a very good basic word processor and text editor. You can use it to compose documents, take notes, write reports, etc.

  6. Glenn says:

    Great video, I did not think you could do it in Finder as well.

Comments Closed.

Comments have been closed on this post as it is getting a bit old. If you would like to ask a new question, simply visit the MacMost Q&A Forum.