Common Windows Keyboard Shortcuts On Mac

If you are new to Mac, learn how some of the most common keyboard shortcuts differ from what you may have learned to use on Windows. Realizing that the primary keyboard modifier on the Mac is Command, not Control, is the first step. But there are other differences and some shortcuts that are completely different.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Common Windows Keyboard Shortcuts On Mac.

When users switch from Windows to Mac one of the problems they have is adjusting to the new keyboard shortcuts. Mac has some different keyboard shortcuts than Windows. They're similar though which sometimes even makes it more difficult because the differences are subtle. For instance let's start by looking at the basics of Copy, Cut, and Paste.

Copy on Windows is Control C. On the Mac it's almost the same thing. It's Command C. Let's look at what the difference is. If you look at the Mac keyboard you'll see here that you've got four modifier keys. The Shift key, the Control key, the Option key, and Command key. So you see there's a Control key there so right away you think, okay just like on Windows. Control C. But on Mac the primary modifier key is Command, not control like Windows. So, in fact, most keyboard shortcuts on Windows that are Control plus the letter are actually Command plus a letter on Mac.

So instead of control C for copy it's Command C. Control is kind of a secondary modifier key. It's not as important as Command. Most things use Command for the modifier. So if I were to select some text here and want to Copy and Paste it I would use Command C and then Command V to paste. If I wanted to cut it I would use Command X and then Command V to paste. Likewise if I wanted to select All, instead of Control A it's Command A. If I were to make a mistake, say delete everything, I would use Command Z rather than Control Z to undo.

Undo is kind of interesting because there's also a Redo command that's typically available. So, for instance, if I type some new text and then I delete it and I Command Z to undo then I realize that I want to redo what I just undid. On Windows very often it's Control Y. But on Mac it's not Command Y. It's actually Command Shift Z. So the shift kind of reverses the Command Z to make it a Redo.

Now this varies by app. So here in Pages I can see that Undo Typing is Command Z and Redo is Shift Command Z. However some apps, like for instance Adobe apps, still use Command Y for Redo. So you can always check for any keyboard shortcut by going into the Menu and then looking on the right side and seeing everything that's there. Like for instance Select All there's Command A. Notice it uses the symbol on the Command key rather than the word Command.

So let's look at some other shortcuts that are different Windows to Mac. So one is using the F1 key to access help. That doesn't work on the Mac. But you do have this Help menu up here and you can click it and get to different help things there. A keyboard shortcut that always works to bring up the Help menu is Command Shift slash. That's easy to remember because the slash key, the shift on that is the question mark. So you're kind of doing Command question mark. Command Shift slash and then you can immediately start typing for getting help on something specific or looking for a menu item or you can down arrow right to one of these documents or windows that will popup and hit Return to bring it up.

Another one you may find that on Windows you use Alt and tab to go between apps. On the Mac it's Command tab. So that's a little different there because typically you would go from Control to Command. But here you're going Alt to Command. So you can Command tab to go between apps.

So another one is using Alt F4 to close something in Windows. Close the window or close the app. On Mac you do various different things depending upon which one you want. So, for instance, to close a current window that's open you would use Command W and that closes, say if you have three Pages documents open it closes the front most on. If you have a one page document open it closes that window but Pages is still running. If you want to quit the app then typically you use Command Q. This can vary by app but typically it's Command W for close and Command Q for quitting an app.

So another popular command I see on Windows is using F2 to rename a file. You don't need to do that on the Mac. All you need to do is select the file and you can click in the file name after it's selected and now you're in edit mode. You can edit the file name. Another quick way to get there is to hit the Return key and it immediately goes into edit mode for the file name for the file that's selected.

Note there's a key on your Mac keyboard that's labeled Option. On many versions of the Mac keyboard also you see the word Alt there. On Window systems you always refer to this as the Alt key, alternate key. On Mac you refer to it as the Option key but they are in fact the same key. So sometimes you see people say one or the other.

Now probably the most famous keyboard shortcut on Windows is Control Alt Delete to be able to force quit an app. The same thing on the Mac except it's Command Option Escape. That brings up this window here which allows you to switch to an app or force quit an app by selecting it and pressing the force quit button.

Comments: 9 Responses to “Common Windows Keyboard Shortcuts On Mac”

    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, I am using Mac for years now but I never found one keyboard shortcut on my mac for the MS F2 when you are in excel. in MS – when you have selected a cell – with F2 it changes to the content of the cell and backward what is very valuable if you don’t want to change with your hand to the mouse and double click to access the content of the cell. I tried almost every keyboard combination that came to my mind but did not find it on the Mac. maybe you can help. thanks a lot Olaf

    8 months ago

    Olaf: Not sure I understand what F2 does. If you select a single cell in Numbers, you already have access to the content of the cell. You type and your typing replaces the contents. What would F2 do that would be different?

    IT Juggler
    8 months ago

    Gary: The F2 command allows one to edit the existing text rather than replace.

    Olaf: In Numbers option+return will edit. Perhaps that will also work in Excel for Mac?

    – Eric

    8 months ago

    Ah, yes, if you wish to edit a cell in Numbers, you use Option+Return. I just tried it in Excel for Mac and while Option+Return doesn’t work, F2 does. Olaf: Are you looking for this to work in Excel or Numbers? If Excel, then F2 should work. Try fn+F2 if you have the fn key enabled.

    IT Juggler
    8 months ago

    Gary: In addition to just editing existing text, it can be helpful to change focus to the cell’s contents before pasting. Try the following experiment. Copy the following two lines of text to your clipboard.

    Now select a cell in Numbers and Command+V and you’ll have two fields with text. Next, select a cell, press option+return, then press Command+V and you’ll have a single cell with two lines of text. – Eric

    8 months ago

    IT Juggler: I see the difference. If you do that a lot, it is handy to have a way to do it without taking your hands off the keyboard. I see it also works with F2 in Excel on Mac.

    8 months ago

    Mr Juggler – Are you looking for a keyboard shortcut to edit a cell in Excel for Mac? If so, ^u does the trick.

    Olaf Kasemann
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, IT Juggler and DGR! Thank you for the fast and comprehensive answers. I will try all your proposals. Just to fill in the missing info: I was talking about excel for OS and about editing the content of the cell not replacing it. F2 did not work for me up to now, don‘t know why when it works for you obviously??? However, thanks a lot Olaf

    8 months ago

    Olaf: If F2 isn’t working for you, try fn+F2 as you may have the function keys set to the reverse in System Preferences, Keyboard, Keyboard, “Press fn key to.” Otherwise, you may also customize your keyboard shortcuts in Excel, so perhaps you have it set to something else.

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