Tips For Controlling Your Mac With Your Keyboard

You can almost completely control your Mac using just your keyboard. Many keyboard shortcuts offer you a way to access functions without using a mouse or trackpad. You can even access the menu bar and buttons in dialog boxes with the keyboard. You can jump right to folders in the Finder by typing the folder's path. You can also create your own keyboard shortcuts.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Tips For Controlling Your Mac With Your Keyboard.

Hi, this is Gary with

On today's episode let me show you how to control your Mac with your keyboard.

I see many Mac users use their mouse or trackpad for just about everything. They select every menu item, for instance, instead of using a keyboard shortcut. It would certainly speedup your computer use if you learn some of the keyboard shortcuts. There are other ways that you can also use the keyboard to speed things up.

For instance, in the Finder you can use the mouse and the cursor to go into different folders and find things. But you can also jump directly to a folder without ever touching the mouse or the trackpad by using the command under Go, to Go to a Folder; shift Command G.

So without ever touching the trackpad I'm going to shift Command G and it is going to open up this Go to the folder window here. I can quickly type something, a full path somewhere. For some that are slow at typing this might seem like it takes longer. But if you are quick at typing this is definitely faster.

Use the tilde to show that you want to go to something in your user folder. Most of the time you do. So tilde slash and then type something like say if you want to go into your pictures folder, like that. You don't even have to use the correct case there. I can have a lower case p there as well.

The tilde character on most US keyboards is the key to the left of the 1, just above the tab and below the esc. You need to use shift to get the tilde there.

So I hit go and you can see it changes that Finder window to my Pictures folder. This could be something several levels down. So I can see I've got say under Documents, I'm going to use the arrow keys here another good shortcut, to go up to the Documents folder and you can see I've got, under Documents, I have lots of folders here and under My Projects I have Media. I could have then done Shift Command G and then tilde slash Documents and then my project and media. And it takes me right in there.

Now for launching apps you can use the Spotlight menu to quickly launch an app without your fingers ever leaving the keyboard. Do Command space and do a Spotlight search for the app, like TextEdit, and then simply hit return. There is brings to the front TextEdit or launches it if it is not already there.

I can Hide TextEdit with Command H very quick and easily. I can use Command Tab to go between the apps I have opened. So I can go back to TextEdit like that.

Now if you want to access a menu item with the keyboard but you can't remember the keyboard shortcut or perhaps it doesn't have a keyboard shortcut. You can do that using Control and F2 and that, you can see there the Apple menu at the upper left corner of my screen became highlighted there. Now I can use the arrow keys to move between menus and select one using the spacebar.

You can also access the Dock this way using Control F3. You can see it brings up the Dock and I can use the arrow keys to move between items there to launch something if I want.

Now remember whenever using the F keys everything depends upon your setting under System Preferences keyboard and how you have this set. If you have this set to turn off then you need to use the fn key in addition of the F key to get there. So check this setting if it is not working for you or just hold down the fn key on your keyboard.

Now let's switch over to TextEdit here using Command and Tab. I have a document that I haven't saved here yet. I am going to do Command S to save it for the first time. I have this Dialogue box here now. I can move around in this dialogue box very easily using the tab key. So I can go to the different fields in it and you can see that it just goes between all of these.

In addition I've got the Save button that is highlighted there in blue. If I hit return it will instantly select Save because that is the default button. There is a cancel button and there is a shortcut for every cancel button you ever find and that is Command Period. If you hit Command Period it is like pressing cancel.

Now say I want to access more things than just these few that the tab is going in-between. Say I want to access the New Folder button at the bottom left. If I go to System Preferences under Keyboard and under Shortcuts there is a setting for that that will allow me to tab between all the controls. I can turn that on or use Control F7 to toggle between these two settings here. So now when I'm in this dialogue box and I use the tab key you can see I can highlight the New Folder button there and use the spacebar to select it.

As a matter of fact right now with New Folder selected I can use the spacebar to select New Folder. Command period will do cancel and return will do the default button, which is the Save button.

So there are some of the basics. You can go even further in System Preferences, Keyboard Shortcuts by looking at some of the other special shortcuts that are here and adding your own.

For instance if you want to access Notification Center with a keyboard shortcut you can do that by going to Mission Control, turning on a shortcut for Notification Center and then assigned some keys to it. That will bring it up. Otherwise the only was to do it is by using the cursor to click over here. There is lots of other types of commands that you can add. The built in ones.

But you can also create app shortcuts. Create your own by using any menu bar items. So anything in here that doesn't have something like, you know, if you look under Window Keyboard in System Preferences for instance there is nothing there. If you look under Edit Clear there is nothing there. Anything that you find that doesn't have a keyboard shortcut you can reassign by typing in the name of the menu item and assigning it to this specific application or all applications and assigning a keyboard shortcut to it.

Really the sky is the limit on how you can control your Mac using the keyboard. You can actually get to the point where you don't even have to use the mouse of the trackpad at all unless you are doing something very graphical like editing images or something like that where you need to select something specific.

Comments: 11 Responses to “Tips For Controlling Your Mac With Your Keyboard”

    Kika Wai'Alae
    4 years ago

    When using command tab although it shows me programs that are open and I select one, it does not bring me there. In the menu window it shows the app but I’m still in the current program. Is there a setting that I need to set up?

      4 years ago

      No, there is nothing to configure. And if it shows the app name in the Menu Bar then you ARE in that app. But it sounds like something may be wrong with the other app that is letting it get in the way? I’d restart, then try this with some Apple apps like Safari, Mail and Pages. If it still doesn’t work, I’d consider taking it to the Genius Bar.

        Lucas Hutton
        4 years ago

        I learned about ALT + Tab in my PC days, and I was pleased to find that Macs have CMD+Tab. Yet, like Kika, I was frustrated with the Mac shortcut. An Internet search brought it all together. The problem was the app I wanted was minimized—still open, but never active unless I clicked its icon. The workaround: With CMD+Tab open and the desired app selected, hold down ALT, then release CMD. Is there not a way to make a Mac keyboard work the same way a PC’s works? Why all the fingertip gymnastics?

          4 years ago

          This is a very common thing for Windows switchers to do — minimizing the windows of an app instead of simply hiding the app. Instead of clicking on the minimize button, try just using Command+H to hide the app. Then you can use Command+Tab to get back to it.

            Lucas Hutton
            4 years ago

            Thanks, Gary! I tried Command+H, and I like it. Now I just gotta ask: Why might I want to minimize an app instead of hiding it? I understand that Command+H will let me restore the app with Command+Tab, but beyond that, what’s the difference? Why even bother with the minimize button? For that matter, why does Apple bother to give us the minimize button at all? Or … why doesn’t the minimize button simply behave like Command+H?

              4 years ago

              The difference is you don’t minimize an app, you minimize an app window. For instance, say you are working on three documents in Pages or Word. You can minimize two of them to focus on the third. Another example would be having several windows open in Safari and minimizing some of them to get them out of the way without closing them completely.

      Karen Brown
      4 years ago

      If you happen to use several desktops (I have 6), Command-Tab will not always switch you to an app on a different desktop. For example, I use Dreamweaver only on my Desktop 6—I have to switch to Desktop 6 in order to use Command-Tab to switch to Dreamweaver. If you have only 1 Desktop, I see no reason that Command-Tab would not work, however.

    4 years ago

    I’ve been using Macs for 6 years and never knew that minimize and hide were different. Thanks,

    Karen Brown
    4 years ago

    Reminder that the Esc key cancels actions and is easier than Command-.!

    4 years ago

    Hi Gary, Thanks for the educational video. I use “Save as PDF” all the time. I figure there must be a way to do this with one keyboard shortcut, but I have never been able to figure out how. Could you help me with this? I am quite tired of always having to select CMD P, then scroll down thru the appropriate secondary menu etc.

      4 years ago

      Since the PDF function is an option inside of the Print dialog, there is no way to have a single keyboard shortcut to perform all of the actions needed to get there. Some apps have a menu command to created PDFs. In Pages you can use File, Export ,PDF. So you can set a shortcut for that.

Comments Closed.