MacMost Now 719: Windows PC to Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

If you are a recent switcher to Macs, you may be having trouble adjusting to the Apple keyboard and the way keyboard shortcuts work. Learn about the Command key and how to get to some basic keyboard shortcuts. Learn the Mac equivalents to how to change a file name, copy a file and Control+Alt+Delete.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 719: Windows PC to Mac Keyboard Shortcuts.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's look at keyboard shortcuts on the Mac as opposed to Windows.

So if you are coming from a Windows environment you might notice there are a few things different about using the Mac having to do with keyboard shortcuts. Let's go and take a look.

Here is a typical Mac keyboard that you might get with your new Mac now. You will notice that one of the main differences between Windows and the Mac keyboard is the special keys at the bottom next to the space bar on either side. The primary one on the Mac is the "Command" key and you also have a "Control" key. Now on Windows the primary key you would use for functions is "Control". That is NOT the same as this key here. What maps directly is the "Command" key. So, for instance, in Windows if you would want to copy some text you would do Control C. On Mac you wouldn't do Control C, you would do Command C. You can easily see this but if you would go up to some of the menus here you would see Cut, Copy and Paste and you would see the shortcuts here listed. So you can kind of refresh your memory of what the shortcuts are. You notice that little symbol there next to the letter. That is the same symbol that you may find on your keyboard. It means Command. So "Cut" is command X, "Copy" is command C, and "Paste" is command V rather than Control on Windows.

Now more direct mapping from Windows to Mac is the "Option" key or the Alt key. In fact you can see on the Option key it automatically say Alt at the top now. So anything that you did with the Alt key most likely works with the Option key on the Mac. There is no second key to confuse you like the control key. If you look in the keyboard shortcuts, say you want to go to Hide Finder the currently running app is Command H. There is a symbol for Option so it is Options Command H to Hide Others. So if you ever see that symbol anywhere you know that it means it is an Option key shortcut.

Another difference is the "Delete" key. The delete key on the Mac is the same as the backspace key you will find in the same position on the Windows keyboard just that it has a different name. As a matter of fact some older Mac keyboards actually did call it the backspace key.

So here you are looking at Finder with no files selected. Now there are a lot of differences on how you handle files between Mac and Windows. One of the things that is interesting is that in order to rename an item I know there is F2 which you would use in Windows. On Mac simply have the file selected then hit the return key and you see it instantly selects there and I can type whatever I want there and I could move the cursor around and select it and rename it that way. So it is just hitting the enter key with the file selected. To open a file you double click it of course. To get information on a file you hit Command I. You can see these shortcuts in the File menu. As you can see to get info is Command I. To make a copy of a file in Windows you can Control and drag. Here you would actually hit Option and drag. So Option and drag, you can see the little + symbol, saying it is going to make a copy and I can copy it to there.

So once I'm running an App here, to switch between apps, instead of using Control and tab you would use Command and tab and you can see the application switcher here. It is kind of similar to Windows. You can go between them all and select the one that you want.

Now to quit an App on the Mac you can go and find it under the Menu item for the name of the application is Command Q. So instead of Alt F4 as in old fashioned Windows you would just do Command Q in its place.

Now old Macs had only one mouse button. This is now longer true with Track pads and Magic Mouse and there is multiple buttons on any Mac that you get. So you can use them like Windows by using the second click. For instance I am going to use two fingers to click on my Track Pad here and it opens up the context menu. If you have a Magic Mouse you would click on the right side to bring that up. Back when there was a one button mouse the way to do it was to use the control key. So this is what you actually used the control key for instead as opposed to the command key. Control and a single click will open up the Context Menu that works in the Finder, that works in different applications all over the place. It brings up the menu of whatever it is you can do with the item you have selected. So it is still very handy. I actually still use Control and click more than I actually use a two finger click on a Track Pad or right click on a Magic Mouse.

If course any Windows user is used to the Control Alt Delete to quit an application. On the Mac you've got a similar thing but it is a completely different set of keys. It is Command Option and Escape. Command, Option and Escape brings up the forced quit application window here. This is for all the currently running applications. You can select one and for instance this one here would say forced quit. For something like the Finder itself it would actually say "Relaunch" because you don't want to have your system running without the Finder running at all. So that's how you do Control Delete on your Mac.

So there is a look at some of the most common mappings between Windows keyboard shortcuts and Mac keyboard shortcuts. Now different applications have different changes between them. The Mac Windows version has different applications like Internet Explorer as opposed to Safari. So I'm sure you have your favorites. Leave them as comments to this video at

Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 16 Responses to “MacMost Now 719: Windows PC to Mac Keyboard Shortcuts”

    7 years ago

    One of the single greatest advantages of a Mac over a PC is the design of the keyboard shortcuts (as I have been telling my friends since the 1980s). It has always been possible to use Macintosh keyboard shortcuts without contorting one’s wrist and fingers. However, on a PC keyboard, one must physically rotate one’s wrist, thumb, and finger to unnatural and quite uncomfortable positions. It is almost faster and certainly more comfortable on a PC to use a mouse instead.

    The daily and continuous speed gains of using a Macintosh keyboard over a PC keyboard make the Mac a no-brainer for anyone who is a speed typist. As an added bonus, Macintosh users avoid wrist and finger pain!

    Luke Thomas
    7 years ago

    My problem is that I can’t stop using my old IBM keyboard. It’s very loud and clicky – those silent keyboards drive me crazy! I’m willing to spend whatever it takes to use an old IBM keyboard!

    Luke Thomas
    7 years ago

    On my old IBM keyboard I have to press the Ctrl + Esc – the same as the Windows key :-) Hey it’s okay at least I can still use the IBM keyboard.

    7 years ago

    Most difficulties I have with Crtl+Home, Ctrl+End, Ctrl+Shift+Home/End and/or sometimes in combination with the arrow key instead of Home/End which I use a lot in code-editors, web-textareas, Excel… everywhere.
    I still didn’t get the corresponding keys on the Mac or at least I’m not getting it right the first time yet. And then instead of going to the beginning/end of a line or text, I end up in other windows, on the launchpad or what else….

      Michael Scott
      7 years ago

      Crtl+Home = fn+left arrow
      Crtl+End = fn+right arrow
      option+right arrow = page down
      option+left arrow = page up

    Chandu Kale
    7 years ago

    The one thing I need badly is the Insert key. I use the Windows MS Office for my translation work which requires Windows apps (All of which I run on Parallels Desktop) I sometimes happen to press some combination and it goes into the overwrite mode. I have to then connect a Windows keyboard, press Ins and then reconnect the Mac keyboard to continue. Any workaround?

      7 years ago

      So it sounds like you are in Windows when this happens, right? So nothing to do with what I’m talking about in the video. This is just a matter of using a Mac keyboard while running Windows. I’d look in the Parallels docs (and help, and support) for how to emulate the Insert key. It must be happening as a result of something they have that does it.

        7 years ago

        Thanks for all your revelations, Gary. I don’t know how you figure out all that stuff! Chandu: Go to Parallels Preferences>Keyboard>+ (to add a custom keystroke). ‘Insert’ mode is one of the options in the pulldown for the “To:” target/Win keystroke, hth. Gary, I suppose a related question would be: Is there an ‘Overwrite’ kb mode in MacOS?

          7 years ago

          Overwriting text could be a feature of some word processors, but I can’t think of one — I haven’t really looked for it.

    7 years ago

    Thanks, Gary… that was really informative.

    Rui Azeredo
    7 years ago

    Thanks Gary, very useful. I haven’t found yet the corresponding F4 on excel which toggles between relative and absolute cell references. The F4 shortcut on windows excel is extreemly useful. Can you help me please?

    7 years ago

    I got an iMac, 21.5 monitor (2011) and just updated to Mountain Lion.

    My question is this. I don’t like the Apple Keyboard, it’s too slow for my typing, and also I need ergonomic keyboard for my wrists/arms.

    Is there a way to Program Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 7000 to work with the iMac?

    I know that keyboard does work, but I can only type, I like to program keys so I don’t have to rely on apple keyboard to do this.

    I was told that there’s a program, or something to download, that automatically takes care of this. I can’t believe that, I wouldn’t know what keys/characters to type.

    Bear in mind I’m brand new to iMac, so if anyone can answer me, keep it simple. I’m a Senior Citizen and my brain cells isn’t what it use to be.

    Can anyone help?

    Thank you so much


      7 years ago

      If the keyboard is a plain normal Bluetooth keyboard, then it should work fine. Not sure what you mean by “program keys” — what keys do you want to program and what do you want them to do?

        Terry Rubin
        7 years ago

        I see Command Key on Apple, all those fancy charters on Apple keyboard. The keys on microsoft wireless, which works good for typing, there are keys I was told from Apple to Microsoft 7000 that I can Program let’s say “Alt” can be programed as “command” (sorry, i’m so new at iMac, i feel so dumb. I type extremely fast, which is why I can’t use apple keyboard. I didn’t expect such a prompt reply. Thank you Gary. I’ll check tomorrow, tired now.

          7 years ago

          There aren’ that many, just three: Command, Control and Option on the Mac, and Control, Windows/Start, Alt on Windows. Those three “modifier keys” map to each other across keyboards. Option and Alt map to each other. In fact, most modern Mac keyboards have “alt” written above “option.”
          So the Control and Command keys map to the Control and Windows/Start key. Which maps to which? Well, that depends on a few things. But it is easy to find out. Just try them. Try Command+N to start a new window in Safari, for instance. Does Control+N do it, or Windows/Start+N do it. Then you’ve got it figure out.

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