Essential keyboard shortcuts: Command-Z, -X, -C, and -V

Apple-Keyboard-Command-Key

One of the best things about the Mac is consistency. That lets you take something you know about one app and use it in another app. There’s no better example than the Mac’s Edit menu, and its stalwart menu items Undo, Cut, Copy, and Paste. The keyboard shortcuts for those are always the same, regardless of the app you’re using:

⌘-Z for Undo

⌘-X for Cut

⌘-C for Copy

⌘-V for Paste.

The keyboard shortcuts are right next to each other in the bottom row of the keyboard, and if you use your left thumb to press the Command key you can type the Z, X, C, or V with your left index finger. This makes those shortcuts easy one-handers, and that’s no accident.

Look for an Edit menu, and Undo, Cut, Copy, and Paste, next time you’re using your Mac. They’ll be there, and so will the shortcuts. Learn the shortcuts once, then use them over and over, regardless of the app you’re in.

 

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How to navigate dialog boxes from the keyboard

Most dialog boxes have a Cancel button, which you can click by pressing esc (Escape) on the keyboard. That’s an easy key to hit as it’s usually at the top left corner of the keyboard.

The “default button” (the one that’s either heavily outlined, or blue) can be triggered with Return or Enter. Enter is the easier key to type thanks to its position at lower right (at least on keyboards with numeric keypads).

The Tab key will take you from place to place in the dialog box. It will highlight every item in a dialog box, including every button, if you turn on Full Keyboard Access in System Preferences/Keyboard and choose the “All controls” option. Trigger a selected button (or checkbox, or radio button) after tabbing to it using the space bar.

Once you’ve tried this you’ll use it all the time.

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How to take a picture of the screen (screenshot)

Simplest way: ⌘-Shift-3. Result: time-stamped image, on your desktop. The image is the entire screen, including the menubar. If your Mac’s volume is turned up you’ll hear a camera shutter sound, for those of you old enough to remember when cameras made a sound when you took a picture. You can edit the image if you’d like– just open it up with Preview or any other app that can edit images.

Better way: ⌘-Shift-4, then click and drag a bounding rectangle. Imagine a rectangle surrounding your desired screen capture region. Click at the top left corner of that rectangle and keep the mouse/trackpad button down. Then drag to the lower right corner of that rectangle. Then let go. You’ll hear the shutter sound and find a time-stamped image on your desktop.

Better better way: ⌘-Shift-4, then press the spacebar. The cursor changes to a camera icon. Whichever window you click on is captured. Even if the window is partially obscured by other windows. This is very precise: it exactly captures the window, right to the edge, complete with rounded corners. Result is the same as with the others: a time-stamped image on your desktop.

BONUS* BECAUSE I’M IN A GIVING MOOD: Hold the Control key down while doing any of the above, and you don’t get a time-stamped image on your desktop. Instead, the image is placed on the Clipboard, ready for you to paste it (maybe into an email). If you’re only taking the screenshot because you want to email it to someone, this is the way to go because it doesn’t clutter up your Desktop with an icon, and rather than “attaching” which can be a chore all you have to do it Paste.

*These things are supposed to be short. You got more than 60 seconds’ worth this time.

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⌘-P, then Enter

You probably already know that ⌘-P brings up the Print dialog box. You probably also already know that pressing Enter (or Return) on the keyboard is the same as clicking the Print button (because it’s the default button, indicated by being blue). But maybe you didn’t know that you don’t have to wait for the dialog box to appear on the screen before hitting Enter on the keyboard. If you’re not going to change anything in the dialog box anyway, there’s no point in waiting for it to draw. Just hit ⌘-P, then Enter, as quickly as you can. Next thing you know, your page will come out of the printer.

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Control-Eject to bring up Restart/Sleep/Shutdown dialog

If your keyboard has an Eject key you can bring up the Sleep/Restart/Shutdown dialog by pressing Control and Eject together. Here’s how it looks.

The Restart/Sleep/Shutdown dialog

No need to go to the Apple menu to do it. Just Control-Eject.

This shortcut was discovered with the help of Charlie the Cat, who was pressing down on the Control key while I tried to eject a disk from the keyboard.

Charlie the cat, on the desk

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⌘-I for Italics

⌘-I toggles italics on and off. Works almost everywhere. Highlight some text, hit ⌘-I, and the text becomes italicized– unless it was already italicized. In that case, the italicizing is removed.

Of course you can hit ⌘-I before typing something. If you do that, whatever you type after that is italicized, until you either hit ⌘-I again or click to type somewhere else.

This is very handy.

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