Top 10 keyboard shortcuts new Mac users need to know!

Top 10 keyboard shortcuts every new Mac owner needs to know!

Want to learn to navigate around OS X faster? Here are 10 shortcuts every Mac owner should know!

If you just picked up your first Mac you may be scratching your head when you look at the keyboard for the first time. It's a little different than the Windows counterpart but that doesn't mean it's any harder to use and navigate. There is no shortage of handy keyboard shortcuts to help you move around OS X as fast and efficiently as possible. Here are the keyboard shortcuts we think every Mac owner should know right from the start:

1. How to quit an app

Quitting an app completely kills the task itself. In order to quit an application completely, just press Cmd + Q on your keyboard.

How to quit an app with your Mac keyboard

2. How to close the active window

If you don't want to completely quit an app but just close the current active window, hit Cmd + W on your keyboard.

How to close a window with your Mac keyboard

3. How to open a new tab

Most apps support tabs which means instead of opening new windows, you can just open new tabs in the same instance. To open a new tab without using the file menu, just press Cmd + T on your keyboard.

How to open a new tab with your Mac keyboard

4. How to access the application switcher

The application switcher in OS X lets you quickly and easily toggle between open applications without a mouse. To access it just press Cmd + Tab on your keyboard. Then to tab through applications, just repeatedly press the tab key until you have the application you want to switch to highlighted and then release it.

How to access app switcher on your Mac keyboard

5. How to open Spotlight search

Spotlight search is your go-to place for searching all files and applications on your Mac. Access it quickly by pressing Cmd + Space bar on your keyboard.

How to access spotlight search with a Mac keyboard

6. How to force quit applications

Every once in a while an application may choose not to respond and you might have to force it to close if the normal way of quitting it results in no response. For that, bring up the Force Quit dialog box by hitting Cmd + Option + Esc on your keyboard.

Force quit apps Mac keyboard shortcut

7. How to cut, copy, paste, and undo

If you're used to cutting, copying, pasting, and undoing on a Windows keyboard, a Mac keyboard isn't too terrible different, instead of a control key though, you'll use the Cmd key followed by whatever letter you need, Z, X, C, or V for undo, cut, copy, and paste respectively.

How to cut copy paste undo on Mac keyboard

8. How to search and find words and phrases

If you want to find a specific word or phrase on a webpage — or anywhere within OS X really — just hit Cmd + F on your keyboard in order to launch the in-app search bar.

How to use find and search feature on Mac keyboard

9. How to launch Quick Look

Quick Look is a great utility that lets you easily view a media file without actually opening it, hence the name Quick Look. Just click once on the file you'd like to view in Quick Look and then tap the Space bar on your keyboard. Alternately, you can hit Cmd + Y which does the same thing. I just find the space bar method to be much more convenient.

How to launch Quick Look with Mac keyboard

10. How to access the shut down, sleep, and restart dialog

If you need to put your Mac to sleep, shut it down, or restart it, the easiest way to do so is by just opening a dialog box that lets you pick one of the three. To do so, just hit Control + Eject on your keyboard.

Restart shutdown and sleep Mac keyboard shortcuts

Your favorite shortcuts?

These are the keyboard shortcuts I think folks who are brand new to Mac will benefit from the most while getting started. However, we know there are many more. What are your favorites? Be sure to leave them in the comments as well as a brief description of what they do!

See also:

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Top 10 keyboard shortcuts every new Mac owner needs to know!


CMD+Shift+4 to grab only a small portion of what's on my screen by clicking and dragging your mouse with the desired portion.

Most of these shortcuts are very similar to Windows shortcuts--usually changing the Mac "Command" key for the Windows "Control" key is the main difference.

Besides, most of these commands are explicitly listed in the menus of both OSes. I guess this is news to some...

Alternate characters...the letter & number keys will give alternate characters via holding the option key & a letter, and a different one with shift-option & a letter...

When using Cmd + Tab for the Application Switcher AND you have a ton of apps open, you can use the arrow keys to go both left and right to your target app instead of just going to the right all the way around.

I use command-tab and command-backquote (rather than the arrows), since the backquote key is right above the tab key. I find that's more convenient, and it can still be done with just the one hand.

Awesome, thanks! Yes, much better! Plus, I never knew what to call that key not to mention what it's for--had to look it up just now. Don't think I've ever used it.

Awesome! I'm a fairly new Mac owner and I've sooooo needed this. I was a Windows user my whole life but after getting acquainted with Apples amazing build quality and design properties, I decided I needed a Mac. Not to mention that after having a retina phone & iPad, my Dell laptop made me wanna cry.

I'll note that once you're into the Application Switcher via Cmd-Tab, while Tab takes you forward through the list, Shift-Tab takes you backwards.

I too am new to Mac and would like to know the best way to simply minimize all apps and go to desktop. Like the bottom right corner in win 7 and 8.

You can set your hot corners to do this - go to System Settings / Mission Control / Hot Corners, and set the bottom-right corner to "Desktop".

CMD+Shift+3 = Capture full size screenshot, includes all monitors.
CMD+Shift+4 = Region screenshot capture, if you press spacebar it will capture a specific window.
Option+Any Volume control key = Opens sound control panel
Option+Any Brightness control key = Opens display control panel

Control + Tab = next tab in Safari (also works in Finder, Firefox)
Control + Shift + Tab = previous tab in Safari (also works in Finder, Firefox)
Control + Shift + Eject = Lock user account and turn off screen

If you want to move a file, hit CMD+C while selecting the file. Then, in the destination folder hit CMD+Option+V.

I learned this last week at a One to One at the Apple store. Love that place. I always learn something new.

Jump to the top of the page = fn+◀︎
Jump to the bottom of page = fn+▶︎