The Best Mac Shortcuts in 2021

Shortcuts to save you time and get your work done faster

The Ultimate Guide to Keyboard Shortcuts
The Ultimate Guide to Keyboard Shortcuts

By learning several common Mac shortcuts that help with everything from documents to web pages to even the Mac's own operating system, you'll save plenty of time in the long run.

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts: Writing Papers and Working with Documents

Copying and pasting
Press Command + A, C or V to select all, copy or paste.

Writing papers can be time-consuming. However, there are (a vast) range of Mac shortcuts and commands that make life a little easier for any would-be essayist.

Here's how to cut, copy and paste:

  • Command + C: copies any highlighted content to the Mac's Clipboard
  • Command + V: pastes the Clipboard's contents
  • Command + Shift + V: pastes without formatting
  • Command + X: cuts (i.e. erases) any highlighted content and copies it to the Mac's clipboard
  • Command + A: selects all items or content on a page

Here are Mac shortcuts that deal more specifically with formatting or editing your text, although not all of them work with every word-processing app.

  • Command + B: bold lettering
  • Command + I: italics
  • Command + U: underline
  • Option + Delete: delete word on left of cursor
  • Fn + Delete: forward delete
  • Control + K: delete all text between cursor and end of paragraph or line
  • Command + Control + Space bar: open Character Viewer window (which lets you choose and type emojis)
  • Command + K: add a hyperlink to highlighted text
Finding a word
Press Command + F to open the word finder.

Hunting for particular words in your document or for definitions or misspellings? Here are the Mac commands you need.

Note: some of these shortcuts are different for Google Docs and Microsoft Word, which occasionally have their own specific key combinations (noted below where available).

  • Command + F: find specific words in your document
  • Command + semi-colon (;): find misspelled words. Note: in Google Docs you should press Command + apostrophe ('). In Word, you press Alt + F7 (although the F keys must have been previously enabled as function keys by going to System Preferences > Keyboard)
  • Command + Control + D: display definition of highlighted word. Note: in Google Docs you should press Command + Shift + Y
  • Command + Shift + colon (:): open the Spelling and Grammar window. Note: this shortcut isn't available in Google Docs, while for Word you should press F7

Here are several Mac keyboard shortcuts related to undoing actions and jumping to particular parts of your work:

  • Command + Z: undo previous action
  • Command + Shift + Z: redo the previously undone action
  • Fn + Left/Right Arrow: jump to beginning/end of document
  • Command + Up/Down Arrow: move cursor to beginning/end of document. Note: not available on Microsoft Word
  • Command + Left/Right Arrow: move cursor to beginning/end of line

And finally, if you've finished a writing session, here are three Apple shortcuts that deal with saving, printing and opening new documents:

  • Command + S: save your document (do this often even while writing)
  • Command + O: open a document saved to your Mac
  • Command + P: print your document

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts: Navigating Web Pages and Apps

Shortcut to Tab Switcher
Press Command + Tab to open the Tab Switcher and switch between apps.

Writing papers and reports is one thing, but no list of the best Mac shortcuts would be complete without detailing the commands that can be used to navigate between web pages and apps. These are the kinds of shortcuts that prove useful when conducting the research and reading necessary for writing a paper, or when opening additional apps to help you finish your work.

It should be noted that these shortcuts work with all major browsers (e.g. Chrome, Safari, Firefox).

  • Command + T: open a new tab on your browser
  • Command + Shift + T: reopen the last tab you closed (great if you accidentally close a tab)
  • Command + N: open a new window
  • Command + W: close the current window
  • Command + Shift + W: close all windows of the app you're using (e.g. if you're using a web browser, this shortcut will close every window)
  • Command + M: minimize the current window

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts: Managing Files and Folders

Shortcut to Home
Press Command + Shift + H to shortcut to your Home folder when in Finder.

If you save lots of essays and documents to your Mac, you may want to save them to particular folders, as a way of making them more findable. Here are a batch of Mac shortcuts that relate to folders:

  • Command + Shift + N: create a new folder when in the Finder app
  • Command + Shift + D: open the Desktop folder (when in Finder)
  • Command + Option + L: open Downloads folder (when in Finder)
  • Command + Shift + O: open Documents folder (when in Finder)
  • Command + Shift + G: open the Go to Folder window (when in Finder), which lets you find a specific folder by typing its name
  • Command + Shift + H: open the user's Home folder (when in Finder)
  • Command + Shift + F: open All My Files

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts: Handy System Shortcuts

Shortcut to Help
Press Command + Shift + ? to shortcut to Help.

While none of the Mac commands below relate specifically to writing papers or managing your work, they're all useful time-savers in one way or another:

  • Command + Shift + Question mark (?): open Help menu of the app you're using
  • Option + Shift + Volume Up/Down: adjust the volume in smaller increments
  • Command + Shift + Delete: empty your Mac's Trash. Press Option + Shift + Command + Delete to empty the Trash without having to confirm
  • Command + Shift + 3: take a screenshot of your entire screen. Press Command + Shift + 4 to take a partial screenshot
  • Command + Mousepad click: right-click
  • Command + Option + Esc: brings up a menu to help you force an app to quit
  • Command + Tab: open the app switcher. Keep Command held down and press Tab repeatedly to scroll through apps. Release both buttons to confirm selection
  • Command + Space bar: open Spotlight search bar
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