Posted to Brian Solka's blog on November 15th, 2013

Increase Productivity With Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

A few keyboard shortcuts that will make your daily (computing) tasks more efficient

Did you know that in the early days of computers, the mouse didn't exist? Everything was done by keyboard. Though mice and trackpads are great for doing sensitive stuff like design, when used correctly, keyboard shortcuts save time and boost productivity.

There are many more keyboard shortcuts available than what I am listing, but not all are useful on a day-to-day basis. Many programs and websites (such as the Google suite) even have their own built-in keyboard shortcuts that can be reviewed in their settings, but the ones discussed below are fairly universal. Though the following shortcuts are listed from a Mac user point of view, almost all are transferable for other computer systems.

In order to differentiate between the different uses for these keyboard shortcuts, I will break them down into two main categories:

  • Workspace and user experience shortcuts

  • Convenient, time saving shortcuts

For each keyboard shortcut, I will list the keystrokes, along with why it’s useful (some are not so obvious). Also, here is a link to a spreadsheet that I have created that has all of the below shortcuts and more! Remember though, if you don’t see a keyboard shortcut listed below or in the spreadsheet, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; just search for it!

Workspace and user experience shortcuts

Full screen: Ctrl + ⌘ + F (again to exit full screen)

Works on any app with double arrow icon in top right of window

Ultra full screen: Shift + ⌘ + F (again to exit full screen)

Note: these two shortcuts only work with Mountain Lion OSX and higher

Hide toolbar in google docs: Ctrl + Shift + F

Why these are useful: Sometimes when you have many different programs/windows open on one screen (or even two), it can create a lot of visual cluster and make it more difficult to complete the task at hand.

If you constantly have to minimize or resize windows, you are wasting time and likely breaking the rhythm of your work flow. True, minimizing a window may only take a second to do, but if you have to do it every minute, it adds up.

Using ⌘ + M to minimize a window or program can save you time. As for hiding the toolbar in a google doc, I just prefer to do this when I know I won’t need to access it for a while, giving me more room to work with. Any of these full screen shortcuts also work nicely when presenting, either from a projector or screen sharing.

Convenient, time saving shortcuts


Close tab: ⌘ + W

Works in chrome, safari (most if not all browsers), finder windows with Mavericks OSX

Why this is useful: if you’re doing this often, it is way faster than finding the little ‘X’ on the tab itself; also works for closing finder windows and other programs

Re-open closed tab: ⌘ + Shift + T

This keystroke remembers last 10 closed tabs

Why this is useful: If you accidentally closed the wrong tab or intentionally closed a tab but want to recall it without having to look go through your browser history. With that, this function does not work with incognito windows in Google Chrome

Next tab: Ctrl + Tab

Previous tab: Ctrl + Shift + Tab

Why this is useful: If you have a ridiculous number of tabs open in one browser window, this can be more efficient than clicking on each tab one-by-one; especially if you have so many tabs that their width is compromised.

Google Docs

Hide toolbar: Ctrl + Shift + F

Add numbered list: ⌘ + Shift + 7

Add bulleted list: ⌘ + Shift + 8

Why this is useful: If you’ve hidden the toolbar (Ctrl + Shift + F), it is easier (in my opinion) to use these keyboard shortcuts than to reopen the toolbar and click the bulleted or numbered lists icons.

Add hyperlink: ⌘ + K (with or without desired text selected)


Full screen: ⌘ + Shift + 3

Specific selection: ⌘ + Shift + 4

Of specific window (without having to choose with crosshairs): ⌘ + Shift + 4, then, when crosshairs appear, press Spacebar. Now, hover over desired window until it’s highlighted green, then click.)

Why this is useful: If you have multiple windows open on one screen and want to take a screenshot of one of those windows without having to minimize, move, or resize the others.

Window Tools

New incognito window (Google Chrome only): ⌘ + Shift + N

Why this is useful: Most people assume this function is for surfing the web without leaving a trace. While this is true, I use Google Chrome’s Incognito window function for testing. For example, if I make a change on the Volacci website, I’ll want to see how it looks from a new/unidentified user’s point of view. I use an Incognito window to visit our site without having to logout in my main Google Chrome window.

Shift focus for like windows: ⌘ + `

Why this is useful: if you have declined to enter full screen mode or minimize some of your windows to reduce clutter, chances are you might have more than one like window open. If that is the case and you are without a second screen or refuse to combine them, using this keystroke will alternate between open, like windows (‘like’ means same program).

Spotlight Search: ⌘ + Space

Why this is useful: the keyboard shortcut for Spotlight Search is a great way to quickly open a program or document. I prefer not to have Safari in my dock because I primarily use Google Chrome. However, when I do want to quickly access Safari for testing purposes, it’s roughly a keystroke away. After accessing the Spotlight Search, Safari is the top result after only typing an ‘S’. Once it’s selected, I just press Enter and Safari is already being launched.


Bonus: (not a ‘keyboard’ shortcut)

If you are using a mouse that has a scrolling wheel, there is a good chance that it also functions as a clickable button. If that is the case, you can open a link in a new tab by clicking a link with the wheel button.

Why this is useful: If you have just searched for something and want to open multiple links in new tabs, this method is significantly faster than right-clicking on each link and selecting ‘Open Link in New Tab’ or holding down ⌘ and clicking each link.


I realize that keyboard shortcuts are not for everyone and memorizing them may seem to waste more time than they actually save. However, for some people, they provide a working fluidity that cannot be replicated by other means; there is a reason that these shortcuts exist. The more you use a shortcut, the easier it will be engrained in your memory for future use. Good luck and I hope these help! Now go to the top of the page (Fn + ←) and read some other great blog posts.

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