Reduce Your Mouse Mileage, Use Key Combos

by Tony Gamble

Tony's Tech Tips LogoLast week I posted some tips on how to become better acquainted with your laptop trackpad and some of the advantages it has over just a simple mouse. This week, I’d like to save you a few miles of travel on the mouse with a quick list of some of lesser known keyboard shortcuts for both Mac and Windows. Let’s face it: time is money, so getting your great content out there more efficiently is the goal. So let go of that mouse, land your fingers on the home keys and try out some of these awesome key combos.


Mac Keyboard Shortcuts


CMD+Delete – instead of grabbing and dragging an item (or multiple items) and dragging them all the way down to that metal wastebasket in your Dock, hold down the Command key (if you’re on an older keyboard, it’s the funky cloverleaf-like symbol next to the spacebar) and hit Delete. The item(s) are immediately sent to the Trash.

CMD+OPT+D – let’s say you want to take a screenshot, but you want to maximize the screen real-estate. You can quickly hide the Dock by holding down the Command and Option keys, then press the D key. The same combo brings it back.

CMD+Shift+3 – Windows users have always had a clearly identified Print Screen key on their keyboard, but that just copies it into the clipboard for use in another app. On OS X, holding down the Command and Shift keys, then pressing the number 3 key will immediately place an image file right on your desktop.

CMD+Shift+4 – this one I use more often than the previous one, but it does involve some mouse work. With Command+Shift+4, your mouse arrow turns into a crosshair and you can drag to select only the portion of the screen you want to snap. If you want to capture the entire window of an open app, hit the spacebar and your mouse will become a camera icon; just hover over the window you want to snap and click the mouse. But the best thing I love about this key combo is the realtime X and Y coordinates feedback. What are the dimensions of that image? Just Command+Option+4 to bring up the crosshair, then click and drag over the area you want to measure. To avoid creating a new snapshot image, just hit the Escape key before you release your left mouse click.

CMD+W – this simple one I’ve used so often that my fingers are hardwired to its position. Hold down the Command key and hit W to close the current window, rather than travel your mouse all the way up to the top left corner. Another hardwired motion is Command+Q to quit the app. And did you know what you can CMD+Q your way through the apps list that you bring up with CMD+Tab?

CTRL+CMD+D – this little gem was a big deal when it was introduced years ago, but everyone I know seems to have forgotten about it. You can instantly pull up OS X’s built-in Dictionary definition of a word by hovering over the word, then hold Control and Command and press the D key. The resulting popup window give you not only the dictionary entry but also a Wikipedia entry.

Shift+Volume – there’s nothing worse than a room full of Mac users adjusting their volume. You can turn it off in the System Preferences, but if you’re looking to temporarily bypass it, this key combo is for you. Hold the Shift key while adjusting the volume to mute the “thwip” sound effect.

OPT+Shift+Volume – the volume keys adjust the sound output in 16 steps. For more fine-tuning, hold the Option and Shift keys while adjusting your volume to get 64 steps. Perfect for those of us with OCD.

CMD+Shift+L – this is one that even I didn’t know about, and what a gem it is! Highlight any text and hold Command and Shift, then press the L key to have the highlighted word or phrase open up as a search term in Google. Built right into the Mac OS!


Windows Keyboard Shortcuts


WIN+NumKey(0-9) – while holding the Windows key (typically to the left of the spacebar), press any number on the top row of number keys to open the corresponding window residing in the Taskbar, including pinned items that are not currently open.

WIN+T – you already know that when you mouse over an item on the Taskbar, you get a fully animated popup preview of the contents of that window. Hold down the Windows key and press T to cycle through all of the items on your Taskbar, no mouse required.

WIN+UpArrow/DownArrow – to quickly maximize your current window to fill the available screen space, hold the Windows key and press the Up directional arrow. Restore it back to its previous size with Windows+Down arrow.

ALT+Esc – we all know about cycling through open apps with the Alt+Tab key combo, and of course the slick visual feedback of Win+Tab in Windows 7 and 8, but to cycle through open windows without the graphical goodness, hold the Alt key (to the left of the Windows key) and tap the Escape key.

ALT+F4 – this one has been around since the early days of Windows and has found new life with Windows 8 and its lack of a Close ( X ) button in the new Start Menu apps. Hold the Alt key and press the F4 function key to quit the current app. Now that you know, don’t let nefarious online trolls trick you into using it to solve a problem.

CTRL+Shift+Esc – jump directly to the Task Manager by holding Control and Shift, then hit the Escape key

CTRL+Shift+N – whether you’re on the Desktop or browsing files in the Explorer window, you can create a new empty folder by holding the Control and Shift keys, then press N.

Shift+DEL – if you’re absolutely certain you want to delete a file or folder without the chance to recover it, hold the Shift key before pressing Delete. The item will bypass the Recycle Bin and be deleted immediately.

ALT+Enter – show the properties of a file or folder by holding the Alt key, then press Enter. A popup window gives you all the details, from file size to location and security settings.

WIN+Pause/Break – often when I have a client asking for help on a hardware issue, I’ll ask what they’re running for a PC. Invariably, the response I get is Windows XP/Vista/7/8. Not terribly useful. To get more detail, hold the Windows key and press the Pause/Break key to pull up the System Info window.


Of course, there are certainly far more keyboard shortcuts than what I have listed here, and every app has its own set of key combos. Add a few to your daily use and you’ll be zipping your way through developing awesome content.

Have a favourite keyboard shortcut that you don’t see listed here? Let us know in the comments below.

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