Best Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Cheatsheet

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts can help you transition from PC to Mac. You use a Windows computer at work and so you have always used a Windows PC at home. Makes sense. But more and more people are making the switch from Windows to Mac for home use. We won’t get into the debate over style, power and security. Let’s just recognize that many people are looking to Mac for various reasons. Yet some still fear they will have trouble learning a new Operating System, that it will be this alien technology to which human eyes cannot see and the human brain cannot comprehend. Of course that’s not true. If new users can get into the habit of using the following shortcut keys, they will soon realize there isn’t much difference between the Windows and Mac OS X.

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are the most important Mac keyboard shortcuts and their corresponding symbols. Depending on your keyboard, some of these symbols may not be visible.

mac oxs keyboard symbols

 Mac Keyboard Shortcuts When Booting

These are a few important boot shortcut keys you should know. While you’ll rarely need to use them, they’re good to know in case you need to reinstall the Operating System or perform disk repair utilities.

Startup Manager (Hold Option key when booting) – Startup Manager allows you to boot from a different disk if the primary drive has failed. For example, if you have a Time Machine backup of your computer on an external drive, you can use Startup Manager to select that volume and boot to it.

Safe Boot (Hold Shift key when booting) – Holding the Shift key when booting will launch Safe Boot, Mac OS X’s version of the Windows Safe Mode.

Boot From Disk (Hold the C key when booting) – By holding the C key when booting, you can launch the installation DVD to repair or reinstall the Operating System.

Verbose Mode (Hold the Command and V key when booting) – You can launch Verbose Mode by holding the Command and V keys when booting your Mac. Verbose Mode essentially removes the pretty boot screen graphic and reveals everything loading via command line format. Verbose Mode can be used to troubleshoot an ailing Mac.

Common Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

These are the keys you’ll use most often when using your Mac computer. Keep in mind, you will normally want to be on the Desktop or outside of a browser window or application when using these. So click off to the side of the screen.

Launch the Applications folder (Shift + Command + A) – Quickly launch Applications by pressing the Shift, Command and A keys together.

Open the Desktop folder (Shift + Command + D) – Open the Desktop folder by pressing the Shift + Command + D together.

Eject a disk (Command + E) – Press the Command and E keys together to eject a disk.

Minimize a screen (Command + M) – You can minimize the current screen by pressing the Command and M keys at the same time.

Log Out (Shift + Command + Q) – Log out quickly by pressing the Shift, Command and Q keys together.

Open Utilities folder (Shift + Command + U) – Launch the Utilities folder by pressing the Shift, Command and U keys together.

Empty Trash (Shift + Command + Delete) – Permanently delete items in your Trash by pressing the Shift + Command + Delete keys together. Add the Option key to delete without a prompt.

Screen Capture (Shift + Command + 3) – Capture the screen by pressing Shift, Command and 3 keys together (Similar to Print Screen in Windows).

Capture Selected Screen Area (Shift + Command + 4) – Highlight and capture a selected area by pressing the Shift + Command + 4 keys together. (Similar to the Snip tool in Windows).

Print (Command + P) – Print the current document by pressing the Command and P keys together.

Quit Programs (Command + Q) – To quit a program, press the Command and Q keys together.

Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts Concluded

Fortunately, most of the keyboard shortcuts you know from Windows will remain the same in OS X. The slight difference will be the CTRL key is normally replaced with the Command key. Remember, as in Windows, most menus will contain the shortcut key description beside the command. So take a moment and navigate the menus and jot down the shortcuts you use the most. Here are common Windows / Mac shortcuts that are similar to each other.

  • (CTRL) Command + C will copy
  • (CTRL) Command + V will paste
  • CTRL) Command + X will Cut
  • (CTRL) Command + A will select all
  • (CTRL) Command + F will launch Find

A couple of things that will freak out the Windows user is that the Close, Minimize and Maximize buttons are on the upper left corner of the screen instead of the upper right. And when you click the X to close a window, it doesn’t actually close the program. Aside from that, both Operating Systems are very similar in functionality.

mac and windows close buttons

Switching from Windows to Mac isn’t very difficult. Both Windows and Mac (and even some Linux distributions) are so similar, even a novice can navigate and perform daily tasks on any of the Operating Systems. But knowing these quick Mac keyboard shortcuts will help smooth the transition.