Unpublished Keyboard Shortcuts on Mac OS X

Tony Pitale, Former Viget

Article Category: #Code

Posted on

This is just the quickest of tips for everyone using Mac OS X. Keyboard shortcuts are one of my favorite features on Mac OS X and something that I think few operating systems get right. Not only are there a staggering number of predefined shortcuts (some aren't even advertised, but we'll get to that in a moment) but also, for any menu item, a custom shortcut can be defined within System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts (the right-most tab). I find this to be immensely useful, especially in overriding the shortcut behavior of a variety of third party applications that have the same function. For example, Firefox, Textmate, and almost every other application that has tabbed windows provides a shortcut on the keyboard to switch between tabs (left and right). For Apple's application, the shortcut is likely to be Command-Option-Arrow Key. By default many other applications use Command-Option-Brace (curly brace, or square bracket?). A quick pair of keyboard shortcuts overrides these behaviors to be standard to your shortcut preference. If you can't recall a keyboard shortcut, users of the latest version 10.5 (Leopard), can make instant use of the help menu which, like Spotlight for files, will search for text amongst the seemingly endless sea of menu options. This feature has saved me time, and again, in applications such as any of the Adobe suite of products. Lastly, I'd like to touch on three very useful but, unadvertised, keyboard shortcuts. Use Command-Option-Eject Key to set your computer into a blissful sleep state, Command-Control-Eject Key to reset your Mac immediately, or combine those two and get Command-Option-Control-Eject Key to shut it down until you need it again. Overall, the mouse is unbelievably slow for pre-defined activities, in comparison to a keyboard shortcut. Thanks to Apple's latest OS X, you don't even have to remember them all.

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