Of Keyboards and Mice

As a followup to my previous post I thought touching on how to get the most out of the Mac keyboard and mouse or trackpad would be a good idea. Although the keyboard and mouse are mostly the same between a Mac and a PC there are a few key differences that can really get a guy hung up.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Watch a long time Mac user and you’ll undoubtedly see them using a large number of keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts let you perform actions that would normally require the use of a mouse but switching from the keyboard to mouse is a time consuming task.

If you’re coming from Windows then you probably know at least some keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl+c for copy, ctrl+v for paste. You know that most keyboard shortcuts using the ctrl key plus some other key to get something done. You might also know that the Windows key plus some other key on the keyboard will fire off something completely different. On the Mac the majority of the keyboard shortcuts are fired off using the command key. Below I have a list of some of the most common keyboard shortcuts on the Mac. It is not an exhaustive list

Shortcuts that work nearly anywhere

  • command+x, command+c, command+v: cut, copy, paste
  • command+space bar: spotlight search. Really useful for launching apps
  • command+left or right arrow: One area I’d fault the Mac on, poor use of home/end. This shortcut replicates home/end in most situations. In some apps they are remapped to change tabs, like in iTerm
  • fn+delete: On laptops, fn+delete will act like the delete key on a PC keyboard, deleting the character in front of the cursor.
  • command+tab: Switch between apps
  • command+~: Switch between windows of the current app
  • F3: On the newer Mac laptops and the aluminum keyboard, F3 initiates the all windows exposé.
  • option+e and then the letter: Gets you that thing above the e 🙂
  • ctrl+click: Right click
  • command+q: Closes all windows of the current app and quits the app
  • command+w: Closes the current window (or tab in some apps)
  • command+m: Minimize current window
  • command+h: Hide the current application. Similar to minimizing an app but doesn’t require Dock space
  • command+option+h: Hide all windows other than the current window
  • option+mute,volume up/down: Open audio preferences
  • option+F3: Exposé preferences

Discovering More
If you want to know about more keyboard shortcuts look no further than the menu bar. Just click a menu and look at the symbols shown to the right of a menu item. The ⌘ is the command key, ⇧ is shift, ⌥ is option, ⎋ is your power button and ⌫ is your backspace (delete) key. ⌥⌘T will usually bring up a special characters palette allowing you to find these symbols and more.

Also know that the option key serves as a modifier for a lot of things. For example, if you hold down the option key and then click the AirPort icon in the menu bar (by the clock) you’ll additional information about the wireless network you’re connected to. If you hold option while clicking the apple menu, the usual “About This Mac” will become a shortcut to the System Profiler.

The Trackpad
While the keyboard is fun and all, the trackpad is where the real magic is. Using the multi-touch trackpad found on the latest generation of Mac laptops will make any other trackpad nearly impossible to use. The trackpad, made of glass with the perfect texture, is large and also serves as the button. You can click using just about any part of the trackpad which actually comes in handy more often than you’d think.

A favorite sticking point of Windows users is that Macs don’t have mice or trackpads with multiple buttons. They then assume that OS X doesn’t understand the venerable right click. This couldn’t be further from the truth. OS X has supported context based right click menus from day one. Accessing them was just different, in the beginning. You’ll find that control+click will produce a right click menu, but so will clicking the trackpad with two fingers. If you’re a fan of tap to click as I am, then you’ll you can find that setting in System Preferences. Once enabled, tapping on the trackpad with two fingers will produce the right click menu. Over time, I’ve found this to be much more useful than a dedicated button because I can get the menu from anywhere on the trackpad.

Here’s a list of the other capabilities of the multi-touch trackpad:

  • Two fingers slid up or down: Scrolling, just like the wheel mouse
  • Four fingers slid up: Show desktop
  • Four fingers slid down: Exposé

For more visit the trackpad preferences in System Preferences. Apple also provides a lot of good information on this topic at http://www.apple.com/support/mac101/work/

Think I missed something? Leave it in the comments!

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