Everyone Should Know About These Essential Keyboard Shortcuts

June 9, 2021 • Zachary Amos

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Using the right keyboard shortcuts at the right time can help you navigate or get work done without needing to move your hand between your mouse and keyboard.

Each time you use a shortcut, you can save fractions of a second. This may not seem like a lot of time on its own. However, over the course of a day, week or year, these little moments can build up to become minutes or even hours of time saved.

There are hundreds of keyboard shortcuts, and many programs even have their own, unique shortcuts. Memorizing them all may not be possible — but there are a few that work consistently and can provide some serious time savings.

These keyboard shortcuts are some of the most important to know.

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Basic Text Editing Shortcuts 

These text editing shortcuts are some of the most likely to work consistently, no matter what operating system or app you’re using.

  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + C: Copy selected text.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + C: Paste copied text.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + X: Cut selected text, deleting and copying it.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + A: Select all text on a page or in a field.
  • Ctrl + Z: Undo most recent actions.
  • Ctrl + Y or Cmd ⌘ + Shift + Z: Redo most recent action.

File Management Shortcuts

These shortcuts will help you quickly save, open new files or otherwise manage your files while in a file editing app:

  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + W: Close current tab or window.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + S: Save current file.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + O: Open a file.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + N: Create a new file.

Web Browser Shortcuts

  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + R: Refreshes the page. 
  • Ctrl + Tab or Cmd ⌘ + `: Cycles between open windows.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + Shift + T: Re-opens the most recently closed tab.
  • Ctrl (or Cmd ⌘) + “+” or “-”: Zooms in or out, or changes the font size on macOS.

Function Key Shortcuts

At the top of most keyboards, there’s a row of 12 function keys — F1, F2, F3 and so on. Each of these keys has its own function that will be mostly consistent across your computer. Here are some of the most common function key shortcuts:

  • F1: Display help menu.
  • F2: Highlight file or folder for renaming.
  • F3: Search.
  • Alt + F4: Force-close the current window or app. (You may not get a warning before the window closes, so be careful with this shortcut.)
  • F5: Refreshes the current window or app.
  • F11: Toggles between fullscreen and windowed mode.

Windows-Specific Shortcuts

  • Alt-Tab: Swap between the current window and another open program.
  • Windows key ⊞ + D: Minimize all windows and go to the desktop.
  • Windows key ⊞ + Left Arrow or Right Arrow: Opens current window on just one side of the screen, allowing you to quickly compare two different windows.
  • Windows key ⊞ + Up Arrow or Down Arrow: With the up arrow, full-screen or open most recently used program. With the down arrow, window or minimize the currently focused program.
  • Ctrl + Shift + Esc: Open the Windows Task Manager in any version of Windows.
  • Ctrl + Alt + Delete: Opens an interface that allows you to shut down your computer, lock your computer, switch users or open the task manager.

MacOS-Specific Shortcuts

  • Option + Cmd ⌘ + Esc: Force-close the current window.
  • Cmd ⌘ + Space bar: Show or hide the Spotlight search field in any version of macOS.
  • Ctrl + Cmd ⌘ + F: Switch app to fullscreen if possible.
  • Cmd ⌘ + Tab: Switch to the most recently used app.
  • Shift + Cmd ⌘ + 5: In macOS Mojave or later, this shortcut takes a screenshot or makes a screenshot. You can also use Shift + Cmd ⌘ + 3 or 4 for screenshots.

Save Time With These Shortcuts

These are some of the most consistent and frequently used shortcuts. Learning a few of them can help you save time when you’re using your computer.