macbook pro keyboard inverted colors

Must Know Shortcut Keys for Macs

One major draw to Apple products is their ease of use. Apple intentionally incorporates ways to make using each product as convenient as possible. In this same vein, users quickly learn and internalize tips and tricks to make their experience even better. Below you will find keyboard shortcuts that will help make your work flow more efficient and convenient, so much so that you will soon forget what they are because they will evolve into second nature for your everyday use.


Lock Screen

We have all heard a version of the story where someone walks away from their computer and returns to a changed background, an unintentional sent email, or a set of eyes seeing information that should not have been seen. This happens all too often, and for no other reason than un-trained or lazy users.

Shortcut: ⌘ + control + Q

If you are walking away from your Mac, be sure to use this shortcut to send your computer to the log-in screen. Getting in this habit will significantly secure your computer with the push of three buttons.

log-in screen mac


Quit Application

You have opened 10 documents in Preview and want to close all documents and the application itself all at the same time. This shortcut will close you out of an application, and will also close all windows associated with the application.

Shortcut: ⌘ + Q


Open Spotlight

Spotlight is a search tool for your Mac. It is a system wide search that indexes all files and items on your operating system. This saves time if you are looking for a specific file or item. For instance, if you want to search up a presentation name, you do not need to open Keynote. You can search the name in Spotlight.

Shortcut: ⌘ + spacebar

spotlight search on mac


Open “Go to the Folder” Window

You can navigate to folders in finder, however sometimes it is quicker to search for the folder you are looking for. Also, your system has hidden folders so that users do not unintentionally cause system wide harm. The “Go to the Folder” window allows users to search for any folder, including hidden folders. To use this shortcut you must first open Finder.

Shortcut: ⌘ + control + Q


Open Selected File in Quick Look

When a file is selected in Finder, you can open the file with Quick Look to … get a “quick look” without having to open and run an application. Quick Look also allows for basic editing based on file type. Quick Look supports many file types including but not limited to, HTML, PDF, MS Office, JPEGS, and QuickTime. Apple Support offers a detailed explanation including Quick Look instructions and features for macOS Catalina here. To use this shortcut you must first click on the desired file that you wish to open with Quick Look.

Shortcut: spacebar


Screen Shot
Take a screen shot with the following shortcut; it will save your entire screen capture to your desktop.

Shortcut: ⌘ + shift + 3

Take a cropped screenshot with the following shortcut; it will save the selected portion of your screen to your desktop based on where you drag and drop the window frame.

Shortcut: ⌘ + shift + 4

Take a cropped screenshot with the following shortcut; it will allow you to click on a desired window and save a screen shot with only the selected window to your desktop.

Shortcut: ⌘ + shift + 4 + Spacebar

Take a cropped screenshot with the following shortcut; it will save the selected portion of your screen to your desktop based on a cropped rectangular window that you can drag to adjust the size of the screen capture.

Shortcut: ⌘ + shift + 5


Open “Force Quit Applications” Window

When an application is not responding, there are many ways to force the application to close. There is also a shortcut to help make this easier. The following shortcut will open the Force Quit Application window, allowing the user to choose which applications they would like to select for Force Quit.

Shortcut: ⌥ + ⌘ + esc

force quit application widow on mac


Start Up in Recovery Mode

Mac computers have a Recovery Mode built into the operating systems so that you can use its utilities to recover from some software issues that may arise. To start your machine in Recovery Mode, you will need to use this shortcut while your Mac is turning on. As you power on your Mac, immediately press and hold this shortcut until you see the Apple logo or other startup screen (depending on the model of your Mac).

Shortcut: ⌘ + R

Note: Recovery Mode is useful to troubleshoot software issues, however, if unprotected it can be used as a way to tap into your computer for malicious acts. Using a Firmware Password can help to protect your machine from being maliciously accessed through Recovery Mode.


Keyboard shortcuts allow you to work more efficiently, especially once they are committed muscle memory. Keyboard shortcuts are also quite useful if you need to navigate around your machine without the use of a keyboard.

There are many additional features on a Mac, besides shortcuts, that can increase your workflow efficiency and allow for you to maximize use of your machine. If you are new to a Mac, or are interested in learning more about using your Mac, join us for our next Come Learn with CTCI Luncheon: Making a Switch to a Mac on January 9th at our Rutland, VT Office.

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