Since the first Mac rolled off of the assembly lines in 1984, there have always been keyboard shortcuts available to make certain actions easier to perform than grabbing them from a menu. For example, we’re probably all aware of Command-A for selecting all text, Command-C for copying selected text and Command-V for pasting it. You may even know some keyboard shortcuts that are specific to a certain app. In this Rocket Yard Tech Tip, I’ll talk about some other useful shortcuts that can save time while working while also providing a history lesson.
First, let’s go back to the early days of OS X. The operating system that is in use on the vast majority of today’s Macs has its roots in NeXTStep, the operating system that was used on NeXT workstations from Steve Jobs’ second computer company. NeXTStep had its roots in Unix (as does Mac OS X), an operating system first developed in the 1970s by Bell Labs researchers.
In 1976, two developers wrote a text editor called EMACS, which stood for Editor MACroS for TECO, which was a line editor. Well, some EMACS commands are still usable in OS X, in dialog boxes, TextEdit windows, in Safari’s address bar, and in many OS X apps. Those shortcuts are:
- Control-a: Place the cursor at the start of a line of text
- Control-b: Same as the left arrow
- Control-d: Deletes the letter to the right of the cursor
- Control-e: Place the cursor at the end of a line of text
- Control-f: Same as the right arrow
- Control-h: Same as pressing the delete key
- Control-k: Delete all charactors to the right of the cursor
- Control-n: Same as the down arrow
- Control-o: Acts like pressing the return key, only the cursor stays in the same place
- Control-p: Same as the up arrow
- Control-v: Moves the cursor to the end of a document or line of text
What’s cool is that most of these old EMACS shortcuts also work on iOS if you’re using a Bluetooth or USB keyboard! iOS, of course, has OS X heritage.
But wait, there’s more. There are keyboard shortcuts that take advantage of the arrows on your keyboard as well:
- alt/option + up arrow: Go to the beginning of a paragraph (previous line break)
- alt/option + down arrow: Go to the end of the paragraph (next line break)
- alt/option + right arrow: Go right to the end of the word, then right to the end of next word, and so on
- alt/option + left arrow: Go left to the start of the word, then left to the start of the next word, and so on
- Command + left arrow: Go to the beginning of current line or leftmost character on the current line
- Command + right arrow: Go to the end of current line or rightmost character on the current line
- Command + up arrow: Go to the beginning of the document
- Command + down arrow: Go to the end of the document
I personally find Command-Up and Command-Down to be most useful in Safari, where these keyboard shortcuts take you to the top and bottom of the current web page respectively.
Do you have any favorite keyboard shortcuts that you like to use that weren’t listed here? Let us know in the comments.