« Discussion

Tips for Technologists #1: Everything’s Quicker with Keystrokes

Basic, but often overlooked, learning a few basic keystokes can save you hours every week.

Tips for Technologists is a series aimed at teaching you to engage with technology in best way possible. You can see all the Tips for Technologists articles here.

By Nick Ruffilo

Tip Level of Difficulty: Basic

Remembering and using just a few simple keystrokes can save you hours every week. Below are some of the key combinations that I use in my daily life that should give you a good start. I’m a Mac user, so all the keys use the command key, but for purposes of this article, I’ll write it in terms of the ctrl-key (windows centric) and because it is simply shorter to type.

Ctrl-s -> SAVE (universal, nearly every application uses this)

Ctrl-shift-s -> SAVE AS (universal, nearly every application uses this)

Ctrl-c -> Copy (universal)

Ctrl-v -> Paste (universal)

Ctrl-x -> Cut (Copy + remove; Universal)

(Ctrl/alt)-Left/Right -> Move to the cursor to the next word or end of the line.

Ctrl-z -> Undo (universal. Some applications allow multiple levels of undo [undo the last X actions], some just one)

Ctrl-shift-z -> Redo (Not all applications)

Ctrl-n -> Create New [X] (Universal; Create a new document, a new finder/explorer window.)

Ctrl-t -> Create a new browser tab (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer)

Tab -> Focus on the next item. For example, when filling out an online form, will take you to the next field. Fairly universal as most applications will highlight the next item when tab is pressed.

Alt-Tab -> Switch to next application. Hold down alt to keep cycling.

Alt-Shift-Tab -> Switch to previous application. Cycle through programs in reverse order (used mainly when I alt-tab one too many times)

Ctrl-a -> Select all (Universal with text)

A note about switching from Windows->Mac or Mac->Windows (or any operating system).

Before 5 years ago, I had been a PC/Linux guy for nearly 15 years. I knew every keystroke, and how to modify every setting using windows/linux configuration files. My first experience using Mac OS had me feeling a bit uneasy. I no longer knew where things were, or how to do what I wanted quickly. I resigned that my productivity (it was a work computer I was using) would fall drastically for a week or two, but I would learn how to use this new thing in front of me  I left a browser tab open with google and whenever I wanted to do something, I would look it up. “How do you create a new document Mac OS.” “How do you switch between applications.” “How do you set up multiple desktops.” It was a long and slow week, but I got up to speed quickly and my productivity was back on track after just a week. Knowing how to use a tool well can drastically speed up your work.

Want more Tips for Technologists?  Join the daily mailing list and see additional content at ZenOfTechnology.com.  You can also see other Tips for Technologists articles here on Publishing Perspectives here.

This entry was posted in Discussion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Thank you, this is useful. What about Ctl-shift-t to reopen the last tab you closed? I use that a lot.

  2. Posted January 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink


    Thats wonderful! I actually didn’t know that (and will make use of it as I accidentally close tabs all the time!)


  3. Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nick, Thanks for doing this series. I’m a touch typist from way back and making the effort to learn these basic commands is a great idea, as is the plan for the rest of your series to help us all become better technologists.
    A question: Would it be ok if I mention your series on my blog and steer people to it? I’m guessing the answer is yes, but just want to make sure.
    Thanks again,

  4. Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget that Word, at least, uses CTRL+Y as the Redo function.

  5. Christina
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    When I switched to a mac from win/unix I found a course on Lynda.com that covered all the basics. It’s named something like “Going from a PC to a Mac” and made the transition super easy, cutting that time down drastically by showing me the basics of how to do things. Although the keyboard differences occasionally mess me up.

    Some keystrokes I use a lot:
    Ctrl-f -> Find (nearly universal)
    Ctrl-i -> Italic (except Indesign which is Ctrl-Shift-i)
    Ctrl-b -> Bold (except Indesign which is Ctrl-Shift-i)
    Ctrl-Alt-Arrow -> Rotate [someone else’s] monitor display

  • Get Publishing Perspectives in your inbox each day and stay up-to-date on international publishing.