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

In Feature Articles by Nick Ruffilo

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.

About the Author

Nick Ruffilo

Nick Ruffilo is currently the CIO/CTO of He was previously Product Manager at Vook and CTO of BookSwim.