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This topic is about how you can do things faster by automating actions on the keyboard controlling your Mac, beyond Apple’s standard Keyboard Shortcuts at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236

Special key Names and Symbols

The “Special” keys on a Mac’s keyboard are represented by both symbols and names, so memorize this:

Switch keys on macOS

Caps Lock unintended

BLAH: It’s annoying when all of a sudden everything I type is in caps. That happens because I accidentally had my hand too far to the left when I intended to press the A key.

I can type all caps by holding down the shift key with my left or right hand.

We can kill 2 keys at once.

Caps Lock to Escape

BLAH: The Esc (Escape) key is too far North on the keyboard and forces some to look down on the keyboard. And the Caps Lock key is too close to keys, causing problems with accidental password entry and lockouts.

PROTIP: Make the caps lock key work like the Esc key:

  1. Press the Apple icon and select System Preferences.
  2. Type K. Cursor down to highlight Keyboard. Press space bar to open it.
  3. Click “Modifier Keys” at the lower-right corner.


  4. Click the entry for “Caps Lock (⇪) Key:” and select “⎋ Escape”.

    Swap command and control as well

    PROTIP: Some switch the control and command keys on the left side so that they can get to all such keys using thumbs. This would also allow you to press two keys at once by pressing between the keys, thus able to perform most combinations using your hands.

  5. Click the entry for “Control (^) Key:” and select “⌘ Command”.
  6. Click the entry for “Command (⌘) Key:” and select “^ Control”.

  7. Click OK.
  8. Press control+Q or click the red x to dismiss the System Preferences dialog.

    Alternately, the above actions can be done using a Python script or by downloading the free Karabiner which works on OSX Sierra since Apple remapped key commands. It’s free but note the package has many lingering issues.

Full Screen Finger Gymnastics


PROTIP: To evaluate Mac developers, some interviewers ask “show me how you enter and exit Full Screen”. This is because they assume that the most productive developers work with their hands always on the keyboard.

Windows has its F12 key. Apple has Mac users do the equivalent of a double Summersault with your fingers. How do you type, at the same time:

    control + command + F

PROTIP: To toggle Full Screen view using the default configuration from Apple: while keeping your left forefinger on the F “home” key, reach with your left thumb to hold down the control key. This may hurt at first (until you get used to it). Try raising your hand

Now, while keeping your right forefinger on the J “home” key, reach with your right thumb to hold down the command key on the right side of the Space Bar. Then you’re in position to press F with your left forefinger.

Key visibility

PROTIP: Some use keyboards (RGB) that light up keys in the dark. But I personally think the best strategy is to find a way to not have to look at the keyboard at all.

PROTIP: Some put tiny drops from a glue gun on strategic points on the keyboard so they can orient their finger in the dark without looking.

This may be a generalization. But many top coders actually like the vi text editor because it doesn’t use difficult-to-reach keys or mouse that require the user to take their eyes off the screen. DevSecOps coders have no choice because some operating systems only offer only vi (such as during Kubernetes exams).

PROTIP: To evaluate Mac developers, some interviewers ask “show me how you enter and exit Full Screen”. This is because they assume that the most productive developers work with their hands always on the keyboard.

Extra Programmable Keyboard: Stream Deck

Video creators especially appreciate being able to, so they can concentrate on talking, push a button and have a sequence of keys to do what they need, such as share screen 2, leave zoom, etc.

The Stream Deck has programmable buttons, with each button like a little LCD screen. Mini has 6 buttons. The MK2 has 15 buttons. The XL has 28 buttons

You Need A Stream Deck! The Secret To My Productivity Working From Home by BetterCreating.com has a custom workpad for StreamDeck controlling Notion.

5 Stream Deck PLUGINS You Have To Try Out!

8 Easy Stream Deck Tricks (to Impress Your Viewers)

Ergonomic Keyboards

PROTIP: Resourceful coders make it so they don’t need to waste time and attention reaching for the mouse.

VIDEO: “Among fastest competitive typists, only two use Dvorick key layout”.

Although pricey at $340 from Amazon (perhaps the most expensive keyboard available), the “Advantage2” keyboard from Kinesis-ergo.com (at Bethel, Washington state) makes it easier and faster for your fingers to reach keys due to its unique contoured key wells. Its keys in the middle transfer more work to thumbs than conventional square keyboards.


A Ergonomics shop TheHumanSolution.com note the slant of keys enables natural (rather than bent) wrist placement that prevents repetitive motion injury causing career-ending pain in wrists and shoulders.

However, the keyboard does take some “learning time” as its keys are in a different location than on conventional keyboards. The manufacturer has a 7 day return and 3 year warranty policy.

Desiring quieter operation, I chose Cherry 45g MX Red (quiet linear-force, not “clicky”) mechanical key switches (instead of Brown keys which provide tactile feedback on each keypress). Cherry Red key switches are also used in the iKDC KD104 MX silent keyboards.

But I don’t think the Red keys arenot much quieter than other keyboards. (Razor Opto-mechanical Red or Ornata v2 membrane keyboards seem the quietest to me. They are also have short 1mm travel to activate and quickest debounce delay).

Further quiet may be achieved by lubrication or replacing key switches with rubbery Zilent keys.

(I don’t know how the keyboard responds to “rollover” of several keys almost simultaneously, which other keyboards call “anti-ghosting”).

For even faster operation, use the keyboard’s 2MB of memory on-board to store SmartSet Programming Engine macros.


  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WwuusfB0QA Aug 20, 2016 is the most detailed
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILItPWuirAk
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhQlZvUzT7w Aug 3, 2016 from Kinesis

Foot pedels

The Kinesis Advantage keyboard has a phone plug to connect to a foot peddle to press the “Enter” key.

Voice Recognition

PROTIP: A big benefit of working from home is that I don’t have people sitting nearby. So now I can enable voice recognition to automatically type some (not all) keys.

This has been available since the OSX Yosemite version: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203085

See this video to give it a try:

  1. CAUTION: Enabling “Use Enhanced Dictation” (In Apple System Preferences > Dictation & Speech > Turn on Dictation) causes an approximately 800MB file to be downloaded to your Mac.

  2. Choose Accessibility. Scroll to Dictation. Scroll to see which commands.
  3. Check Enable Advanced Commands. Scroll to see which commands.
  4. Get into Automator.

Apple components from any active app

Purpose Name Mouse Hot corner Key Hide
Active apps thumbnails Mission Control
(formerly Expose)
3 finger swipe up - control + up
fn + F3
Active apps dashboard Application Windows - Upper left control + F3 Esc
- Desktop Thumb and 3 finger spread - F11 toggle
Calculator, other Accessories Dashboard 3 finger swipe right Lower left ? -
Apps icons customized Dock bar (bottom of screen) Mouse beyond bottom of screen - - Esc
Active app selection Active apps - - ⌘ + Tab
Installed apps Launchpad Thumb and 3 finger pinch Upper right fn + F4 -
Files and folders Finder - - ⌘ + option + T -
Put display to sleep Start screen saver - Lower right control + Shift + Power button -
omni-search Spotlight - - command + spacebar Esc
mute Speaker volume - - fn + F11 -
Softer - - fn + F12 -
Louder - - fn + F12 -
Alerts Notification Center - - - -

[1] = PROTIP: This command does not work when the active program is in an extended screen.

Awkward Keys

There are some key combinations that are so awkard to use that it’s faster and easier to use a mouse or trackpad.

Since the fn and control keys are only on the left side of a MacBook keyboard, using them requires a Carpel-tunnel Syndrome-inducing move of the left hand:

  • control+F2 to highlight the Apple menu.
  • control+F3 to highlight the Dock at the bottom of the screen.

On a Mac without a visible Function keys, press fn to reveal them, thus:

  • fn + control + F2 to highlight the Apple menu.
  • fn + control + F3 to highlight the Dock at the bottom of the screen.

PROTIP: The fn key is easy to find without looking because it’s at a corner. But use a companion key on the right side of the keyboard.

Process Navigation

Press command + Tab to cycle through programs (apps) running.

Press shift plus the above reverses the cycling direction.

Stop on the icon of the app you want to make active.

Window navigation

Purpose Menu Mouse Key
New window File | New Window - ⌘ + N
New window Incongnito - ⌘ + shift + N
Cycle through windows in app Window - ⌘ + ` (at upper left corner of keyboard)
Maximize window (no menu bar) - Click green icon at the top left corner of window ⌘ + shift + F
Un-Maximize window - Cursor to top left corner. Click on green icon.
Minimize window - Click yellow ball. ⌘ + M
Close current window - Click red ball. ⌘ + shift + W
Close all windows - - ⌘ + option + W
Preferencesapp name | Preferences - ⌘ + ,
Quit app completelyapp name | Quit - ⌘ + Q

Microsoft vs. Mac Keyboards

Needing to change habits learned typing is difficult and takes time. It’s literally taking physical therapy. This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of changing from Windows to a Mac.

Here are the most problematic among Keyboard mappings using a PC keyboard on a Macintosh on Microsoft’s website:*

Microsoft Windows Apple Macintosh issue
Right-click (Alt) Holding down control during mouse click -
Ctrl + mouse click multiple items control + option + mouse click Two keys on Mac
Delete (right of cursor) fn + delete
control + D
Backspace (left of cursor) delete
control + H
Function key fn + F1 ... F12  
Windows Start orb control+F2, then enter/returnawkard
Num lock Virtual Machine > Send Key  
Home (top of doc) fn + left  
End (bottom of doc) fn + right  
Insert toggle Requires mapping

Delete and Backspace keys swapped

The Delete key on an Apple keyboard (⌫ on older keyboards) is actually the backspace key to all other operating systems. To press the equivalent of the Windows backspace that removes to the left of the cursor:

  • On a Macintosh notebook keyboard, press fn + Delete.
  • On older full-sized Macintosh keyboards, press ⌦ (called "Forward Delete") below the Help key.

The ALT key on Windows is OPTION on Mac keyboards.

To send key commands from a Mac into a Windows instance inside VMWare Fusion.

Insert key requires mapping

Sending the equivalent of Windows keyboard Insert on a Mac is problematic, especially within a virtual Windows machine.

  • On older Macintosh keyboards, press the Help key.
  • On older Macintosh notebook keyboards, press fn+M.
  • Newer Macintosh notebooks do not support fn+M. So map Alt+F1 within VMware Fusion > Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Key Mappings.

Trackpad Remapping Tool

The trackpad on OSX recognizes multiple touch points (fingers) at once.

  • One finger to move the mouse cursor.
  • Two fingers to scroll up or down.
  • Three fingers to move among applications active.

BetterTouchTool (BTT) $6.50 app remaps what Apple input devices (keyboard, Magic Mouse, Touchpad, Trackpad) recognize, and also adds more gestures.

Use my installer for Mac to setup this program along with all others by running repeatable Ansible declarations.

There are several dimensions:

Fingers Motion Direction Repeats Pressure
pinch in/out (zoom)

Combos: single finger tap left, single finger tap right, single finger tap, two finger tap, two finger click, two finger swipe (up/down/left/right), three finger tap, three finger click, three finger swipe (up/down/left/right) and ‘TipTap’ left/right.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1xFhreDR_k
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mr2IiJ0Y0E
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeocxFO5yWA
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFmB3XCva_Y

Programs can be invoked several different ways:

  • Click the magnifying glass and type the program name
  • Click on the apple menu
  • the Dock
  • or from the Applications folder on your hard drive.

To reset during open, in the Application folder, hold down all keys SHIFT OPTION COMMAND then click the app’s icon.

Keyboard Mapping

NOTE: MacOS defines most of its keybindings for editing text in:


PROTIP: Remap home and end key by creating folder ~/Library/KeyBindings/ and in it file DefaultKeyBinding.dict containing a property list like this:

    "\UF729"  = moveToBeginningOfLine:; // home
    "\UF72B"  = moveToEndOfLine:; // end
    "$\UF729" = moveToBeginningOfLineAndModifySelection:; // shift-home
    "$\UF72B" = moveToEndOfLineAndModifySelection:; // shift-end

This change requires a reboot.

App-specific keys


Mac 10.10 Finder keys

I probably click the Finder Favorites more than anything else. So I’ve memorized the keyboard keys.

  • Option + ⌘ + L for the Downloads folder

  • Shift + ⌘ + D for the Desktop folder where screen captures are stored (by default).
  • Shift + ⌘ + A for the Applications folder where apps are stored.

This enables me to remove default items in the Favorites list (by right-clicking on it) so I can instead list my own folders I use most often.

  • To go a level up or down in the Finder, press ⌘ + up arrow or down arrow.

  • Open parent folder and close current window: Option-Command-Up Arrow

  • To open folders and files by clicking on it and pressing ⌘ + O (instead of Enter as you would on Windows).


  • ⌘ + 1 = Icon view
  • ⌘ + 2 = List view
  • ⌘ + 3 = Column view
  • ⌘ + 4 = Cover flow view

    QUESTION: Is there a key to expand width of columns?

  • control + ⌘ + number to control Arrange sorting.

  • ⌘ + F to Search text.

Hide and Unhide Folders

Under Favorites, click on your user name (next to the house icon). If the Library folder does not appear:

sudo chflags nohidden /Library/ ~/Library/

To hide Library again:

sudo chflags hidden /Library/ ~/Library/

System Preferences keyboard shortcut

Apple’s System Preferences is a dialog I go to often. But it doesn’t have a default universal keyboard shortcut.

So let’s make one, using control+command+comma. (I use my middle finger to reach the comma).

  1. Click the Apple icon. Notice whether there is a shortcut for System Preferences. Below is what it looks like after going through the steps below.


  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click the Keyboard panel.
  4. Click “Shortcuts” tab.
  5. Select “Application Shortcuts” from the list.
  6. Click the [+] plus button for the pulldown menu.
  7. Choose “All Applications”, then in the field labeled “Menu Title” enter “System Preferences…”.
  8. Click in the field labeled “Keyboard Shortcut”.
  9. Press the hotkey you want to use. For me use Control+Command+,. You should see the icons appear.
  10. Click “Add” to close out of System Preferences.
  11. Exit System Preferences by clicking the red dot.
  12. Try it: Hit the shortcut you just created.

Chrome Browser Tabs

Purpose Firefox Chrome
New blank tab ⌘ + shift + H
Home tab ⌘ + T
Open Settings / Preferences tab ⌘ + , (comma)
Close current tab ⌘ + W
Re-open tab ⌘ + shift + T
Cycle through tabs control + Tab
Bookmarks manager tab - option + ⌘ + B
History tab - option + ⌘ + H
Downloads tab - shift + ⌘ + J
Browser Console shift + ⌘ + B

See https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/165450?hl=en

Page operations within Chrome Tab

Purpose Mouse Key
History - shift + ⌘ + H
Search web - option + ⌘ + F
Find bar (to text on page) - ⌘ + F
Find next match - ⌘ + G
Find previous match - shift + ⌘ + G or
shift + Enter
Enter highlighted text to Find - ⌘ + E
Page Down - fn + down arrow
Page Up - fn + up arrow
Page top (home) - fn + left arrow
End of page - fn + right arrow
Previous page - ⌘ + [
Next page - ⌘ + ]
Refresh - ⌘ + R
Bookmark current page - ⌘ + D
JavaScript Console - option + ⌘ + J
Source HTML - option + ⌘ + U

Text string operations

Purpose Mouse Key
Cut highlighted text - ⌘ + X
Copy highlighted text to clipboard - ⌘ + C
Paste highlighted text from clipboard - ⌘ + V
Copy URL of current page to the clipboard. - option + ⌘ + C
Paste content without formatting - shift + option + ⌘ + V

Chrome iMacros

To use macros, add to Chrome browser the iMacros for Chrome.

This auto-opens http://imacros.net/browser/cr/welcome.

To use macros on Firefox, open in Firefox iMacros for Firefox. Click Add to Firefox. Click Install. Click Restart Now.

Microsoft Word for Mac 2011

Text Editor Special Characters

In a text editor, press either Shift + Option + 8 or Option + 0.

For autocomplete in TextEdit, press Tab + Esc. Unfortunately, this is the same key to toggle the Mac’s text-to-speech.

For the ©Copyright symbol, press the “alt” key (or “option”) and hold it down while typing “g” on the keyboard.

Keyboard Symbols

This website and others make use of special coding to represent Apple icons and keyboard icons.

Below is modified from Joe Weaks

Icon Name Unicode Font
Power 3U+233D
Apple symbol 1 U+F8FFLucida Grande
Command (Open Apple) 2 U+2318
Control U+2303
Option (Alt, Alternative) U+2325
Shift U+21E7 Apple Symbols
Capslock U+21EA
Escape U+238B
Tab forwardU+21E5
Tab backU+21E4
Space U+2423

Return U+23CE
Delete back U+232B
Delete forward U+2326
Help U+003F &

Home U+21F1

End U+21F2
Pageup U+21DE
Pagedown U+21DF

Up arrow U+2191

Down arrow U+2193

Left arrow U+2190

Right arrow U+2192
Clear U+2327
Numberlock U+21ED Apple Symbols
Enter U+2324

Robot typists

For making videos:

Slowly output the contents of the clipboard into the currently active tab, one character at a time. Map to CTRL-SHIFT-V for a slow paste command.

Applescript “robot” typist inserts characters into XCode or other application

Creates a mapping that will type out the given text into vim.

Cross machine

For a $19 one-time purchase,
enables you to use a single keyboard and mouse on Mac, Windows, and Linux.


Instead of the built-in command+Tab to switch among active programs, follow Daniel Szpisjak’s How to become a modern magician? - productivity tips for devs on macOS describes setup and use of Hammerspoon Lua language which uses a complex combination such as Shift+Control+Option to be a “Hyper” key such as the CapsLock. Karabiner+Elements

Assign Hyper+X to a specific program, and the pop-up shown by command+Tab will not come up.


https://github.com/Bash-it/bash-it community Bash framework of autocompletion, themes, aliases, custom functions based on https://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh


Among the Keyboard Shortcuts for Outlook on macOS:

Minimize or expand the ribbon = Options + COMMAND + R

Hide the reading pane or show it on the right = COMMAND + Backslash ()

Hide the reading pane or show it below = Shift+ COMMAND + Backslash ()


Tmux is a contraction of “Terminal Multiplexer”. The “multi” refers to multiple sub-windows like multiple tabs on a browser window.


Tyler.io show the keys he defined using Magnet (https://magnet.crowdcafe.com/) and KeyboardMaestro (https://www.keyboardmaestro.com/main/). Tyler Hall’s code is at https://github.com/tylerhall/


STAR: https://www.wired.com/story/do-everything-faster-keyboard-shortcuts-tricks-tips/

More on OSX

This is one of a series on Mac OSX: