Eight obscure but useful text-editing hotkeys in OS X

KeyboardIconXWhile you can use your Mac largely by clicking controls and menus with your mouse, if you take advantage of system and application hotkeys you can greatly increase your workflow efficiency. There are a number of classic hotkeys you can use to perform basic operations, such as quitting, closing windows, creating new documents, and cutting and pasting contents. You can even create your own custom hotkeys if needed; however, there are a few relatively hidden hotkeys that can offer you some convenience, especially when you are editing text and similar content.


This hotkey will classically change the size of selected items, such as zooming in on an image in Preview; however, when composing text in Pages, TextEdit, and similar applications, you can use it to increase the font size of selected text or a text field object. This will do so by a single font point so sizes can be adjusted finely, without needing to enter or select values from a size field or menu.


If you regularly change the color of your text, then this may be exceptionally useful as it pulls up the OS X color panel to apply to your current selection. Under the color panel there is an expandable grid where you can save favorite colors and apply them quickly to a selection.


As with the color panel, if you regularly use favorite fonts then you can use this hotkey to bring up the fonts panel in many applications, and access favorite combinations of font face, size, and style, to apply to your current selection.

Command-{, Command-}, Command-|

These hotkeys will act on the current paragraph object that your cursor is in, and change its alignment to be left, right, and centered, respectively. There is no global option to justify text, but these can be a quick way to set basic alignments.


One option you might not use regularly but which can be exceptionally useful is to access the page setup panel for setting your current document’s orientation, margins, scale, and size. This can be applied to the current document, or as a global default, and also be applied to specific printing devices or to all of them. This option can be useful for quickly changing your page format to a US Legal size, or to a 3×5 notecard, or any custom size you need.

Command-Shift-Option-Esc (hold for three seconds)

The final hotkey is not a specific text-editing one, but given that some applications may hang periodically in OS X, you might find yourself using the Option-Command-Escape hotkey to bring up the force-quit menu; however, you can also simply force-quit the foremost application by including Shift in this hotkey, and then holding the sequence down for a few seconds. This may be particularly useful if the foremost application is a full-screen application.

Do you have any favorite and relatively obscure hotkeys you use regularly? If so, then post them below in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Eight obscure but useful text-editing hotkeys in OS X

  1. darrenoia

    One of my favorites (in Cocoa apps, doesn’t work in Office or Adobe) is control-t to transpose the two characters on either side of the cursor.

      1. Gary

        TextEdit? Should do. In theory it works in any “modern” (ie Cocoa) app. I’ve just verified it on my own iMac before responding.

        Are you sure you used [control] and not, say, the more common [command] key?

  2. C Clark

    Command-Tab. Hold down the Command key, depress the Tap key. Observe a list of open applications in the middle of the screen. To bring an application to the forefront, press Tab to navigate to your target and release Tab. To Quit an application, depress the Q key, while continuing to hold the Command key. Try it, you may like it.

  3. Aram Fingal

    Move to the beginning of a line of text.

    Move to the end of a line of text.

    These commands work in many applications on the Mac, including Terminal and TextEdit.

  4. 8T8

    On my MBP I use the Shift-Ctrl-Eject combo a lot to turn off the screen. Great for battery saving, and if in Security & Privacy the ‘Require password … after sleep or screen saver begins’ is turned on, it is the fastest way to lock my computer.
    Another favourite is Cmd-Option-Eject, which is the shortcut for sleep.

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