Five hotkey shortcuts you might not know about

FinderIconXThe hotkeys available in OS X allow you to quickly have common commands at your fingertips, and with practice you can greatly speed up your workflow with them. While common hotkeys like Command-Q to quit, and Command-W for closing windows, may be well-used, there are a number of hidden hotkeys in OS X that can sometimes be exceptionally useful.

You can find many of these by simply perusing the menus and submenus of applications you use, and then holding down various combinations of modifier keys (Shift, Command, Option, and Control) to see what alternative commands will show up in these menus.

There will undoubtedly be many hotkeys you will not know about and which you can find in this way, but some examples that are relatively hidden may help when finding files or getting information on many of them, or even accessing special characters when typing.

1. Find by name — Shift-Control-Command-F

If you simply press Command-F in the Finder, a standard Finder search window will appear that will by default include all file contents for contextual searches of your query. However, you can also quickly limit your searches to be of filenames only, by including the Shift and Control keys when you use this hotkey. This will prevent you from needing to edit any search filters or browse through many unwanted results when you have an idea of the specific file name you are looking for.

The inspector window in OS X

The inspector will show common information for all files in a selection.

2. Inspector and Summary information — Control/Option-Command-i

The standard information window in OS X is invoked on one item at a time, so if you select multiple items and press Command-i to get this window, you chance opening several information windows at once (one for each item), and you chance cluttering your display. Optionally, you can press Control-Command-i on a selection of items to show the summary window, which will give you all common information shared among the items along with their collective size calculations. This summary window should open by default with Command-i alone for large selections of files, but you will need to invoke it manually if you have only selected a few files.

In addition to the Summary info window, you can press Option-Command-I at anytime to bring up the inspector panel, which unlike the other information windows is a floating panel that will dynamically update to include any current selection. With this panel, you can add and remove items from a selection, and be able to quickly see all common and summarized information about the selected files.

3. Cancel most things — Escape

You might sometimes click and drag items from one location to another, but then realize you forgot to include an item in your original selection, or have otherwise chosen the wrong items. While instinctively you might try moving the selection back, sometimes this might not be easy to do exactly, such as if you have moved the selection over various folders and they have spring-loaded open for you.

In most cases where you are in the midst of making a change, you can simply tap the Escape key and the current action will be stopped. For dragged files, provided you have not released the mouse to drop them, pressing Escape will release the hold on the files as if nothing has happened.

If you have made unwanted changes, then another quick reminder is you can usually press Command-Z (the universal “undo”) to revert the change.

Accessibility options panel in OS X

The Accessibility Options panel gives you quick access to display contrast and voice-over features.

4. Accessibility controls — Opt-Cmd-F5 (or Fn-Opt-Cmd-F5)

While most people might not need to enhance their display’s contrast, or change zoom and voice-over options, others may have needs for these features, and instead of always adjusting them in the system preferences, they can be quickly accessed by pressing Option-Command-F5 (include the Fn key here if your F-keys are used for Apple’s special features). This hotkey will show a floating panel on a dimmed background, where you can adjust common settings in the Accessibility system preferences, or even open these preferences directly.

5. Special Characters — Option-Command-T

Finally, when chatting, e-mailing, or word processing, you might have need for special characters such as arrows, emoji, and other symbols to help illustrate your points. Most OS X applications have full support for Unicode character sets, and you can access all of these using the Character Viewer panel, which can be invoked using the Input menu, or in many cases by pressing Option-Command-T. In here, you can look up common symbols, or add collections of uncommon ones (using the gear menu) to then search for or browse characters of interest. You can then add them to your document at the point of the cursor by double-clicking one, or by simply dragging it to the location of choice.

Do you have any favorite or useful hotkey commands? If so then post them below in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Five hotkey shortcuts you might not know about

  1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    On my Apple wireless keyboard, which is laid out much like a Mac laptop keyboard (with a Function key), I have the Function keys set to operate normally in the Keyboard tab of the Keyboard preferences; in Mission Control I changed the shortcuts for Mission Control and Application Window from the defaults to F10 and F9 respectively so that I can move easily from one to the other, with Show Desktop at the default F11 and Show Dashboard at F12. This helps my less than optimal memory when it cannot recall which is which – so if I press the wrong one, I can easily move to the next. I then have to use the Function key to get the special F-key commands, like Volume and Screen Brightness adjustments, which are the only ones I use regularly. These settings are, of course, a matter of personal convenience. But I appreciate the option to customize some keyboard shortcuts in this way.

  2. Strod

    These keyboard shortcuts are fantastic. But I believe I’m not the only one who fails to remember shortcuts for functions that I don’t use frequently.

    For example, rather than trying to remember if its Control-Command-i or Option-Command-i to get the Summary Info window, I normally right-click (or control-click) on one of the items in my selection. A contextual menu full of relevant goodies appears, one of them being “Get Info”. While the menu is displayed, I can press Option or Control, and the item changes to “Show Inspector” or to “Get Summary Info”.

    And for item #3, cancel a drag, I simply drag the items to the menu bar and release them there. IIRC, that has been a way to cancel the move or copy action represented by the drag since the early years of the classical Mac OS.

  3. Derek Currie

    Hi Topher!

    Regarding Find by name:
    The correct shortcut, at least OS X 10.7.5 (which is the only version of OS X I have handy today), is without the Shift key. The result is:


    There is no system response in 10.7.5 when adding the Shift key.

    It’s fascinating that Apple doesn’t document this command, not that I can find. Apple’s list of documented OS X Keyboard Shortcuts can be found at:

  4. MaX

    Shift-Control-Command-F on Mac OS X 10.9.4 (Mavericks) finds also thousands of spurious Apple Mail messsages. Any way to prevent it? When will implement Apple a decent search engine like Sherlock in Mac OS 9, EasyFind (searching non-indexed volumes) and HoudahSpot?

  5. Charlie

    Shift-Control-Command-F would be a heckuva lot easier on my Macbook Pro if I were double-jointed! Talk about contortion!

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