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Apple Mac OS X hints and tips

Use keyboard shortcuts

You should aim to keep your hands on the keyboard hovering above the keys at all times. Taking your hand off the keyboard to grab the mouse, move a pointer on the screen, position it over a menu, icon or button, and then click the button is just a waste of time. Even moving your hands on a MacBook to use the trackpad can slow you down.

This isn't really about saving time of course. After all, we are talking about seconds or even fractions of a second and it isn't going to significantly increase your leisure time or get your work finished sooner. When you keep your hands on the keyboard it requires less effort and you work more smoothly. It actually feels better if you can keep working smoothly without hunting around for mice and trackpads.

To keep your hands on the keyboard you need to learn some keyboard shortcuts. For example, if a file or folder is selected in a Finder window you can hit Return to rename it rather than hunting through menus for the rename option. Ctrl+X will cut it and you can navigate elsewhere and press Ctrl+V to paste it. Ctrl+C will copy it instead of cutting it.

When you see a blue button in dialogs you can press Return instead of clicking it because it is the default action. If there is a Cancel button in a dialog then pressing Esc is usually the same as clicking it. Command+I opens the Get Info window when a file or folder is selected. Command+1, 2, 3, or 4 cycles through the different views in a Finder window.

You don't need to be a genius to work out all these shortcuts and you only have to look at the menus. At the right hand side are the shortcuts. It pays to learn some of the most used ones. This is true of all the applications you use - check out the menus and learn those shortcuts.

Some keyboard shortcuts aren't on any menus, for example, on a MacBook the Delete or Backspace key deletes backwards, but if you hold down the Fn (Function) key and press Backspace it will delete forwards. MacBooks don't have separate keypads in addition to the main keyboard, but you will see extra numbers and symbols on certain keys. For example, U, I, O, and P have 4, 5, 6, and * on them. Hold down the Fn key and press them to get the alternative item. There are ways of finding them out these hidden keyboard shortcuts.

Application shortcuts are specific to each application and you should look at the application's menus and in the help file for the keys to press and the actions that are available.

OS X keyboard shortcuts can be found by going to System Preferences on the Apple menu and selecting Keyboard and then the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. There are lots of them and you won't be able to remember them all, so just memorise the ones you need, such as Expose & Spaces, or Universal Access shortcuts.

The function keys at the top of the keyboard - F1, F2 and so on, have special actions, such as altering the display brightness, the sound volume and so on. You can disable this feature and make the keys act like normal function keys by going to the Apple menu, System Preferences, Keybiard. On the Keyboard tab tick the option to use all F1, F2 ect. keys as standard function keys. You might need to select this option in certain applications if they make use of the function keys.

There are some keyboard shortcuts associated with the Dashboard. For example, you can access the Dashboard by pressing the Dashboard key, Fn+F12 or just F12 - it depends on what type of keyboard you are using. Press Command+R to reload the current widget. Command+= (Command and Equals) to show or hide the widget bar, and Command+left/right arrow keys to scroll the widget bar.

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