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Mac 101: Going Commando with Command-key shortcuts in Mac OS X

One of the adjustments those new to the Mac need to make is to familiarize themselves with the Command key. Although I switch hit and use Windows at work and a Mac when I'm not working, I've always preferred it over Control. Its proximity next to the space bar allows me to use my thumb, as opposed to my pinky finger with the Control key, for keyboard shortcuts. I find it particularly faster for copying and pasting.

The clover-looking key (it's actually an infinite loop), which had always been accompanied by an Apple logo until recently, sometimes behaves in ways similar to the Control key in the Windows world. At other times, however, it doesn't. Whether you're a recent Mac switcher or a seasoned Mac user, here are some shortcuts using the Command key to help you speed your way through tasks.


Safari

In Safari and Firefox, right-clicking on any word or set of words will allow you to do a Google search on it. In Firefox, this search will open up in another tab. Safari's default behavior, however, returns search results in the same tab or window that you're working on. No fear, however, for the Command key is here: holding down the command key while right clicking on the Google search option will open the search in a new tab.

Similarly, attaching the Command key to normal clicking (not right-clicking) in Safari will open up sites in another tab. This includes Command clicking on links on a site, your browsing history as well as sites within a bookmark folder, which will open up all sites within the folder in a different tab.


Finder

Like Command clicking on a link in Safari, Command-clicking on any Finder folder will open it in a new Finder window. If you do this with a stack in the dock, you'll be taken to the root folder of the stack. Command clicking on Finder folders also works with Folders displayed on the Path Bar of a Finder window (if you don't already have this enabled, you can do so by clicking on "View" and select "Show Path Bar").

One other useful Finder shortcut that I commonly use is Command-Delete. This will move selected files or folders to the trash, similar to clicking on the delete key on a Windows-based computer.


iTunes

I have the "Automatically sync when this iPod/iPhone is connected" option enabled on most of my iPods and my iPhone. Most of the time, I use my Mac to charge my iPhone (instead of a wall plug), so charging also helps keep me up to date on my music and Podcasts. However, there are situations where I don't want my iPhone to automatically sync. For instance, I may have a particular Podcast that I want to listen to again, and my Podcast settings call for only the latest episode to be kept. To prevent your iPod/iPhone from automatically syncing, use the Command-Option key combination as you connect it to your computer.

Another iTunes shortcut I've found handy is Command-Option-1. This key combination will bring up the main iTunes window, which is handy if you happen to close it or if you're browsing a playlist in another window (which you can do by double-clicking on a playlist).


iChat

Similar to how Command-Option-1 will display the iTunes window, Command-1 in iChat will display your buddy list. Say you close your iChat buddy list, but you leave your chat window open (or windows, if you don't collect all of them in a single window). In this situation, clicking on the iChat icon in the dock will show your chat window(s), not your buddy list. When clicked on in the dock, iChat's UI behavior is to display your buddy list if a chat window is minimized to the dock.

Although you have buddies on your list, you may opt to chat with them at your willing. In addition to mousing your way to make yourself invisible, you can also use Control-Command-I key combination.


iWork

One feature from the iWork suite that runs circles around its Microsoft "format painter" counterpart is its style-based copying and pasting. It works not only on text sizes and colors, but on charts and other objects as well.

  • The "Copy Style," via the Command-Option-C key combination, allows you to copy the style of "these words."
  • And through "Paste Style," via Command-Option-V, paste the style of "these words" to "this set of words" to make it look like "this set of words."
  • However if you want to paste "these words" somewhere and them look like "this set of words," you can do this with the "Paste and Match Style." Its shortcut is Command-Option-Shift-V

Other handy shortcuts that work across the iWork suite of apps are Command-T, which brings up the font selection panel, as well as Command-Option-I, which shows Inspector palette for the app.


Parallels

Most of the time, I run Parallels Desktop in a window mode, dragging and dropping files, as well as copying and pasting text, between Mac OS X and Windows XP. However, there are times that I need to fully immerse myself and zone-in on Windows XP (I know, frightening, ain't it?), which is when I'll put it in full screen. To pull yourself into and out of the Windows XP full screen warp zone in Parallels Desktop 5.0, hit Option-Command-Enter; for Parallels 4.0, it's just Option-Enter.

One more thing...
Actually, make that two more things. One of my favorite things about Mac OS X is the consistency with how you could tinker and adjust an app to your liking. In the Windows world, doing this may require you to navigate to the edit menu and select preferences, or clicking on tools and then selecting options. With very few exceptions, in Mac OS X, you just need to select "Preferences" from the app's menu (i.e., Keynote -- Preferences and iMovie -- Preferences). The shortcut to each of your app's preferences is Command-, (not a typo -- it's Command-Comma).

And if a particular app happens to be acting up on you, you can force quit it with Command-Option-Escape. This is the rough Mac OS X equivalent to Windows' Control-Alt-Delete.



One of the adjustments those new to the Mac need to make is to familiarize themselves with the Command key. Although I switch hit and use...