Five Quick And Easy Ways To Master The OS X Keyboard [Feature]

Mac OS X Keyboard

As we’re all Mac users here (at least I hope so!), it’s a good idea from time to time to learn new things on our favorite computer, to make our Mac life just that bit more fun and productive.

With that in mind, here are five easy keyboard tricks that you can use that you
may not have already known about. Give them a try and let us know what you think in the comments section at the end.

Enjoy!

Use A Different Hard Drive To Startup Your Mac

keyboardOptionblk

Starting up your Mac each day may seem a simple thing, right? Just press the power key on your keyboard or main Mac unit, hear the Mac chime, and then get to work, right?

Sometimes, though, you might want to boot a Windows partition with Boot Camp, or start up from a network volume. Heck, you might even want to start from a completely different OS X disk.

In that case, use the following keyboard shortcuts to do so.

When you start up your Mac, hold the C key down to startup from a CD or DVD, like the Mac OS X Install DVD or flash drive that came with your Mac. I hold the C key down, then press the power button, and keep the C key held down until I see the little spinning gear-like icon. Then you can let go.

If you want to start from a different partition on the same disk, or a different hard drive completely (it still needs to be connected to your Mac, though), simply hold the Option key down when you press the power key to start your Mac up. Again, hold the Option key down until you see the spinning gear icon.

Then, you’ll see all the available startup disk iconsin a horizontal row on your screen. Click the one you want to startup with with your Mouse, or navigate to it with the arrow keys and hit the Return or Enter key.

Navigate Mission Control Spaces

Desktop Mission Control

If you haven’t been using OS X’s Mission Control lately, you’re missing out. It’s a great way to separate out your apps, full screen and not, to be just that much more productive on your Mac.

Trouble is, it seems like a fairly mouse-centric system, with users encouraged to click on the different desktops across the top or the apps in the main window area to bring them up.

Luckily, there are a couple of keyboard shortcuts to help you move between Desktop spaces, at least, and one to help you add or delete them, as well.

Once you activate Mission Control (the default is the F3 key), you can then use the Control-Arrow keys, Left and Right, to navigate between Desktop spaces.

If that’s not enough fine-grained control, you can also use the Control-1, Control-2, -3, -4, etc. keys to navigate directly to the Desktop space, in any order.

There’s a default of four Desktops in Mission Control. If you want to delete one, hit the Option key to see the iOS-style X button in the upper left of the Desktop at the top. If you want to add one, click on the big Plus button to the far right once you hit the Option key.

You’ll still need to click on the app you want to open, here, so there’s some room for improvement. This is a good start, though!

Remove Those Pesky Sidebar Items

Sidebar Items

It used to be so easy to remove items from the sidebar of OS X Finder windows. You’d simply click, drag, and poof! The offending item would disappear like a well-heeled Dock icon in search of greater opportunity in the world.

Today, however (and for quite some time, really) you can’t just click and drag the sidebar items away without giving it a little more thought. That’s where this handy keyboard shortcut comes in.

Sure, you could use the right-click (Control-click or two-finger click on a trackpad) to bring up a contextual menu, but where’s the fun in that?

When you want to remove items from the Sidebar, including things like AirDrop, Desktop, All My Files, Downloads, Applications, Documents, and the like, you’ll need to hold down the Command key and then click and drag it away.

Right? So simple it hurts. But there’s probably a reason the software geniuses at Apple changed this behavior.

My guess is that too many people were randomly clicking on Sidebar items and then losing them, and then having no clue how to get them back over there.

If you don’t, then here’s the trick for putting items into the Sidebar. Find the folder you want there, Documents or Downloads or whatever, and drag it to a spot in the Sidebar. If you drag it between items already there, you’ll see a blue line show up where it will end up. If you drag it to the bottom, it will go at the bottom of the list. Slick, right?

Cycle Through Running Apps In Reverse

Tilde key

The truth is, while many Mac users may know that hitting Command-Tab will bring up the Task Switcher in OS X, they may still be doomed to endlessly loop through their running apps with that keyboard shortcut.

If you’re running a lot of apps, that’s a lot of wasted time. Time that could be better spent actually in the apps you’re cycling through in and ever more frustrating rightward bound loop of task switching.

To avoid the endless loop, there’s only one keyboard command you need to know: Command-Tilde. The Tilde is the funny little ˜ sign just above the Tab key on most Apple-compatible keyboards.

You won’t be able to jump right into a leftward looping Task Switcher rut right away, however. You’ll still have to activate the Task Switcher with a Command-Tab and then, still holding the Command key down, move your other finger to the Tilde key. Boom! You’re now moving through the open apps in the reverse direction.

Life is good, right?

Ignore The Mouse: Enable And Use Full Keyboard Access

keyboard

Mac OS X is full of great accessibility features to help those with differing abilities access their Macintosh, whether they have visual, hearing, or motor challenges. One feature, Full Keyboard Access, is set for those who can’t use the mouse reliably. You can use it, too, if you just want to keep your hands on the keyboard, focused on the task at hand.

Here’s how to activate it and make it work for you.

First of all, to toggle the Full Keyboard Access, hit Control-F1 on your keyboard. You may need to also hit the Fn key if you have your function keys set up to use the Mac controls for brightness and media.

Once Full Keyboard Access is toggled on, you can then hit Control-F2 to move the focus to the menu bar. You’ll see the Apple menu highlight with blue, letting you know it’s now accessible via keyboard. Use the arrow keys from there to move right, left, up, or down. Once you move the highlight to the menu item you want to select, simply hit the Return key.

To use the keyboard to access the Dock, hit Control-F3, and you can use the arrow keys again to move left and right. The Finder icon will darken first when you do so, and when you hit the right or left arrow key, the selected Dock icon will darken to let you know it’s selected. To activate the selected icon, hit the Return key.

To navigate between open windows in all apps, simply hit Control-F4 to move the focus to the active or next widnow. Hit Shift-Control-F4 to move to the previously selected window.

Now you can move around your Mac a bit better using only your keyboard, and ignore the mouse altogether.

Related
  • Mhiro

    Re: Cycle Through Running Apps In Reverse

    Use Command-Shift-Tab, esp. on intl. keyboards.

  • shorshe

    Hey, has someone a solution for this scenario:
    I want to open an file from within an application. I use the search box in the file picker window and then would like to select the found file, without the mouse.

    command-o -> command-f -> “search term” -> pick file via keyboard

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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