Keys to Success

Sharon Zardetto, Macworld
26 April, 2011
View more articles fromthe author

The Escape key

The Escape key (Esc) has long been the ‘get me out of here’ panacea for many things: cancelling a dialogue box, getting rid of a buttonless splash screen, closing a menu that you clicked open. But those are all obvious. Here’s a handful of less obvious – but still handy – things the Escape key can do.

Make a quick exit from the Application Switcher. You press 1-Tab to switch to another application, pressing Tab repeatedly because the program you want is far away on the Application Switcher’s bar. But then you get halfway across that bar and realise you forgot to copy some text you wanted to paste into the next program. While still holding down the c key, press Escape. That will take you back to the program you were using before you pressed 1-Tab.

Get out of the Spotlight menu. If you want to erase what you’ve typed in the Spotlight search field, don’t delete it one character at a time. Press Escape instead. That will instantly empty the field.

If you’ve finished with a search, press Escape twice: once to erase the field (otherwise Spotlight autofills your last search term thenext time you open it) and again to close it.

Hide your browser cursor. The mouse cursor can be an annoying distraction when it’s in the wrong spot on your screen while you’re viewing a web page; it’s as though a fly landed on your TV screen.

Whether you’re in Safari or Firefox, press Escape and the cursor disappears instantly, cooperatively reappearing as soon as you move the mouse.

Escape key browser trick. If you change your mind when dragging a tab off the bar to make a Safari window, press Escape before you let go, to send the new window back into its tab.

Undo a Safari tab drag. When dragging a tab off Safari’s tab bar to create a separate window, it’s all too easy to grab the wrong one and drag it off the tab bar before realising your mistake.

You don’t have to drag that tab back to the bar: press Escape before you let go of it, and it will snap back. This trick works in Firefox, too. It also works in other programs that provide tear-off tabbed windows, such as Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 and InDesign CS5.

The Control key

It’s true that Control-clicking on anything from a Finder icon to a window’s title is an amazingly handy way to access a pop-up menu of targeted options. But you can also add Control to common key combinations for variations on the original functions.

Open a folder in a new window. If you set your Finder Preferences (Finder > Preferences) to Always Open Folders In A New Window, each double-click on a folder will open a new window, cluttering even a big screen in short order.

With the option unchecked (as it is by default), a double-clicked folder shows its content in the current window (replacing whatever was displayed in the window before).
This is the better default setup because it cuts down on clutter. You can always 1–double-click on a folder whenever you want to see its contents in a new window.

But what about us keyboard junkies? I select a folder by typing, and open it by pressing 1-O or 1-Down Arrow. I’d have to reach for the mouse to use the 1–double-click method. So when I want to open a folder in a new window, I add the Control key: 1-Control-O or 1-Control-Down Arrow opens a folder into a new window.

Note that the Control key effectively reverses your Preferences setting. If you use the Always Open Folders In A New Window option, a 1–double-click or 1-Control-O will display the folder’s contents in the current window instead.

Open a new window for the enclosing folder. When you’re looking at the contents of a folder in the Finder, pressing 1-Up Arrow opens the enclosing, or ‘parent’, folder. So, for instance, if you’re in a subfolder in your Documents folder, you can easily move up to the Documents folder and see its other subfolders.

With the preferred Finder preference setting of Always Open Folders In A New Window unchecked, however, moving up in the hierarchy means the contents of your window changes. What if you want that subfolder window to remain open? Add Control to the keyboard command: 1-Control-Up Arrow opens a new window for the enclosing folder.

As with the basic 1-O for opening a window, the Control key reverses the preference setting. So, if you have Always Open Folders In A New Window selected, 1-Control-Up Arrow opens the parent folder in the same window.

Shutdown shortcut. Here’s a quick shortcut when you need to power down: Press Control-Eject and then press the appropriate key  – R for Restart; S for Sleep; Escape (or 1-Full Stop) for Cancel; or Return/Enter for Shut Down.

Access a Restart, Sleep, and Shutdown shortcut. You can restart, put to sleep, or shut down your Mac using the commands in the Apple menu, or you can just press Control-Eject to open a Restart/Shutdown dialogue box. You can then use a single key to choose: R for Restart;
S for Sleep; Escape (or 1-Full Stop) for Cancel; or Return/Enter for
Shut Down.

Jump to the Spotlight Preferences command. Your Spotlight menu is open, showing hits for your search term, but you’re tired of its including, say, five email messages, which limits the number of documents it can list.

Changing the Search Results parameters requires a trip to Spotlight Preferences, and there’s a quick way to get there.

When the menu is open with anything listed in it (that is, when more than just the Search field is showing), press Control-Down Arrow to select the last item – Spotlight Preferences – and then press Return.

Control-Up Arrow always selects the first item – Show All – which opens a Finder window with the search results in it.

Edit text. The Control key is also used in combination with other keys to edit text in some applications, such as TextEdit and Mail.
For a list of what you can do, have a look at this Apple support article:

Beware. The Control key plus arrow keys are also default shortcuts for moving around in Spaces. If you’ve enabled Spaces and left these shortcuts active, they’ll take precedence over the Spotlight menu shortcuts.

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us