Since 1984, from the first Mac computers coming off the assembly line, keyboard shortcuts have existed to simplify certain actions. While the most revolutionary aspect of the Mac was its doing-away with the text-only interface, we still have keyboard shortcuts in the operating system – sometimes they’re just quicker than using a mouse.

Command-A, which is used for selecting all the text in an area, Command-C which is used to copy selected text, and Command-V, for pasting copied text, are a few examples of some shortcuts with which you’re probably already familiar. Additionally, there are certain keyboard shortcuts that only work with certain apps. This post will shed light on some important key combinations that you can use to save time while working, and you’ll also get a little history lesson in the process.

Before we go any further, let’s take a trip back to the foundation of macOS. Mac products today can trace their operating system to NeXTStep, the operating system used on the NeXT workstations from the second computer company created by (Apple founder) Steve Jobs. NeXTStep originated from Unix (so did Mac OSX, now macOS), an operating system that was first introduced by the researchers at Bell Labs in the 1970s.

Around that time, in 1976, two developers created a text editor known as EMACS – Editor MACroS for TECO. Despite its age, certain commands from the EMACS editor are still functional on the Mac today – in dialogue boxes, Safari address bars, TextEdit windows, and several other MacOS apps.

Some of those shortcuts include:

♣          Control-a: Position your cursor at the beginning of the line

♣          Control-b: Same thing as the arrow to the left

♣          Control-d: Deletes letters to the cursor’s right

♣          Control-e: Position the cursor at the last part of a line

♣          Control-f: Same thing with the right arrow

♣          Control-h: Same thing as clicking on delete

♣          Control-k: Delete the characters on the right side of the cursor

♣          Control-n: Same thing as the arrow pointing down

♣          Control-o: Works like the return key, but the cursor remains in the same place

♣          Control-p: Same thing as the arrow pointing up

♣          Control-v: Transports the cursor towards the end of a line or document

The great thing about these ancient EMACS shortcuts is that most of them also work with iOS when you use an external keyboard! Of course, this is because iOS has OS X – that is, UNIX – heritage.

To wrap up, here are some other keyboard shortcuts that can also take advantage of your keyboard’s arrows and are especially useful for moving around:

♣          alt/option + up arrow: Proceed to the opening of a paragraph (the preceding line break)

♣          alt/option + down arrow: Proceed to where the paragraph ended (the subsequent line break)

♣          alt/option + right arrow: Proceed to the last part of the word, then to the last part of the subsequent word, and continue like that

♣          alt/option + left arrow: Proceed to where the word starts from, then move left towards the beginning of the subsequent word, and continue

♣          Command + left arrow: Proceed to the start of the current line or the character farthest to the left on that line

♣          Command + right arrow: Proceed to the last part of the current line or to the character farthest to the right on that line

♣          Command + up arrow: Proceed to the beginning part of the document

♣          Command + down arrow: Proceed to the last part of the document

We find both both Command-Down and Command-Up are super useful in Safari, because these shortcuts take you straight to the top or bottom of the web page you’re viewing.


If you have a preferred keyboard shortcut that wasn’t listed here, let us know in the comments!