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Use the keyboard to navigate your Mac

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How to Navigate Using the Keyboard on a Mac

Apple’s computers have become a status symbol for the younger, school-bound generation. Sit and watch a college freshman using a Mac laptop for more than a few minutes and you’ll be amazed by how efficient they are with it. The key to this efficiency is through shortcuts, some of which can really help make your computing more efficient.

Here’s how you can utilize the keyboard to navigate your Mac.

Jump to Finder

The Finder on your Mac is the desktop and what allows you to access and view files on the computer’s hard drive. If you’re working in a program and need to open another one, or view your desktop, you can do a number of things.

  • Hit Command + H. This is the shortcut to hide the open program. If you only have one program open, you will automatically navigate to the finder. If you want to go to your desktop after hiding a program, but have a file window open, you can hit Command + W to close the window.
  • Hold Command and press Tab. By doing this, you’ll get a box in the middle of your screen with all open programs. The white bordered box is the program you will navigate to when you let the two keys go. Simply keep Command pressed down and tap Tab until the white box is over Finder (the two man happy face).

To figure out if you have navigated to Finder, look at the top left of the screen, it should say Finder beside the Apple icon.


Open and navigate a folder

Once you are in Finder, you can press Command + N to open a new Finder window. The window that opens will be the user’s file (typically represented by the Home icon). If you have more than one Finder window open, pressing Command + Tilde (~) will cycle through Finder windows.

When you open a new window, you will notice that the first file in the window is highlighted. If it isn’t, simply press the right arrow. To navigate within this folder, pressing up will go up one folder row, left goes one folder to the left, right foes one folder to the right and down will go down one folder row. Hitting Command + Down arrow will open the folder you have selected. Hitting Command + Up arrow will exit the folder. For example, if you have Applications selected and hit Command + Down arrow, the Applications folder will open. In Applications, hitting Command + Up, will go to the previous folder.

If you open a folder with lots of files/application in it, quickly type the first three letters of the name of the file/application to be taken to the closest relative file. For example, if you are looking for Google Chrome in the application folder, quickly typing GOO will take you to the first file in the folder named GOO.

To carry on with the Google Chrome example from above, you can hit Command + o to open the program. This also works for files. If you need to open a menu from the menu bar (usually located at the top of the screen) hit Shift + Command + ?. This will open the Help menu, and pressing the arrow keys left or right will allow you to navigate to the menu options beside it. Pressing down will allow you to navigate down the selected menu to the different options. Hitting Enter/return will execute the command you have highlighted.

By using these commands, you keep your hands on the keyboard, and if you know what you’re looking for, it could make you more efficient. If you would like to learn more about using Macs efficiently, please contact us.

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