Published on [Permalink]
Reading time: 3 minutes
Posted in:

macOS Productivity Hacks: Basic Keyboard Shortcuts

This is the start of an occasional series where I'll document how I've customized my Mac environment to help me be more productive.

Today, I'm going to cover some basic keyboard shortcuts that I've created using the built-in macOS tools. Most of them are specific to my usage, but I hope they'll inspire others to see what they can do to make their Mac lives easier.


I've been using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard for a couple of years now, and it has greatly improved my comfort when doing lots of typing. However, since it's a PC keyboard, I've had to make some adjustments to get it working fully with macOS. I'll delve into the key remapping aspect of that exercise in a future post, but for now, I can tell you that out-of-the-box it's mainly just a case of knowing that the Windows key acts as Command and the Alt key acts as Option under macOS.


Screenshot of macOS Preferences app showing disabled display brightness shortcuts
Screenshot of macOS Preferences app showing disabled display brightness shortcuts

As the Microsoft 4000 keyboard doesn't have dedicated brightness controls, and I don't normally adjust the brightness anyway, disabling those options was a no-brainer. I let macOS adjust the brightness according to ambient light conditions, and have Night Shift active to turn down the brightness further outside daylight hours.


Screenshot of macOS Preferences app showing Mission Control shortcuts
Screenshot of macOS Preferences app showing Mission Control shortcuts

I don't do much with Mission Control on the Mac, with one exception: Notification Centre, which I use a lot. I have that mapped to the Pause/Break key on the Microsoft 4000 keyboard, and with Control pressed down I can also toggle Do Not Disturb mode.


Screenshot of macOS Preferences app showing custom keyboard shortcuts
Screenshot of macOS Preferences app showing custom keyboard shortcuts

Theoretically, I could have a lot more app-specific shortcuts in here, but I find it hard to get them to register in macOS Preferences. I tend to use Keyboard Maestro these days when I want to create keyboard shortcuts in various apps, or remap existing ones. In a future post, I'll go into more detail about how I've done that, with screenshots and example macros.

The shortcuts for Apple Mail were the first ones that I created. Changing the Archive shortcut was important for me as I try not to hold on to emails unless there's a good reason, so pressing Delete to send them to the Deleted folder is usually the order of the day. The other two most-performed actions in my inbox are to save an email as a PDF or drop it into DEVONthink 3.

Making 'Paste and Match Style' the default action for the Command-V shortcut is a subtle but welcome change for me, as I don't like surprises.

And making Command-E the shortcut for Export on both Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo? A holdover from my years of using various Adobe products, particularly InDesign. Plus, the default shortcuts required a lot more keys held down.


I hope this post will spur some of you to look in Preferences and see if there are any shortcuts that you're either not using or would use if the shortcut was different. :)

Reply by email