10 Awesome Windows and OS X Keyboard Shortcuts You Never Knew

By Sam Gibbs and Chris Mills on at

So, young Padawan, you think you know your operating system? Think again. You might be au fait with basics like Ctrl + C or Cmd + C, but there's more to life than a bit of copying and pasting. Here's a little list of our favourite lesser-known shortcuts to revolutionise your workflow.


Windows Software:

Command: Win key + Shift + Right/Left Arrow Key

What it does: Moves active window to a second monitor, but keeps the window at the same size -- i.e. if you have your web browser maximised on one screen, and want to move it to be maximised on the other, this'll do it. If you juggle multiple monitors, it will change your life.

Command: Alt + Up arrow

What it does: Moves up one folder level in Explorer. Simple, awesome.

Command: Ctrl + Shift + Esc

What it does: Jumps straight to the Task Manager without having to go through the Ctrl + Alt + Delete screen. Because let's be honest, when you press Ctrl + Alt + Delete, you only ever want the Task Manager. (Apple users, insert generic "oh look Windows people have to access the Task Manager, isn't their OS rubbish" comment here.)

Command: Win key + L

What it does: Locks your computer. Useful if you work in one of those offices where your co-workers set your auto-correct to change "the" to "cock" at every available opportunity. Not naming any names.

Command: Win key + T

What it does: Cycles through programs on the taskbar, just like hovering your mouse over them. Enter or space will launch a new program.

Command: Alt + Print Screen

What it does: Print-screens only the selected window. Hugely helpful if you're running a multiple-monitor setup.

Command: Hold down Shift when inserting a USB drive/SD card/CD (you still have an optical drive?! How quaint.)

What it does: Stops that pesky AutoRun. Take that, Microsoft!

Command: Alt + D

What it does: Selects the address bar, either in your browser of choice, or even Windows Explorer.

Command: Win key + F

What it does: Hitting the start key and typing is an awesome way to find apps, but in Windows 8, the default search doesn't include files. If you're searching for your Star Wars fanfiction Word document rather than Star Wars: Battlefront II, then hit Win + f and you can search through your files rather than apps.

Command: Ctrl + Tab

What it does: Changes between multiple windows in the same program -- basically, you can flick between your open browser tabs, or two Photoshop windows or something like that.


OS X Software:

Command: Cmd + Opt + Shift + Backspace

What it does: Instantly empties the trash, including on any removable drives you happen to have attached to your Mac, without displaying a confirmation. Considering you can't instantly delete something without sending it to the trash first, this one's an essential.

Command:  Shift + Opt + Volume Keys

What it does: Basically it gives you smaller volume control increments, allowing you finer grain adjustment. Why would you want that? If you've ever tried to play music quietly at night, you'll know that the first volume step can be quite big, and this basically solves your problem. Easy.

Command:  Cmd + Opt + Eject

What it does: Sleeps your Mac instantly, which is handy if you're leaving the thing unattended and don't want some miscreant to mess with your stuff. You could close the lid of course, but one for desktop Mac users or those with a MacBook hooked up to a secondary screen.

Command:  Ctrl + D

What it does: One for Windows switchers -- it basically acts like a real delete key, deleting characters in front of the cursor. Doesn't work in every program, but should work in most of OS X's built-in apps. Alternatively you can use Fn + Backspace, but you already knew that one, right?

Command:  Cmd  + Mission Control/Exposé

What it does: Instantly shoves all windows out the way so you can see the desktop. Handy if you've got files on there, or you've just taken a screenshot or something.

Command:  Cmd + Option + Shift + Esc

What it does: Instantly force quits a crash application, without having to go through the force quit menu. It's not often an app hangs on OS X, but then it does, this should nuke it so you can get on with your day.

Command:  Cmd + L

What it does: Highlights the URL within most browsers like Chrome or Safari, ready to either paste and go or copy into an email, IM, etc. Handy if you're a browser jockey.

Command:  Shift + Function key/click

What it does: One of the fancier keyboard shortcuts that's utterly pointless for the most part, but is quite cool nonetheless, is the slow-motion animation option within OS X. Holding shift and pressing Mission Control for instance slides windows all over the place in slowmo, likewise holding shift and clicking minimise slowmos the shrink into the dock animation. It'll work with most animations, so give it a whirl if you're bored out of your mind at work.

Command:  Ctrl + Tab

What it does: Windows users can't keep the tab-switching fun all to themselves, OS X users can do it too. In this case, Ctrl + Tab does the business, switching between open tabs in your browser of choice, because Cmd + Tab switches between open applications, but of course you knew that, right?

Command:  Cmd + Opt + D

What it does: This little beauty shows or hides the dock, which means you can make full use of the entire screen space without having to worry about the dock getting in the way. Alternatively you can have the dock auto-hide, but where's the keyboard-jockey fun in that?