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Keyboard Shortcuts: Become A Keyboard Rockstar

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Ancient typewriter

Since you’re a reader of this blog, you are probably someone who spends a lot of time on a computer typing away your days. We are of the opinion that if you spend a lot of time on a particular activity, you might as well be the most efficient at it. So we are about to show you how keyboard shortcuts can make you more efficient. Are your ready to rock your keyboard?

NOTE: While the principles are universal, this article is mostly geared to Mac and OS X.

One of my favorite time management quotes goes something like this:

“Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.” -Lord Chesterfield

This was by a guy in the 17th century, when they didn’t have typewriters yet. While minutes were valuable back then, and actually still are today, we can take that a step further. Let’s spin it to a modern day version.

“Take care of the seconds and the minutes will take care of themselves.”

And that is exactly what keyboard shortcuts can do for you. Don’t believe me? Let’s do a quick experiment. Make sure Safari is not open.

www.asianefficiency.com

Try to visit that URL in Safari only using your mouse. Pretty slow, right? It’s a lot of dragging and clicking. Now close Safari again.

Now copy and paste in Safari using your keyboard and mouse. Using CMD+C and CMD+V is little faster, right? Okay now quit Safari. Now follow these procedures:

  1. Select www.asianefficiency.com with your mouse and copy with CMD+C.
  2. Press CMD+SPACE.
  3. Type in “saf” and open Safari in Spotlight.
  4. Press CMD+L.
  5. Paste with CMD+V and press the Return key.

Pretty damn fast, right? It’s a little faster than when you have to use your mouse to open Safari, select the URL bar and then paste. While this example is a very obvious one, I bet that you have similar actions every day and you might not even be aware of them.

Now imagine you knew a couple more shortcuts like these and you can chain them. You would be a keyboard rockstar! And you would be a lot faster and you would shave minutes every day you could invest otherwise. Over the course of weeks, months and years that is a lot of time. Therefore, it is a worthwhile investment to learn a couple shortcuts, so let’s get right into it.

Operating System

There are a lot of useful shortcuts to know on OS X. Here’s a table full with useful shortcuts that can save you a lot of time.

CONTROL + SHIFT + EJECTPut display to sleep
SHIFT+⌘+3Screenshot of whole screen
SHIFT+⌘+4Select part of screen for screenshot
⌘+SHIFT+OPTION+VPaste text without style
⌘+CONTROL+OPTION+8Invert screen colors, press again to revert (great for pranks)
⌘+TABSwitch between programs
⌘+,Application preferences
⌘+ASelect all text
⌘+BBold
⌘+CCopy
⌘+FFind text
⌘+GFind the next occurrence of text
⌘+IItalicize
⌘+NCreate file
⌘+OOpen file
⌘+PPrint file
⌘+QQuit the current application
⌘+SSave file
⌘+VPaste text (with style)
⌘+WClose the current window
⌘+XCut text or file
⌘+ZUndo last action

If you want more shortcuts for OS X, Dan Rodney has a ton.

Applications and Programs

In order to maximize the efficiency of keyboard shortcuts, you need to make a list of your most used programs. That is where you will save most of your time so it is worthwhile knowing the most important keystrokes of your commonly used programs (see that little hint of Pareto’s Principle here?). So make a list of 5 programs you spend the most time on (order does not matter).

Here is my list, based on my Rescuetime data (yes I like to know everything backed up by data, call me a freak!).

Commonly used programs

My commonly used programs. I feel almost ashamed Microsoft Word is there, but the numbers don't lie.

Once you have your list of programs, now is a great time to go over each menubar option and see what the shortcuts are for specific actions. Try to memorize a couple keystrokes for the actions you use the most in your top applications. Here is a simple trick you can use to learn new keystrokes.

  1. Each time you need to perform a certain action, use your mouse to figure out what the keystroke equivalent is.
  2. Memorize this keystroke.
  3. Now use that keystroke.

Rinse and repeat this a couple a times. Slowly over time you will only use the keystroke instead of your mouse and that is when you will start to save a little more time. If you can chain multiple keystrokes you will be so much faster and efficient. It won’t impress the ladies (or men for our female readers). Unfortunately, not all rockstars get the same benefits….

Advanced

Okay, you’ve mastered the basics with a couple keystrokes. Do you want to be even more Asian Efficient using your keyboard? Consider using an application launcher like Launchbar or Alfred. These tools allow you to launch programs just using your keyboard and other cool things. I know, I know. You can do that too with OS X’s builtin Spotlight (like I showed in the beginning of the article), but these programs can do it faster with abbreviations and have a lot more features. We will cover application launcher a lot more in the future, but if you can’t wait check out these applications.

Another great tool to have is text expansion tools. These little tools allow you to type abbreviated phrases that the tool will replace with whatever you have it set to. For example, instead of typing “hey how’s it going” you can type “hh”, and the tool will automatically turn that into the desired phrase. There are lot of programs out there like TextExpander and Typinator. We will also cover those more in the near future, but I wanted to give you guys an idea how far you can go when it comes to optimizing your efficiency on the keyboard.

Next Action

  1. Learn a couple keyboard shortcuts for OS X.
  2. Make a list of your top applications.
  3. Learn a couple keystrokes for your common actions within those programs.

Photo by Joelk75.

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4 Comments

Posted by Bojan Djordjevic  | August 12, 2011 at 5:58PM | Reply

It doesn’t log my browser activity in free version…

Posted by AE Thanh  | August 13, 2011 at 2:28PM

Yeah that’s only in the paid version (which I have).

Posted by Jacob  | July 22, 2011 at 4:40PM | Reply

Does RescueTime make the computer a little bit slower due to using the internet to uoload the data of what programs and files you use?

Posted by AE Thanh  | July 23, 2011 at 8:44AM

I’ve never experienced any slowdowns. Definitely give it a try.

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