25 Keyboard Shortcuts that Save You 5 Hours a Week

Since last week’s post was such a hit, I thought I’d follow it up with a very practical How To on getting faster using your computer.

If you’re a knowledge worker, these 25 shortcuts, once mastered, will save you five of the 10 hours per week that I promised you last week.

But first, a bit of backstory.

This topic has been on my mind because I got a fancy new keyboard a couple of weeks ago. The Keyboard.io is a split, ergonomic keyboard, similar in many ways to the very funky Kenesis Advantage I bought 20 years ago.

I bought the Kenesis because I was struggling with the early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, and, having had a friend sidelined from typing for years by her crippling symptoms, I was not going to mess around. The Kenesis, combined with a trackball mouse that I learned to use with my left hand, solved my carpel tunnel problems, and I’ve been using both ever since.

The only problem with the original Kenesis is that it’s exceptionally ugly…as in, everyone who sees it stops and says “woah, what’s that?!”

Kenesis has, finally, upgraded the color scheme from the original Apple IIe beige, and you can now get an Advantage in a sleeker gray. Still, I was intrigued by the Keyboard.io when I saw it on Kickstarter two years ago, so I backed it and was eager to upgrade.

Out of the box, the Keyboard.io looked and felt amazing: it was the souped-up version of my old Kenesis, in burled wood, of all things!

But, while the Keyboard.io looked familiar, I discovered something terrifying when I plugged it in. While all the letters are in their normal place, everything else (the space bar, the Enter key, Control, Option, Command, all directional arrows, Page Up, Page Down, Esc and Tab) had been moved!

This might not seem like a huge deal…maybe it would impact me every now and then. But since I’m a relentless user of keyboard shortcuts, the new location of this set of keys ground my workday to a halt: while I could immediately type at a decent clip, I couldn’t do a single one of my keyboard shortcuts.

The result was that, for the first day with the Keyboard.io, I felt like I was operating at 20% speed when working. I was unable to use keystrokes to switch between apps. I couldn’t easily jump the cursor around, or highlight text, or switch channels in Slack. I was doing everything with my mouse instead, and it was tragically slow.

It occurred to me that this new pace is the pace that anyone who doesn’t use keystrokes has to work at. Terrible!

I was so frustrated, and also so unwilling to give up on my new keyboard, that I resolved to figure out and re-learn the essential keystrokes I use every day.

I’m happy to report that, four weeks in, I’m at about 90% of my original speed, and I’m loving the new Keyboard.io so much that I’m going to get myself another one (as soon as they are available.)

So that my pain and frustration don’t go to waste, I thought I’d share my list for anyone looking for more (free) throughput in their workday.

Master these (and, I’m sure, many many more that I don’t currently use but your friends/colleagues might) and you’ll be recapturing loads free time throughout your workday.

And yes, there are plenty of websites with lists of ALL the shortcuts for a given app, but you don’t want all of them, you just want the essential, must-use ones…these.

Managing Text / Cursor movement / Basics

Action Mac Keystroke PC Keystroke
Copy Cmd+C Ctrl+C
Paste Cmd+V Ctrl+V
Undo Cmd+Z Ctrl+Z
Select All Cmd+A Ctrl+A
Underline / Bold / Italic Option + U / B / I Option + U / B / I
Move to next cell in a table Tab Tab
Move to previous cell in a table Shift + Tab Shift + Tab
Move cursor to next word Option + Arrow (R or L) Ctrl + Arrow (R or L)
Move cursor to the end of the line (Word) Cmd + Arrow (R or L) Ctrl + Arrow (R or L)
Highlight next word Shift + Option + Arrow (R or L) Shift + Ctrl + Arrow (R or L)
Highlight full line Shift + Up/Down Arrow Shift + Up/Down Arrow
Close a dialogue box Esc Esc


Moving between Apps

Action Mac Keystroke PC Keystroke
Switch between apps (forward) Cmd+Tab Alt+Tab
Switch between apps (backwards) Cmd+Shift+Tab Alt+Shift+Tab


Gmail (full list here)

Action Mac Keystroke PC Keystroke
Send email Tab, then Enter Tab, then Enter
Add someone to Cc: Line Cmd+Shift+C Ctrl+Shift+C
Add someone to Bcc: Line Cmd+Shift+B Ctrl+Shift+B
Mark an email as read Shift + I Shift + I
Mark an email as unread Shift + U Shift + U
Return to Inbox from msg U U
Add a hyperlink Highlight the word, then Cmd+K, then paste in the URL Highlight the word, then Cmd+K, then paste in the URL


Slack (full list here)

Action Mac Keystroke PC Keystroke
Search channels Cmd+K, then type Ctrl+K, then type
Line break in a message Shift+Enter Shift+Enter
Close a preview file Esc Esc
Add a hyperlink Highlight the word, then paste (Cmd+V) Highlight the word, then paste (Ctrl+V)


Two Must-Do Steps to Improve Your Online Security

Let’s switch gears for a bit and deal with some housekeeping about your online security and safety.

I bet most of you haven’t done this and you’ll be happy you did.

These are the two most important things you can do, today, to improve online safety and protect your accounts from being hacked.

The first, easiest and most important is to set up two-factor authentication wherever you can. “Two factor authentication” is a terrible name that must have been made up by engineer.

Let’s call it “get-a-text-to-make-sure-you-are-you” instead.  Less scary, more accurate.

All “get-a-text-to-make-sure-you-are-you” means is that after entering your password (for your Gmail, for example) you get a code texted to your phone and you enter that too. You input this code only once per device, so it’s not a hassle.

Here are the steps for doing this in Gmail. Do this on your email client first, get comfortable with it, and then do it everywhere you can (especially online banking). The instructions for Gmail are (you can find this list, with pictures, here):

  1. Visit Google 2-Step Verification.
  2. Click ‘Get Started’, then click ‘Start Setup’
  3. Sign into your Gmail account.
  4. Click to turn on 2 step verification and enter a phone number under the “Voice or Text Message” option.
  5. Click ‘Send code’
  6. Enter the verification code sent from Google and click ‘Done’
  7. Check the ‘Trust this computer’ box if you’re on a trusted computer
  8. Click ‘Confirm’ to turn on 2-step Verification


OK, you’re a two-step authentication wizard! This means that you’re ahead of the 90% of people who haven’t taken this step. Give yourself a hand! (the crowd roars!!)

Now, on to Step 2, because you are brave, and this is also easy.

It’s using a password manager. With a password manager, you remember one, and only one, uber-secure password. The password manager stores all your other passwords and logs you in automatically to every site, whether from your computer or your mobile phone.

I researched this in depth about a year ago, and then started using LastPass. I love it. Not only is it more secure, but the frustration of never remembering my login for websites I use infrequently (benefits logins for work, car rental, airline websites, hotel loyalty cards) is a thing of the past. No more old, worn piece of paper with passwords—or its electronic equivalent. And don’t pretend you don’t have one of those, because you do.

Here’s a 30 second intro video to LastPass.

Look at you, child of the 21st Century! You’re logging in in with your one uber-secure password–your “last password”–to access all your passwords from your laptop or cellphone. You’re an internet security superhero! Plus, on your phone you can use TouchID or FaceID to make this seamless.

(if you really want to pay it forward, sign up with this link and I get a month for free. But I just learned that when looking for useful links to add to this post…that’s not the point at all!)

In addition to being more convenient, because you no longer are scrounging for passwords, over time you’ll start using more secure passwords. And don’t even try to tell me you’re not using the same password for 52 different websites, because we both know you are.

I use the LastPast Premium plan which costs $36/year, but you can also start with the free version. Either way, once you start using LastPass you’ll wonder what took you so long. If you want the full details, check out Tech.co’s latest comparative review.

And, since you’re a human being and you’re about to click to the next thing and do this “later,” don’t. At least, at very very least, do two-factor authentication right now.

Do that instead of reading this NYTimes article—The Two Online Security Steps You Should Stop Putting Off—because it just reiterates everything I’m saying in this post.

My job isn’t necessarily to share new stuff, my job is to help you do important things.

So prove me right and go do it.