Windows to Mac keystroke mapping - a quick guide

In the nearly three months I've been blogging about switching to Mac I've had countless times that readers have made comments about my posts, recommending specific techniques, tricks or applications that have helped me improve my Mac experience. Yesterday it was n45800's turn as he pointed me in the direction of a list of the default key bindings for OS X. This little gem was exactly what I needed to get past some of the keyboard issues I've been trying to adjust to.

As a touch typist I've really struggled at times to use the Mac keyboard; not necessarily the keyboard itself but the navigation shortcuts while editing text in a text editing surface. Here is a list of the most commonly used keystrokes on Windows XP for text editing and navigation and their Mac OS X equivalents:

PurposeWindowsMac OS X
Clipboard Commands
Selection Commands
Select AllCtrl+ACommand+A
Text Navigation Commands
Beginning of current lineHomeCommand+Left Arrow
End of current lineEndCommand+Right Arrow
Top of editing areaCtrl+HomeCommand+Up Arrow
End of editing areaCtrl+EndCommand+Down Arrow
Next word rightCtrl+Right ArrowOption+Right Arrow
Previous word leftCtrl+Left ArrowOption+Left Arrow
Beginning of next paragraphCtrl+Down ArrowOption+Down Arrow
Beginning of previous paragraphCtrl+Up ArrowOption+Up Arrow

This isn't an exhaustive list by any means but if you are new to Macs and coming from Windows you should consider bookmarking this post or printing it out as a reference because it will save you lots of time. These key stroke combinations should work for most Cocoa based applications that include a text area to type in, including Safari, Mail, TextEdit, etc.

Notice that the Ctrl key is the only modifier used by Windows while OS X uses Command, Control and Option modifiers. Now I know why I've been struggling so much.

Want more keys?
Here are a couple of links to pages I've found that have more complete lists:
If you are making your way to Mac from Windows it's a really good idea to immerse yourself into the keyboard shortcuts because they really will save you some time and improve your experience. Make an effort to use them and commit them to your "muscle memory"- it will really help you be more productive.


Jeff Douglas said…
Awesome post! I have been having the same problem with the shortcuts as well. I always seem to get Ctrl and Command mixed up. I am sure this list will help alot. Keep up the great blog.
I'm going to have to recommend the Kinesis Ergo Advantage keyboard again. It would solve a bunch of the problems that you're having. I know you said you wanted something sort of Mac specific, but there's really nothing Windows specific about this keyboard. I have volume and eject keys. There aren't enough keys to have screen brightness control, but it's a fully programmable keyboard. You could take up an extra couple function keys for that if you wanted.

My modifier keys are all at my thumbs, so I never accidentally hit them. I've got Ctrl, Command, PgUp, PgDn, Enter and Space on the right. On the left, I've got Command, Option, Home, End, Backspace and Delete. (I've also got caps lock re-bound to ctrl.) After you use the keyboard for a while, you wonder why all keyboards don't have such commonly used keys at the thumbs. Why should I be hitting enter with my pinky, or reaching out for backspace? That's just silly.

I know I sound a bit like a shill for Kinesis, but I love these keyboards as much as I love my Macs. They're just a better solution. They're more ergonomic, they're durable, and people are always asking me about my 'crazy' keyboard. If you try it out, you won't be disappointed.

(But that's the last you'll hear from me on this subject. :))
Unknown said…
If you were a hunt and peck typist like me, you wouldn't have these issues :-)
David Alison said…
@Cyclist: You don't sound like a shill - you sound like you like the product man. I'd love to find a local dealer that carries them to try it out. Looking through their web site it does look compelling for a touch typist. For anyone interested in knowing more here is a link to the Kinesis web site.

@TLueker: Tom, the sign of a true power user is one that can operate their computer with only 2 fingers ;-)
Pecos Bill said…
Um, actually none of the Mac shortcuts you mentioned technically use the control key. The command key is the original. They added control to make switchers happier, I guess. I doubt they will take it away so use which ever makes you happier. I like the inside placement of cmd vs ctrl but that could be due to 20+ years of Mac use. Oh, I can see some Carbon apps not supporting the control key so that might be a reason to use command.

There are also shortcuts defined for cmd-opt-arrow as well, but I cannot remember what they do as I'm on Windows at work.

Keep in mind that adding the shift key selects text as it goes (as it does on Windows).

My understanding is the Redo standard on a Mac is cmd-shift-z but I could be wrong. Cmd-y is used by M$ to be cross platform. Unix also uses it.

I think you'll find that the key shortcuts work in every situation, unlike windows where you have to resort to a right-click at times.

There are keyboard shortcut lists in the help system, too, and that doesn't require a Net connection.

Absolutely correct about how memorized keyboard shortcuts will make you faster... to the extent it's instant recall.
David Alison said…
@Pecos Bill: Yes, the Control-Left and Control-Right do use the control key; I didn't realize that Command-Left and Command-Right used it as well! Wonderful. I am going to update my table because it's a heck of a lot better to use Command-Left and Command-Right for beginning and end of lines (a replacement for Home and End respectively). Thanks Bill!
Anonymous said…
The Control Key in combination with a Single Mouse Button on Mac is used to function as the Right Button on a Two-Button Mouse.
Eytan said…
I'd like to point out, not sure how important it is here, but at the time that the Mac came out the key bindings for the Control keys were already taken, and refer to ASCII keys 1-26 (CTRL-A - CTRL-Z) so the CTRL key is not technically a "modifier". What I mean is the Control key is used to get a different ASCII value (just like SHIFT makes a, ASCII 97, A, ASCII 65 - and CTRL makes it CTRL-A, ASCII 1). The point behind creating and using a different key for modifying behavior was very important back then, and Apple used the Command key for that. In fact, for the 1st ten years of Windows there was no consistent key stroke for any of those shortcuts. Paste was often CTRL-Insert so as it would NOT use one of the CTRL characters, and for many years there was no standardization on Windows.
Bowing to pressure, Microsoft eventually relented and went with the same keystrokes as Apple. But since they had no modifier key like the Command Key, and since the CTRL key bindings were no longer as essential because the age of terminals had somewhat passed, they decided to use the CTRL keys. This always caused issues for people with Terminal emulators, but that was less the case then in the past.
While it may be moot now, Apple's decision to use the Command key and come up with consistent (and persevering) keyboard shortcuts was a breakthrough at the time, and still pays in dividends to this day. I believe Apple "got it right" with the Command key - not the other way around...
(CTRL-I is the keystroke for TAB for example, while Command I and now Control I are use for Italics - you see how the confusion is there?)
David Alison said…
@Eytan: interesting stuff man, thanks for the background. I'm fine using Command as opposed to Control, regardless of the history behind it. The only thing I find tough is that the key combination I probably use more than any other - Skip Word Left and Skip Word Right - use the Option/Alt key on a Mac instead of Command.

I'm sure there is some longer term rationalization for why that's the case but for me it's tough because I cannot hit that key by touch nearly as easily as I can the Command and Control keys. I can hit Command with my thumb very easily and Control is covered well by my left, little finger. Option/Alt on the other hand is most easily covered for me by curling up my left thumb pretty tight and trying to hit it. I'm trying to train myself to use the middle finger on my left hand to cover the Option/Alt key but it's taking longer than I would like.
GrlGeek said…
cyclist at large -
If I promise to pick up the Kinesis shilling for you, will you tell me which keys on my Ergo Advantage keyboard are volume controls? I haven't been able to find them and it's making me crazy! :v )
I do 2nd his suggestion - I love my Kinesis keyboard and when making my switch from Windows to Mac, I just replaced two keys and reset it to Mac configuration - very easy! David, they do have a 60 day money-back guarantee if you find that you don't like it after you've tried it. ;v) To appreciate it, you really need to use it for a few days.
g7whatever said…
* Option + yellow minimizes all windows to the Dock
* Option + green maximizes all windows
* Option + red closes all windows
Anonymous said…
It's nice to see a list of default key mappings, however I find that it's not always consistent between applications. For example, most apps use Option-left/right to move to the next work, but NeoOffice (which is supposed to be Cocoa-based, uses Command-left/right. I find the same discrepencies with Home/End/etc.

To add to my problems, I often VNC into some of our servers at work and then I have to go back to the Windows shortcuts (Control-left/right).

I'm loving my recent switch to the Mac. I just wish the keyboard mappings were more consistent.
Anonymous said…
Has anyone figured out how to remap the fn keys? I am considering switching to a mac but I have specific uses of the fn keys in an application. Also is there a way to map the Pause/Break key?
Anonymous said…
a good read.
Unknown said…
The company I work for uses a mainframe system (Unix Based) with chich I have to work. In the database, one selects the menus using a combination of keystrokes, all beginning with "home" example: home + 1. I tried to use "command & left_arrow" to simulate "home" in my mainframe and did not work. Does anybody have a solution to this?
Jim /
Anonymous said…
Does anyone know the MAC version of page up or page down? Thanks. Paul
David Gellar said…
Good post! Also you can include the symbols mapping that Mac uses to denote Command, Option and Control keys. I know its there on the Mac keyboard, but I was dealing with a totally different problem, i.e. typing with a PC keyboard hooked to a Mac mini.
AprilS said…
Thank you for sharing the list of keystrokes on Windows XP versus Mac OS X. It can be very difficult to find this information if you don't know where to look!

For you guys wondering how to fix the option/command key inversions on your Mac, we created a video to show you step by step how to do it:

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