The Best Ways to Learn All the Keyboard Shortcuts You Will Ever Need

Akshata Shanbhag 07-06-2016

While you carefully move your mouse to focus the cursor on the Close button of your browser, think about how you could be closing the browser in two seconds flat by hitting Ctrl + W on your keyboard.


You already know that adding keyboard shortcuts to your workflow is a smart move. The problem is that it’s not easy to hunt down all the shortcuts you could use and memorize them. But hey, as you’ll see below, there are some cool resources that can help you in your quest to use more of the keyboard and less of the mouse or trackpad. All you have to do is take advantage of them.

App Cheat Sheets

Many applications have a list or a cheat sheet of the most useful shortcuts they contain. You can usually bring up this sheet with a hotkey to memorize the shortcuts or when you need a quick refresher for the ones that you already know. For example, you can bring up the keyboard cheat sheet in Gmail by hitting ? and in Slack by hitting Ctrl+/ (cmd+/ on OS X).


If you’re on OS X, you might want to take KeyCue (Trialware) for a spin. Every time you hit the cmd key, KeyCue displays a list of menu shortcuts available for the current application. The good news is that KeyCue is no longer just a shortcut viewer. It now allows you to create custom shortcuts for your most used actions and assign hotkeys to your favorite web pages as well.



KeyRocket works with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook), Windows Explorer, and Visual Studio. It does not require any special configuration. Install it and you’re ready to begin. When you click on a toolbar button in one of the applications that KeyRocket supports, it prompts you with the keyboard shortcut that you could have used instead. This serves as a reminder to use the shortcut the next time you want to use the same function.

You don’t have to worry that KeyRocket will disrupt your workflow or overwhelm you with too many shortcuts at once. It won’t. It takes a learn-as-you-go approach. What’s more, KeyRocket now allows you to create custom shortcuts for almost any function.

If your work involves some heavy-duty email processing in Gmail and Google Apps email, be sure to install the Chrome extension KeyRocket for Gmail. It does the same thing that the desktop app does — teaches you keyboard shortcuts while you work Quickly Learn Gmail's Keyboard Shortcuts With KeyRocket For Gmail Get the most out of Gmail by learning all of its keyboard shortcuts. With Keyrocket for Gmail you'll be shown a notification every time you use the mouse instead of a keyboard shortcut, helping you... Read More .

The free version of KeyRocket has a limit on the number of preset and custom shortcuts. To get rid of that limit, you’ll the need the Premium version, which is priced at $135 per year per person.



ShortcutFoo focuses on teaching you shortcuts via spaced repetitions How To Be A Smarter Learner By Using The Method Of Spaced Repetitions Spaced repetition is a method that can help you plateau out the downward curve of your forgetfulness and help you memorize large amounts of data. It is an accelerated learning technique. This article is about... Read More  — a well-known learning technique. It has interactive drills to help you master shortcuts in various applications and programming environments including Gmail, Slack, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, ZendeskVim, and Git. There’s nothing to install. You create a ShortcutFoo account and get started right from the web. The app has drills for Windows, Linux, and Mac users. You can unlock only some of the modules for free. Premium plans start at $8 per month.


ShortcutMapper displays shortcuts for some popular apps like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya, SketchUp, and Sublime Text, across Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you’re a visual learner, you’ll appreciate its approach of laying out functions directly onto a virtual keyboard, making it easier to grasp and remember which key combo correlates with which function. Confused? This image can explain it much better:



Hit any modifier key (Shift, Ctrl, Alt) and you’ll see a set of keyboard shortcuts associated with that modifier.


If you’re working with a small screen, you might find it difficult to read the functions listed on the virtual keys. Zooming in a couple of times should solve that problem and make the functions more legible.

KillerKeys also has a set of applications that take an interactive, visual approach to shortcut mapping.



KeyXL is a huge database of shortcuts for everything from Google apps to Microsoft apps to HTML editors. What’s really useful is that for each application, you’ll find shortcuts for its older versions and not just the latest ones. KeyXL covers shortcut cheatsheets for Windows as well as Mac applications, and lists them alphabetically to make your search easier. Wherever applicable, you’ll find listings for Unix applications and web applications also.


Shortcut Keys and ShortcutWorld are a couple of other online databases that you can check for apps and their shortcuts that aren’t listed on KeyXL. You’ll also want to go through this Wikipedia page. It lists keyboard shortcuts for certain common tasks like tab management, window management, command-line manipulation, and text formatting across Windows, Mac, and Linux.

If you’re on OS X, you’ll find Dan Rodney’s list of Mac keyboard shortcuts super helpful.

Shortcut Resources on MakeUseOf

Our archives are a great keyboard shortcut resource right here. For starters, you’ll find the most essential shortcuts for:

Note: Wondering why we haven’t included HotKey EVE, a popular tool to learn keyboard shortcuts on OSX, in this list? It’s because Hotkey EVE’s developer stopped maintaining it a while ago, which means that it’s not guaranteed to work smoothly on the latest versions of OS X.

Take a Shortcut (or Ten)

Having trouble memorizing shortcuts?

A little cheating won’t hurt in this case. You can create custom shortcuts How To Create A Keyboard Shortcut For Any Mac Menu Item Is there no keyboard shortcut for something you do regularly? That’s annoying, but here’s the good news: on your Mac you can add one easily, without the need for extra software. Read More or reassign existing ones in your favorite applications. For example, on Chrome, you can create shortcuts for various browser actions using an extension like Shortkeys. Of course, be sure to use key combos that you’re not likely to forget.

And how about putting a sticky note over the trackpad? This will remind you to use the keyboard instead of the trackpad. If you do want to use the trackpad on occasion, lift the bottom edge of the sticky note to access it.

Now that you have all the right resources to teach you everything you need to know about keyboard shortcuts, it’s time to teach those fingers to fly across the keyboard. Begin with the shortcuts that you aren’t using Keyboard Shortcuts You Aren't Using In Your Favourite Web Apps Keyboard shortcuts aren't just for desktop apps: your favourite web apps use them too. From Gmail to Trello, from Facebook to Twitter, learning keyboard shortcuts is the easiest way to do everything faster. Read More in your favorite web apps!

Which tricks do you use to memorize keyboard shortcuts? Or do you prefer to set up your own shortcuts to make things easier? Share your best “shortcut-learning” shortcuts with us in the comments.

Related topics: Keyboard Shortcuts, Productivity.

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