I have used Windows for all of my life. In Windows, shortcuts are (almost) always initiated with the Control key. Modifications to those shortcuts are then done with the key. So, for example, you move to the next tab using ControlTab ↹ and move to the previous tab using ControlTab ↹.

I have recently moved to OS X and I'm having a hard time remembering when to use and when to use in combination with . I almost never get it right. It is like it is random, but I want to think there is actually a rule.

So, does this rule actually exist?

  • maybe you can look it up here support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236
    – Ruskes
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:21
  • Tab switching can actually be done any of 3 ways - ctrl (shift) tab; cmd shift left-right arrow; or cmd shift [ or ]
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:29
  • @Buscar웃, I was actually asking for the philosophy behind it.
    – dzz
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:32
  • I do not know the philosophy behind it on OS X, would you mind explaining it for Windows!
    – Ruskes
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:40
  • @Buscar웃 I already did? Windows uses ⇧ to modify shortcuts only.
    – dzz
    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:36

1 Answer 1


Well, coming from a Windows background myself, I can state the following:

  1. The Cmd key is usually like Ctrl on Windows (e.g., Ctrl+c == Cmd+c).
  2. As with Windows, the Shift key is a common modifier to the Cmd key.
  3. I believe that Macs traditionally had an Option key, which also came to be known as the Alt key (perhaps to help those accustomed to Windows).
  4. Aside from that, both Ctrl and Option are treated like modifiers on the Cmd key.

Between different Mac applications, there is sorta an effort to have some consistency in what certain key combinations do. For example, Ctrl+Cmd+f is usually a full-screen toggle.

However, the consistency of such keyboard shortcuts can vary per the software publisher.

Now, as a person that is familiar with Windows, you'll notice that Alt doesn't activate a menu mode, such as being able to drill down to a specific menu item.

However,you can create a keyboard shortcut via System Preferences >> Keyboard >> Shortcuts >> App Shortcuts. Just type the shortcut name as it appears in the application's menu.

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