I've recently switched to a MacBook as my main platform for doing work. Previously, I was an all-Linux sort of person (I now run Linux under VMware). But there are still a few UI differences that are driving me crazy, and one of them is this:

I am used to being able to use ctrl+/ when in a web form, or even in most editing apps, to move left and right by a whole word. However, on my MBP those keys switch between desktops in Spaces. And where MacOS tends to use the -key for common control-isms (like ctrl+C, etc.), + and +` do start-of-line and end-of-line, respectively.

Is there a modifier for moving by words, under MacOS?

5 Answers 5


+ arrow keys will let you navigate by word. As you said, + arrow keys will move to the end/beginning of the line or document. Both of these can also be used with to select, or the delete key. Furthermore, you can double-click to select a word and triple-click to select a paragraph — and if you double-click-drag or triple-click-drag, you can select multiple words or paragraphs.

Also useful, and perhaps familiar to you coming from Linux:

  • ctrl A moves to the beginning of a paragraph
  • ctrl E moves to the end of a paragraph
  • fn deletes forwards (and can be combined with or ;
    you can also use ctrlD which doesn't work with the other modifiers)
  • ctrl K deletes to the end of the paragraph (kill)
  • ctrl Y pastes that text back (yank)
  • ctrl L scrolls so the selected text is visible
  • ctrl T transposes the two characters next to the cursor
  • ctrl O inserts a newline after the cursor

More interesting shortcuts and uses of the keyboard can be found here and elsewhere on the internet.

  • Does Ctrl K cut the text, rather than just kill? I would say so, according to your answer. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 15:59
  • Regarding inserting a new line, what difference is there between Ctrl O and Return? Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:02
  • fn+mac+backspace doesn't work for me
    – nos
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 2:12
  • and move word backward or forward
  • and move word backward or forward and modify the selection
  • and delete word backward or forward

The same shortcuts with substituted for are used to navigate subwords in some editors like Xcode and TextMate.

A reference of the standard text editing shortcuts: hcs.harvard.edu/~jrus/Site/System%20Bindings.html

  • 1
    Curious, the more simple shortcuts such as ⌥ ← seem to have disappeared from Apple's documentation for developers … Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 16:55
  • @GrahamPerrin That HIG Appendix (linked in your answer) is missing a lot of SKB shortcuts. And it does list ⇧⌥← and ⇧⌥→. I wouldn't read too much into it.
    – Lri
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 17:40
  • Thanks, Lri— I'm not concerned, hopefully it's just a side effect of works in progress, Apple preparing for the next round of publications relating to 10.7. Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 18:20

Recently updated by Apple for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion:

Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines: Appendix A: Keyboard Shortcuts

… driving me crazy … I am used to being able to use ctrl+/

I highly recommend adopting the shortcuts given in the guidelines. There'll be a period of craziness whilst you learn the norms, but ultimately it'll make for a better overall experience of the operating system.

There may be user-friendly ways of re-mapping things — on a system-wide or per-application basis — but my personal experience of remapping things (years ago) is that eventually, despite best intentions, there'll be some unexpected conflict or muddle, after which you could find yourself not only choosing to learn the norms, but also extracting yourself from a muddle (making painful the deferred learning).

A good example of potential for muddle: Terminal in Lion now follows HIG (Human Interface Guidelines), which is good. You might be able to remap things for Terminal but — depending on your uses of Terminal — I imagine the risk of something going horribly wrong.


Use "Application Shortcuts" in "Keyboard Shourtcuts" of System preferences for assigning a custom key command mapping for system level or individual application. More info can be found by searching for "How to Remap Keyboard Shortcut in OS X".

  • 1
    I've no idea what your middle sentence meant, and it didn't seem to be particularly relevant, so I removed it. If it meant something useful, please try to rephrase it so it's understandable.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 3:20

Try pressing  +  or .


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .