Changing windows on a Mac application and other keyboard shortcuts

One thing I’ve just found today while working on my book was needing to switch between windows in an application.  This is one area where I’ve found the Apple interface isn’t as consistent as the Windows XP interface.  Yes, I’m still using that on my old PC because I loath the Windows 8 GUI and I don’t plan on purchasing a new PC any time in the future.

Macbook Pro Retina Keyboard

Macbook Pro Retina Keyboard

Do I really want a computer with a tablet touch screen-type interface?  How long can I hold my arms up to touch the screen?  Why would I move away from my keyboard and mouse?  Why would I do that when I have a Macbook Retina 15″?

In Windows XP (and presumably in more modern versions of the operating system), you can press CTRL-TAB to switch between windows in an individual application.  This works in Word, Excel, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and every other program I’ve owned since 2001.  It was very handy.

Sadly, I’ve learned the Mac interface falls apart here.  It seems some programs have their own way of changing windows inside of programs (apps or applications).  Instead of a consistent CTRL-TAB change, there’s no uniformity for tab selecting.  I use keyboard shortcuts to switch between windows because it’s far faster than using a mouse and stumbling around.  It seems programs with individual windows are more consistent, though.

Being an engineer for over 15 years, I highly valued anything that made me faster in

Windows XP splash screen

Windows XP splash screen

Windows XP.  Swapping between 12 open programs and 7 windows inside of each program would eat up a lot of time if I had to do it with the mouse.  As my hands are already on the keyboard, hitting another key combination didn’t add lag.  Mousing does.  And forget touching a screen to do that (Windows 8).

To switch between open programs, use: COMMAND-TAB or COMMAND-SHIFT-TAB.  You can swap rapidly.

To swap windows or tabs on the Mac (OS X Mountain Lion as of this writing), here’s a rundown:

Safari:  COMMAND+SHIFT  + left/right arrow (The window menu

Safari tab selection

Safari tab selection

instructs CTRL and then left or right but that doesn’t work.  Maybe I’ve got something activated improperly?)

Chrome Tab Selecting

Chrome Tab Selecting

Chrome (my favorite browser): OPTION+COMMAND + left/right arrow.  To move forward and back for browsing, click COMMAND+left/right arrow.  It beats moving up to the back/forward button in the browser.

Back/forward in Safari

Back/forward in Safari

I’m using Open Office to write my book (at least for now) until I reach a critical mass where the editor doesn’t handle the volume of text. Hopefully that won’t happen.  Until then, Open Office uses what is the apparently standard way to swap between windows in an application.  (Windows uses CTRL+TAB).

Open Office (presumably other programs, too): COMMAND + ~

Who knows why Steve Jobs and company selected the tilde character (~) to swap windows.  Tab always made much more sense to me.

While I’m at it, the lack of a DEL (delete) key on the Mac always bothered me.  The delete key on the Mac is really a backspace key and delete key combined.  In Finder, if you press COMMAND+DELETE, you get the same action as the DEL key on Windows in Finder.

Pressing fn+DELETE gives you the same action as the windows DEL key when

PC Delete Key

PC Delete Key

editing text.  It eats characters to the right instead of backspacing.  This saves from having to set the cursor position to the end of the text and them marching backwards.  That takes time.

To hop between words, click OPTION + left/right arrow.  Windows does that with CTRL + left/right arrow.  It beats waiting for the left/right arrow to march across individual characters and is sure faster than removing your hand from the keyboard to mouse or trackpad to wherever.

The Home/End key on Windows on the Mac is the COMMAND + left/right arrow to get to the beginning or end of a line.

If you hold SHIFT down while either using the OPTION or COMMAND keys to move between words or lines, you end up highlighting the text.  It’s much faster than using the mouse.  And, it’s more accurate, too.

To delete whole words, place the cursor to the right of the word and use OPTION+DELETE.  To delete a whole word to the right of the cursor, use FN+OPTION+DELETE.

This may seem to be a lot to learn.  Just try a few at a time to avoid being overwhelmed.  Once you start using them, you’ll find yourself working much faster.