My Secret to Mastering Keyboard Shortcuts:

You Only Need to Learn One

This post was inspired by a question I answered on Quora.  I’m a big fan of (Excel) keyboard shortcuts.  But over the last 2 years, I have ditched both the PC and Excel in favour of the MAC and Google Sheets. This means a whole new set of shortcuts to learn. The good thing is that almost 100% of my time is spent on Chrome which makes learning Chrome keyboard shortcuts an imperative.

Keyboard Shortcut Cartoon

“Which Toe do I use for the ⌘ key” (Source: Microsoft, caption is my own)

Like most things, mastering keyboard shortcuts is something that comes with practice but the learning curve is steep and can put people off.  A 2011 study by Brainscape estimated that the average human can save 2 per minute by using shortcut keys. This translates to a 3.3% in improvement in productivity and ~ 8 days a year.  That is not a trivial number.  Assuming an average career span of 30 years, one would save an entire year of work by using shortcut keys.

Brainscape assumptions:

Keyboard shortcut formula

For those that are not familiar with Brainscape, it is a web and mobile platform that uses cognitive science to build flashcards that aid memory retention and learning. They claim that their tool can help anyone learn anything faster, and have created 5 digital decks with 236 cards to help you learn.

YIKES. That sounds about as appealing as taking an accounting exam.  Let me make things real easy with one simple tip:  You only need to remember one shortcut.

[ctt tweet=”There is only keyboard shortcut you need to learn to save 8 workdays a year.” username=”debbiediscovers”]

This tip has two components to it:

  • A shortcut to pull up a master list or cheatsheet of keyboard shortcuts –  you want to be able to pull up the master list with just one click or a few keystrokes. However, this does not exist in Chrome.  So we need a workaround. 
  • How to write a keyboard shortcut for any webpage – a useful set-up as you can apply this to any site or URL you choose. 

Put them both together and you never have to memorize another shortcut again.

To Create A Shortcut for keyboard Shortcut

To access the full list of Chrome keyboard shortcuts, press ⌘ and click on this linkPC users should press control.  Try it!
Now drag the link to your bookmark bar to add it as a bookmark.

Any time you wish to look up a shortcut key, just click on the bookmark to open that web page (that opens it in the same tab; to open it in a new tab, hold ⌘ while you click (use command for PC).   After time and practice, you will earn to remember these shortcut keys, especially the ones that you use the most.

As you can see from the picture of my browser, other shortcuts that I’ve saved with this method are links to open a new Google doc, Google sheet, Google slides and Google Drive.

To do the same, drag the links below to your bookmark bar. Try it!

To add the link for  Google Drive:

For Google Apps Users: use the following links instead (and swap out with the relevant URL)

PRO TIP: If you delete all the text between bookmark icons, you can squeeze in more bookmarks onto your bookmark bar (h/t Amit Agarwal). Some links don’t have logos or favicons, or use a generic icon (like the ones above for Google docs) but there is a Chrome Extension that  will let you add or change it. I prefer to avoid installing unnecessary extensions and using Emoji or CopyPasteCharacter.   To download the official Google Apps for Work icons, hold the option key and click (MAC only)!  (For PC, use the ALT key + click) Try it!

Wasn’t that amazing! You didn’t even have to go to the website! No more right click, save as, select folder! Just make sure that you trust the referring site (a.k.a me) and hover over the URL to check the destination (in this case Google).  To see all your downloads, open your download folder by using Shift +⌘+J. Try it!

To Create a Keyboard Shortcut:

Go the Omnibox (search bar) by hitting control+L or ⌘+ L. Right click to Edit Search Engines. You’ll see Google, Yahoo, Bing, and a bunch of others.


Scroll down past Default search settings to Other search engines (basically any site that has a search bar) and you’ll see a list of sites you searched recently and the option to add additional search engines.  Save the Chrome keyboard shortcuts link with your choice of abbreviation  (I use “kb” and I’ve added “ex” to open my list of Chrome Extensions). Try it!

Search Engine

And there you have it!


The shortcut key that pulls up shortcuts is “shift + ⌘ +L” followed by “k + b” 


Quite easily done!

Other Good to Know Keyboard Shortcuts

The other trick I like is to customise my own keyboard shortcut for launching Chrome Apps and Chrome Extensions. You can do that by going to extensions (remember “shift + ⌘ +L” followed by “e + x”) and scrolling right to the bottom of the page. At the bottom right, you’ll see the option for keyboard shortcuts.

Chrome Extensions Keyboard Shortcuts

Once you get the hang of it, you will enjoy how smooth your workflow becomes and you’ll be surprised at how much time you save using these keyboard shortcuts.

How to Abbreviate And Remember Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

One way to learn keyboard shortcuts is to group them together by modifier keys. It’s like playing chopsticks on the piano. You almost always use the Command Key  ⌘ by itself or with the option or alt key, the control key and the shift key. 

For apps or extensions, I try to write my own shortcuts using the control + ⌘ key with the first letter of the app or extension (Remember you want to control and command the application or extension. Literally). For example:

control + ⌘+R to add to Rainbow (custom shortcut:  Rainbow is my preferred bookmark manager)
control + ⌘+B to send to Buffer
control + ⌘+S to activate Screencastify
control + ⌘+T to add to Trello
control + ⌘+X to save to Citable

I would have liked to add Evernote and Dropmark to this list, but existing bookmarks exist for control + ⌘+E and control + ⌘+D.
To save to Evernote via the web clipper, use shift + ⌘+E

Some shortcuts are use more often than others.  For example, the one extension I use the most is Onetab as I have way too  many tabs open for my own good:

control + ⌘+0 will send all tabs to OneTab (custom)
control + ⌘+1 will add current tab to OneTab (custom)

If I closed a tab by mistake

shift+⌘+T will re-open the last closed tab (I use this a lot, surprisingly!)
shift+⌘+I will open your email client with a link to the current page you’re on (Try it! Email a friend this page! Mac Users Only)

I’m also always looking at other people’s websites to see what’s hiding underneath:

option+⌘+U to View Source (look for meta keywords, style sheets, javascript )
option+⌘+I to Inspect Element (great for webscraping, if you need to find the XPATH of an element)
option+⌘+J to open Javascript Console (lots of fun things to do here like fake your location!)

Did you try any of the shortcuts? Which ones did you like the best? If you have any other suggestions or any other favourites, let me know in the comments below and check out my pinterest board of keyboard shortcuts for many other examples!

[pin_board url=”” size=”custom” image_width=”100″ board_width=”600″ board_height=”450″]

Enjoy your new found productivity!

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