12 Keyboard Shortcuts for Navigating & Selecting Text in Mac OS X

Feb 23, 2012 - 33 Comments

Mac Keyboard

Work with text often? You can navigate, select, and manipulate text faster than ever before by remembering these twelve keyboard shortcuts.

6 Text Navigation Shortcuts

The first group of keyboard shortcuts allow for quickly moving around text:

  • Jump to beginning of a line – Command+Left Arrow
  • Jump to end of a line – Command+Right Arrow
  • Jump to beginning of current word – Option+Right Arrow
  • Jump to end of current word – Option+Right Arrow
  • Jump to beginning of all text – Command+Up Arrow
  • Jump to end of all text – Command+Down Arrow

By adding a shift key to the above shortcuts, we are given six new tricks that allow for quick text selection of lines, words, and entire documents.

6 Text Selection Shortcuts

The next group of keyboard shortcuts allow for quickly highlighting and selecting elements of text:

  • Select text to beginning of a line – Shift+Command+Left Arrow
  • Select text to end of a line – Shift+Command+Right Arrow
  • Select text to beginning of current word – Shift+Option+Right Arrow
  • Select text to end of current word – Shift+Option+Right Arrow
  • Select text to beginning of all text – Shift+Command+Up Arrow
  • Select text to end of all text – Shift+Command+Down Arrow

Bonus tip: You can select non-contiguous text blocks in Mac OS X by hold down the command key, as demonstrated here.

These shortcuts should work in all versions of Mac OS X and with all Cocoa based apps, including Safari, Chrome, TextEdit, Pages and the iWork suite, and most other Mac apps and text editors.

Update: These keyboard shortcuts will also work with iOS devices that have a keyboard attached via Bluetooth or through a dock. Thanks for pointing this out Steve!

Text Selection and Navigation Shortcuts


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Miguel says:

    How to select from cursor till end or line in Safari? Shift+Cmd+arrow switches browser tabs. I dont see any option to disable this. This is one inconsistency about MacOS i dont like. Switch tabs should be just shift+Cmd+[ ]

  2. jeff says:

    Thank you so much.

  3. John says:

    OK. But how does one select non-editable text without using the mouse, specifically, such as the text that appears on a web page?


  4. Bill says:

    I think you meant to put “Option+Left Arrow” to move to beginning of current word?

    You have:

    “Jump to beginning of current word – Option+Right Arrow
    Jump to end of current word – Option+Right Arrow”

  5. Andres says:

    “Option + Left arrow” works perfectly to go to the beginning of a word. But in my keyboard Option + Right arrow doesn’t go to the end of the word.

    Do you know how to fix this? or how can I remap this shortcut?

    • Sandy says:

      For me, I just changed the keyboard input source. Mine didn’t work for Unicode Hex Input but worked fine with British one.

  6. Lance says:

    How do you select two or more sections of text that are not continuous?

  7. Gerry Proudman says:

    How do I remove those little arrows before each line in Mac Mail. They can make an email very long. What purpose do they serve

  8. cavenewt says:

    Speaking of dyslexia, if you position the cursor between two transposed characters, a control-T will swap them.

    Also, if you have a shorty wireless keyboard, you can emulate an Enter keypress with fn-Return, and do a forward delete with fn-Delete.

    • Lance says:

      It isn’t actually swapping. It is moving the character that is right of the cursor one space to the left. Try it between a character and a space that is left of the character.

  9. Colin says:

    I haven’t seen anyone mention ctrl-T, another Unix text editor one. When the insertion point is between two characters, this shortcut transposes their position. So if you typed “ym,” move the insertion point between the two letters and press ctrl-T to change to “my.”

  10. Mercyaqvin.J says:


  11. GosiaM says:

    Thank you. Very big plus for presentation of those tips. Short, clear and condensed!

  12. […] recently covered 12 keyboard shortcuts to help navigate around and manipulate text in Mac OS X, and now we’ll show you a handful of […]

  13. […] Selezionare il testo alla fine di tutto il testo – Command + Maiusc + Freccia giù Queste scorciatoie dovrebbero funzionare con tutte le versioni di Mac OS X e con tutte le applicazioni base di Cocoa, tra cui Safari, Chrome, TextEdit, Pages e la suite iWork, e la maggior parte di altre applicazioni Mac e editor di testo. Inoltre queste scorciatoie da tastiera funzionano anche con dispositivi IOS che dispongono di una tastiera collegata via Bluetooth o attraverso un dock. Via | OSXDaily […]

  14. adam says:

    nices Tips Thanks

  15. Juan says:

    What about for those users who have multiple spaces/desktops like me. Using +Left or right arrow just brings me to the next desktop without selecting any text. Anyway to overcome this or am I just outta luck?

    • Will says:

      In OS X Lion with a US keyboard, switching desktops should be set to Control+Left and Control+Right, perhaps yours is backwards?

    • mike says:

      As mentioned above you can use many of the emacs shortcuts in osx. So

      Ctrl-a is the same as Cmd-Left
      Ctrl-e is the same as Cmd-Right

  16. Josh says:

    Some more of my favorites coming out of the emacs world:
    Ctrl-a: beginning of line
    Ctrl-e: end of line
    Ctrl-n: next line
    Ctrl-p: previous line
    Ctrl-k: kill from cursor to end of line

    Oh, and one of the first things I figured out after switching from the linux world:

    Alt-backspace: delete previous word. (I used ctrl-backspace on Linux/Sindows…) I can’t even type a paragraph without using this once or twice… =/

    I’m sure there’s a handful more than I use a lot, but those are the most useful ones I’ve found.

    • Curt says:

      I love the emacs shortcuts too, thought I was one of the few people who used them in OSX GUI

    • Don says:

      Why use ctl-a, etc. when ⌘← does the same thing? But ctl-k and ctl-y are very useful.

      • AmberV says:

        They are different functions in fact, though they look the same on the surface. The ⌘→ key moves the cursor to the end of the current wrapped line, whereas ⌃E moves the cursor to the end of the physical line, or the paragraph. The same is true for ⌃A in inverse, it always goes to the beginning of the physical line.

        A better comparison would be that ⌃A is like ⌥↑, and ⌃E is like ⌥↓. As for why you would use the ctrl keys over those—it’s more ergonomic, especially on a larger keyboard where the arrow keys are way over there.

  17. isuquinndog says:

    Tried to use in Gmail/FF 10 and they didn’t work.

  18. SteveHiggs says:

    It’s worth noting that these methods of moving around / selecting text also function exactly the same using an external keyboard on iOS.

  19. Phil says:

    2 corrections ……
    Jump to beginning of current word – Option+Left Arrow
    Select text to beginning of current word – Shift+Option+Left Arrow

    Here are 2 more …..
    Jump to beginning of a paragraph – Option+Up Arrow
    Jump to end of paragraph – Option+Down Arrow

  20. Kris says:

    The decision to leave out the Numeric Keypad on the newer mac keyboards.. was a bad one. I returned my bluetooth mac keyboard and stuck with the wired one from the past that had bigger cursor keys and a num pad.

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