Hand Off! How To Be More Productive on your Mac By Using Your Mouse Less

Every laptop comes with a trackpad and every computer has a mouse. We recognize how much our hands are on our keyboard, but often it escapes us how much time moving our right hand back and forth goes to the keyboard and the mouse. Using the mouse, while sometimes necessary, is actually used a LOT more than it actually needs to be. I would wager a guess that 50-75% of what you do with your mouse could have been done without it.


The following hacks are Mac specific, because I'm a Mac user. But while the apps I might mention are specific to Mac, many of the suggestions should be just as helpful for PC users.


Shortcut keys

The most important thing you can do to use your keyboard more, your mouse less, and generally work faster, is to learn the shortcut keys for your most used apps. Learning how to quickly highlight a word, a whole line to the front/end, or a whole document from the cursor to the beginning/end of the document, will save you tons of time. Along with those, know the much used Cut, Copy, and Paste shortcut keys. In your browser, know how to open and close tabs, move the page up and down, etc. Bottom line, you can do almost everything in an app without the mouse.


app 1: Cheat Sheet

The Mac app called Cheat Sheet is a great little app to help you learn your keyboard shortcuts when you forget them. Once the little app is installed and running in the background, all you need to do is hold down the command key for 1 second to bring up a sheet showing you all of the current keyboard shortcuts available to you. While I have most of my essential keyboard shortcuts memorized, I still pull of Cheat Sheet from time to time.


The Help Menu

One of the most helpful aspects of the help menu in every app is that you can type in the menu item you are looking for. This is particularly helpful for apps with massive menus (hello photoshop!). Test it out and try if for yourself. After you click the help menu, type in the menu item you want - it will highlight the item, and you can launch it by hitting enter.

What I just mentioned above still requires one mouse-click. One additional hack will remove the need for clicking the help menu with your mouse. Go to System Preferences>Keyboard>Shortcuts>App Shortcuts. Create a new shortcut in the "All Applications" called Show Help menu, and assign Command+/ to this.

Now what you have is a global keyboard shortcut that will do the equivalent of clicking the Help menu. After doing this, you simply type the menu item you are looking for, then hit enter.


app 2: Alfred or Launchbar

For productivity specifically, Launchbar is the most important app I have installed on my Mac Alfred is almost identical, and the advantage is that there is a free version of Alfred on the Mac store (though I do recommend purchasing the upgrade anyway). If you are totally unfamiliar with either of these, then Alfred is cheaper, so go with that.

These apps are launching apps. The latest version of Spotlight tried to be more like them, but still falls WAY short. I have control+space assigned a global shortcut key for Launchbar, which brings up a small menu. From here, I can do an unbelievable amount of things:

  • launch an app
  • open any file
  • launch a bookmark
  • run a google search
  • create a calendar event
  • look up a contact
  • bring up the last 20 items from my clipboard (i.e. what has been cut and pasted)
  • do a math calculation
  • play/pause iTunes
  • For the more tech savvy, run workflows of applescripts
  • and so much more (including customizing it for yourself)

To top all of this off, these apps learn your typing. For instance, my play/pause iTunes is simply typing in "pp" in launchbar. I had to do that a few times, but now it knows that "pp" means play/pause iTunes. It will do this for everything you use it for.

Launchbar is a constant in my workday. It is so second-nature to me, that I frequently do my Launchbar shortcut when I'm on a different computer, and then HATE it when I realize I have to work on a computer without it. Alfred or Launchbar will change your Mac experience for the better.


Speak It!

I've mentioned elsewhere my use of Dragon Dictate for Mac. While I tend to just use it for Dictation, the reality is that Dragon Dictate can actually do voice commands as well - effectively making keyboard shortcuts into spoken commands. Again, I'm so quick on my keyboard that I don't feel like messing with my flow. But if you just can 't seem to remember those keyboard shortcuts but do want to save time with this type of stuff, Dragon Dictate may be able to help.


Do you have any other keyboard hacks that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Posted by Danny Zacharias.