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How to Switch the Control and Command Keys

One of the most subtle differences between a Mac and a PC is also one of the biggest: the functionality of the control key on the keyboard. When you buy a Mac, you'll need to start using the command key instead of the control key. For example, instead of pressing Control-S to save and Control-C to copy like you did in Windows, you'll have to press Command-S and Command-C to do the same thing in OS X. All of the other available keyboard shortcuts are similarly affected.

If this switch from control to command is driving you nuts, you'll be happy to know that there's a fix. Mac OS X provides a way for you to switch the primary modifier keys and use the control key instead of command for every applicable keystroke in OS X. It's a great feature for new Mac users who keep forgetting they have to use the command key, and it's also beneficial for those who use a Mac at home and a PC at work and want consistency between the keyboards.

Here's how to switch the command and control keys:

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.

  2. Select Keyboard.

  3. Click the Keyboard tab.

  4. Click the Modifier Keys... button. The window shown below appears.
  5. From the Command Key menu, select Control. This lets Mac OS X know that you'll be using the control key as the primary modifier.

  6. From the Control Key menu, select Command. This lets Mac OS X know that you'll be using the command key as the secondary modifier.

  7. Click OK.

  8. Close System Preferences.

You Mac will now recognize the control key as the primary modifier. Try it! Create a new document and save it by pressing Control-S. If you ever want to switch the command and control keys back again, just follow the instructions above to revert to OS X's default functionality.

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Matt Cone, the author of Master Your Mac, has been a Mac user for over 20 years. A former ghost writer for some of Apple's most notable instructors, Cone founded Macinstruct in 1999, a site with OS X tutorials that boasts hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per month. You can email him at: [email protected].


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