Adobe applications (such as Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator) are absolutely packed with keyboard shortcuts, yet if you’re anything like me, you likely only know (and use) a handful of these shortcuts on a regular basis. I know that this was my situation up until a month-or-two ago, but then I discovered a new tool that allowed me to discover a ridiculous number of keyboard shortcuts I never even knew existed.
Since then, it’s like my workflow has been on steroids; everything I do takes a fraction of the time, and despite the relatively steep learning curve when it comes to remembering some of these shortcuts, I can do things in 45 minutes that used to take me an hour (meaning I can work less and make more money).
So, what is this mystery tool I’m speaking of? It’s called the Adobe Shortcut Mapper.
What is the Adobe Shortcut Mapper?
The Adobe Shortcut Mapper is a unique, browser-based tool that anyone can use completely free-of-charge.
Unlike most boring lists of keyboard shortcuts (including the official documentation from Adobe), the tool actually maps the shortcuts visually to an on-screen keyboard, which can be manipulated with nothing more than your standard keyboard and mouse.
Below, I’ve put together a quick demonstration of the tool so you can see how it works:
#1 – App Selection (Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop)
You’ll notice that by default, the Adobe Shortcut Mapper displays shortcuts for the latest version of Photoshop (i.e. Photoshop CC). However, the tool does also display shortcuts for Adobe Illustrator and InDesign; you just have to make the right selection. You can select the app of your choice from the drop-down menu located above the on-screen keyboard (it’s on the left-hand side).
If you select Photoshop, very little will change and the overall colour scheme of the tool will stay blue. If you select either Illustrator or InDesign on the other hand, the colour scheme will change to orange (for Illustrator) or pink (for InDesign). This gives an instant visual representation of the app you’re currently viewing shortcuts for, making it easy to ensure you’ve made the correct selection.
#2 – OS Selection (Mac, Linux or Windows)
By this stage, you should be viewing shortcuts for your chosen application, but depending upon the operating system you use, some of these shortcuts may not be entirely accurate. There are subtle differences in keyboard shortcuts across all Adobe apps, depending on OS. For example, PC’s running Windows typically make use of the CTRL key for a number of shortcuts (e.g. CTRL+C/V for Copy/Paste), whereas on the Macintosh, the CMD key is often used instead.
To ensure that the shortcuts are mapped correctly to the on-screen keyboard, you need to select the OS you’re currently using from the three options. This is done via the toggle selection located above the keyboard – simply click the Apple logo to select Macintosh; the Microsoft logo to select Windows; and the Linux logo to select Linux.
You’ll notice that a few of the shortcuts may shift around upon your selection – this isn’t a problem, it’s simply the tool readjusting itself to ensure that all of the shortcuts are mapped to the appropriate keys based on your selection.
#3 – Zooming In
Now, the tool should be set up correctly for your chosen application and operating system, which means that the hundreds of applicable shortcuts should be viewable on the on-screen keyboard.
However, you’ll notice that due to the fact the tool has to fit on a computer screen, the font size used for these shortcuts is pretty small. You’ll also notice that a few of the shortcut descriptions get cut-off (simply because they’re too long to fit on an individual key). This can make deciphering the shortcuts rather difficult, but luckily, there’s a quick and simple solution:
If you hover over any of the keys with your cursor, you’ll notice that the text on the key is replicated below the on-screen keyboard in large type (as shown above). This text changes dynamically, so there’s no need to reload the browser window as you’re viewing shortcuts: simply move your cursor between the keys as desired and the text will change instantly.
#4 – Selecting/Deselecting Modifiers
If you’re familiar with common keyboard shortcuts (such as CTRL+X/C/V – Cut, Copy, Paste), you’ll know that many shortcuts for Adobe applications make use of “modifier” keys. Modifier keys are essentially nothing more than keys that modify exactly which shortcut is mapped to a particular key; CTRL, CMD, Shift and Alt are all modifier keys. You can toggle modifier keys on/off on the Adobe Shortcut Mapper tool simply by clicking them (as shown above).
Once selected, you’ll see that the modifier key will turn a solid colour (e.g. green for the Shift key) and the keyboard shortcuts mapped to every other key will change to correspond to the selection. You can select any number/combination of these modifier keys at any one time, and they can be deselected simply by clicking them once again.
#5 – Shortcut Search
With Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign combined, the Adobe Shortcut Mapper maps well over a thousand keyboard shortcuts, many of which are somewhat hidden due to the use of modifier keys. This makes finding a particular shortcut (i.e. for a particular tool/action you have in mind) rather difficult. Luckily, there’s a built-in search function that makes the process of finding a shortcut much easier. This is located just below the on-screen keyboard; simply start typing in the search box to begin your search.
As you do so, you’ll see that the tool actually starts to suggest matching keyboard shortcuts to you; the more you type, the more accurate the suggestions will become.
Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign [Desktop Wallpapers – Download]
The Adobe Shortcut Mapper is the perfect tool for discovering new and perhaps underutilised keyboard shortcuts, but once you’ve found them, how exactly are you supposed to remember them?
Well, the creators of the tool (FastPrint) thought about this, which is why they also created a number of desktop wallpapers showcasing some of the most widely used keyboard shortcuts available for each application. These are free-of-charge to download and they’re available for Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. There are also separate versions of the wallpapers for PC and Mac users (so no need to worry about that annoying CMD/CTRL issue), and they’re available for many different screen resolutions too.
You can download them here.