CS3 Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheets (for Mac)

The Keyboard Shortcuts menu item in Adobe Illustrator CS3 About a year ago, the rookie designer in our office asked me how I am able to blaze through the Adobe CS3 apps with keyboard shortcuts. She wanted a list of the keyboard shortcuts so she could start learning them herself. I think I had just launched this site, and thought such a thing might be nice here. So, I started jotting down shortcuts on a 3x5 index card, and perused the web for other keyboard shortcut lists, but never really found what I was looking for. Everything had too much information or was too hard to read, or used someone else’s custom shortcuts. I was starting to give up. The project stalled.

Fast forward to late this summer. I discovered that all the Adobe CS3 apps allow you to export your shortcuts to a file (plaintext or html, depending on the app in question). Bingo! I simply exported the default keyboard shortcuts, pulled them into InDesign files, formatted the information nicely, and exported that to PDFs.

Adobe Illustrator CS3's keyboard shortcuts panel, with Export Text button highlighted.

After sharing those files on the work.life.creativity. forums, I condensed them down so that they only showed the items that had actual shortcuts assigned. There are a LOT of possible commands in each program, and comparatively few come with keyboard shortcuts out of the box. Most of the most-often used ones are mnemonic, so that helps. (Pressing “P” gives you the Pen tool.) The ones that aren’t just have to be committed to memory.

The Default Cheat Sheets

You Can Roll Your Own

Here’s the great part of it all: it’s easy to customize keyboard shortcuts to your liking. Delete the ones you don’t use, reassign those to commands you use more frequently or make sense to you. (I’d avoid changing the basic ones like Save, Close, etc. from the OS defaults.) Simply choose Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and start modifying the ones you want to change. I recommend saving them to a unique name so you can come back to your own setup if your settings get reset. (It happens sometimes when the auto-updater runs.) Once you get your shorcuts set up, you can make your own cheat sheet.

Memorize the shortcuts you use the most. Next time you go through the menus looking for a command, look for the keyboard shortcut next to it, and commit it to memory. First, learn all the basic commands (Save, Close, Quit, etc.). Then learn the tool shortcuts. Get to where you have one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the mouse, avoiding mousing through to the menus. Build that muscle memory! So commit those shortcuts to memory, and make them work for you.