Jump around lists via the keyboard

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Here’s a simple tip for navigating long lists in OS X—whether those lists be entries in a Finder window, items in a contextual menu, entries on a drop-down menu on a Web page, or even for menu items on the menu bar.

You probably already know that OS X lets you move about these lists by typing a few letters of an entry’s name—type pas with the Edit menu activated, for instance, and the Paste menu item will be selected. I use this technique quite often, as it saves a trip to the mouse (and the main menu can be activated by pressing Control-F2).

But what if you just want to jump to the top or bottom of a really long list—such as one of those website drop-down menus that lists all 50 states? Pressing a and z will take you, respectively, to the first and last entries in the list (assuming there aren’t any entries that start with numbers). But if you use this technique, you can’t quickly jump from the bottom to the top and back again—you have to wait a second or so for the buffer to clear out, otherwise OS X thinks you’re typing za or az .

A better solution, at least on a standard desktop keyboard, is to use the Home and End keys. You can press these as rapidly as you wish, and the selection will jump from first to last, regardless of what letters or numbers those entries begin with.

Laptop users, though, don’t usually have the Home and End keys. So here’s the handy workaround (which works on any keyboard): just use Option-up arrow and Option-down arrow (you can use Command instead of Option if you prefer). These shortcuts will jump to the first and last entries in any list, and are quite easy to type on a laptop’s keyboard.

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