Thursday, August 12, 2010

Undo-Redo Shortcut: Zap To And Fro

Redo shortcut

A while ago I blogged about the Undo function - and shortcut - as the most important operation when working on any project, text or design, and more generally, in anything you do in life. It only makes good sense always to check if there is a good escape clause, a solid back-up system or the red stop-button.

Undo shortcut
The undo option is available across all Mac applications under Edit menu and the keyboard shortcut is Command+Z. It is easy to master it. I mostly use the left thumb to press Command and the middle finger to type Z, in the bottom left of the QWERTY keyboard. Of course it depends on one's typing skill and habits. Occasionally I glide down the keyboard with my right ring-finger and it naturally stops on the right-hand Command key, then glide down one row on the keyboard with the left ring-finger and it stops on the Z key.

But of course, the reverse option, Redo, is also very useful. Zapping to and fro between the current and previous versions of your project you can quickly evaluate the work in progress, self approve, or get approval from the supervisor (or client) looking over your shoulder - or discard changes. On the keyboard you just add Shift (⇧) to the combination: Command+Shift+Z. I got used to doing it this way: left-thumb Command, then let my little finger find Shift, after which the middle finger naturally places itself on the Z*.

After some practice these two keyboard operations become as easy as tying one's shoelaces**.

Important Update: Current versions of iWork/Pages allow Undo past the last save, while not a long time ago it was only possible to repeatedly undo your changes until the point when the document was saved. Unfortunately, it made redundant my second argument against building Auto-Save option into Pages.

Where to find buttons, Command and Shift icons on your Mac:

Red Button (⨀) - in Character Palette>Symbols>Mathematical Symbols. This switch-off button is also there: ⌽

Command symbol (⌘) - Character Palette>Symbols>Technical symbols

Shift (⇧) - Character Palette>Symbols>Arrows

They are not images, but text-like symbols. Drag and drop into your document. Enlarge and make a screenshot to turn them into clipart.

If you don't have Character Palette in the main screen menu, activate it in System Preferences>International>Input Menu.

And listen to Stephen Fry's programme on the QWERTY keyboard layout. (Letter I was placed near numbers 7 and 8 to make it easy to type 1871 - the year it was developed!)

This works when you type with all ten fingers, thumbs mainly for hitting the space bar,  four left fingers on ASDF and four right fingers on JKL;  There are courses for touch typing (blind typing), but anyone can teach themselves how to do it. See, for example this BBC page.

**   Is this comparison out of date? I see many young people walking around with shoelaces just tucked inside their shoes. A few cautious enquiries led me to believe that quite often they don't know how to tie laces.

A reader's testimonial on the 'Undo' post: THANKS, IT WORKED!!!!!! all my words are back!!!


  1. Anonymous8:36 pm


  2. Every Englishman must do his duty!
    Glad it helped,

  3. Anonymous5:35 am

    It would be easier to make command (Y) the REDO shortcut

  4. Y - for yes?
    then N - for undo, but N is already for New docs, and U is for underline.
    Not so sure about Y.

  5. Anonymous2:43 am

    no, y because that is what redo is in Microsoft Word, also it is a two key combination. Also I know that it has no shortcut for Command+Y so it would work perfectly if you could change the shortcut to that. Any idea on how to change the shortcut?

  6. oh, I see. Assigning shortcuts is in System Preferences>Keyboard and Mouse>Keyboard Shortcuts - click plus in the window there to open the list of applications where shortcuts can be modified. iWork is NOT available.

    Otherwise I don't see how you can change Shift+Command+Z to Command+Y.

    But to me, even though it's a three key combination, there is a certain logic there: Undo and Redo are like two sides of the coin, like to and thro. Shift is a modifier key on macs, it reverses or changes many other two-key commands across all of the OS, not just particular applications. You do Safe Boot, for example, by pressing Shift at startup. I'd rather stick with what Pages already have.

    Please let me know if you succeed in modifying that shortcut.

  7. Anonymous11:04 am

    For crying out loud. Thank you. Only been using my mac for a few days, but still, I feel like a half-wit. I'm glad to move to mac but old habits die hard. I couldn't understand which button the arrow represented in the Edit drop down for redo; when I kept reading online that it's the shift key, I thought they meant the normal shift key (the long button to shift one space right), when I read your description of how you usually position your left hand for it I thought, crap, what kind of hands does this guy have? All this time, it now finally dawned on me to "read" what the keys say on them, and low and behold there's a key that actually says "shift" on it. Sheesh. Ironically, I was really game for making a 100% switch to iwork from ms works, now that I have an apple, but I have been informed that I will have to hand my assignments into my uni through Pearson mylab and the prof mentioned submitting ms file, so now thinking might end up having to buy ms word for apple. Was hoping to not have the expenditure. I will have to ask the TAs on Mon. and only buy if necessary I guess. Anyway, thanks again. Very helpful. Since there's a key we normally call the shift key, maybe you should mention in your article that shift key is the extra keyboard key that actually says "shift" on it. I've been reading quite a lot around the net with ppl with same problem. Even some supposed experts that sound totally stumped by this and say you can't redo with iwork. Cheers.

  8. Thanks!
    For submitting work in MS Office, you don't actually need anything MS. Just Choose DOC from the Share menu, or Export... > DOC from the File menu.
    I do it all the time - write copy in Pages, Share > Email in DOC to the editor.

  9. I have an imac G4, and would like to restore it to its original settings like when you first got it.
    Does any know how to do this?
    F.Y.I. - I don't have the OSX discs so is there a way to do this without the discs?

    1. you can look for downloadable OSX that fits your iMac specs. Otherwise take it to a Mac specialist.


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