When Beverly Sills said “There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going,” I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thinking about software. Whether you’re using Finale or your favorite word processing program, using shortcuts represent a sure-fire way to improve your efficiency AND be kind to your hands. However, no matter where in the world I travel to conduct a Finale clinic, I’ll meet folks who are surprised by the most basic keyboard shortcuts.

If I ask who in the clinic audience knows the shortcut to Save, quite a few hands go up; when asked for specifics, Windows folks indicate that they hold down the Ctrl key while typing S, while Mac folks hold down the Command key while typing S. For this post, I’ll indicate this as Ctrl/Command+S.

When I ask what Ctrl/Command+Z does, I see a few hands go down. Not everyone knows the common keyboard shortcuts used by most software applications, including Ctrl/Command+P, +A, +C, +V, +O, and +W.

Sometimes these shortcuts are so taken for granted that software makers don’t seem to think they need to remind us what they are. I’m looking through my copy of Microsoft Word, and I don’t see them listed. I’m sure they’re there, but I don’t know where to look for them. In Finale, if you’re looking for the shortcut for Save, for example, you’ll find it listed next to Save in the File menu. Here is Finale’s File menu for Windows (on the left) and Macintosh (on the right):

Look to the right of Save in each menu. Note that on the Macintosh, the Command key is indicated by a clover-leaf symbol. Cute!

Finale also offers a more comprehensive list of shortcuts in the Help menu.

Now let me be clear, I’m not suggesting you remember keyboard shortcuts for everything. Personally, rote memorization was never my strong suit. I once heard that the cockatiel can learn 40 things. I can sympathize. After 40 things my mental hard drive is full too. In that spirit, I suggest we commit to memory the very minimum of shortcuts, and learn from those how to intuitively discover more. With that in mind, I offer a few of my very favorite shortcuts below.

Ctrl/Command+- and Ctrl/Command++

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I, a Finale Product Specialist, only learned these two great shortcuts only about five months ago. Holding down Ctrl/Command and pressing the plus key zooms in making everything on the screen bigger, and the minus key does just the opposite. I use these ALL the time now.


Oh, what a lovely shortcut this is: it undoes your last action. If only life had one of these too. Note that you can press Ctrl/Command+Z again to undo your last two actions, and so forth. If you go too far, Ctrl/Command+Y re-does your last action.

Right-click (with your mouse)*

When you are in the Selection tool, you can use this shortcut to see a contextual menu for most items on the screen. For example, right-click on a time signature and you’ll see a list of time signatures you can select from. The same approach works on key signatures, and much more – I encourage you to experiement. This trick alone is a huge time-saver. By the way, if you’re not in the Selection tool, you can get there quickly by typing the Esc key – that’s a good one too.

In the interest of making sure even us cockatiels don’t get overloaded, I’ll save a few for next time.

Happy New Year!

*Using a one-button mouse on your Mac? Use Control+mouse-click to access contextual menus.

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