Why isn’t there a standard “full screen” keyboard shortcut?

Full Screen iconOne reason I switched to the Mac was because Mac OS applications are supposed to have consistent user interfaces. This is mainly due to the much-lauded Apple Human Interface Guidelines.

On the whole, I’m impressed with the way Mac apps have consistent menus and keyboard shortcuts. For example, with a few notable exceptions – I’m looking at you, Photoshop – you can nearly always get to an app’s preferences by hitting Command+, (comma), and hide an app with Command+H.

But what’s the shortcut for switching an app to full screen mode? Good question. It changes from app to app; there’s no standard. And surely, if there’s one thing you need a consistent keypress for, it’s full screen mode – especially exiting full screen mode. Try getting out of DVD Player’s full screen mode without knowing the keyboard shortcut. (And no, Esc doesn’t work.)

“Full screen” shortcuts for various apps

Just to show how ridiculous the situation is – but also to provide a handy reference – here’s a list of the “full screen” shortcuts for the apps currently installed on my Mac:

  • DVD Player: Command+0 (zero). Obviously.
  • QuickTime Player: Command+F. (Even Apple’s own apps aren’t consistent with each other.)
  • VLC: Command+F.
  • Skype: Control+Command+F.
  • iChat AV: Control+Command+F. (Well at least those two are the same.)
  • RealPlayer: Command+4. (Huh?)
  • Parallels Desktop: Option+Return (my brain hurts).
  • iTunes: Command+F.

If Apple can come up with standard shortcuts for things like preferences, surely a standard full-screen shortcut isn’t out of the question?

(Here’s a handy related tip: If you ever need to decipher the strange characters used in menus to represent various special keys – such as Control and Option – switch to the Finder, choose Help > Mac Help, and search the help for “Symbols for special keys”.)

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7 Responses to “Why isn’t there a standard “full screen” keyboard shortcut?”

  1. Gideon Says:

    Haven’t you upgraded to Leopard yet? Leopard’s DVD player has been updated so that Command+F is the Full-Screen and Exit Full-Screen shortcut, just like Quicktime.

    Seriously 10.5.2 is an incredibly solid release – I would advise anyone who has been sitting on the fence to take the plunge because Leopard is seriously good in my opinion.

  2. Matt Says:

    Hi Gideon,

    Good to hear that Apple have taken note and fixed the DVD Player shortcut!

    I’m *so* close to upgrading to Leopard. I’m currently in the process of working out exactly which of my apps it’s going to break, and which I’m going to have to pay to upgrade (something I’m pretty annoyed about, and which will no doubt be the subject of a post!). So far it appears that I’ll need to update OfficeTime and Missing Sync to stop them breaking in Leopard. I’m working through this list as I write:


    matt 🙂

  3. Greg Says:

    Kinda scary how long i’ve been running my mac for, 5 months now with no issues, just starting to get in to the more detailed side of it – this is an excellent blog, nice work.

  4. Matt Says:

    Thanks Greg – I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog (and your Mac!).

  5. Josh Says:

    Just if you were wondering, Chrome’s shortcut is
    Command + Shift + F… yeah

  6. Matt Says:

    @Josh: Very strange! At least Apple is more consistent these days…

  7. jolli Says:

    Anyone now the full screen shotcut for dosbox (7.4) ? thanx