Full Screen Shortcut

July 26th, 2011

One of the things missing from Lion’s full-screen support is a standardized keyboard shortcut for switching modes. Before Lion, it was entirely up to developers to implement the behavior, appearance, and activation mechanisms for entering full-screen mode. Now, we are treated to standard “Enter Full Screen” buttons on qualified windows, and with standard “Enter Full Screen” and “Exit Full Screen” menu items for toggling modes. But there’s still no standardized shortcut.

Early in my testing of Lion, I decided to fix this using Apple’s mechanism for redefining keyboard shortcuts of specifically named menu items. For me, Cmd-Ctrl-Return makes a good toggle shortcut for switching any given app or window between regular and full-screen modes.

To do the same on your OS X Lion machine:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click the “Keyboard” preference pane.
  3. Switch to the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab.
  4. Click the “+” button to add new shortcuts for “Enter Full Screen” and “Exit Full Screen”.

System Preferences 1

I find myself more likely to embrace full-screen mode and switch in and out fluidly when I can do so with a standard keyboard shortcut.

Update: Eric Schlegel points out on Twitter that Cmd-Ctrl-F is the “standard” for full-screen mode, but that some Apple apps don’t follow the standard. Perhaps that would be a better choice for this global setting as well.


9 Responses to “Full Screen Shortcut”

  1. Philippe Says:

    Great tip! Keep them coming. They are really useful.

    One precision: the Menu Title field must be filled with the exact name of the menu option triggered by the keyboard shortcut. So in a non-English OS, users must refer to the way “Enter Full Screen” is written in any given applications (under Menu>Presentation

    Thanks again,


  2. Jens Ayton Says:

    There is in fact a standard shortcut: Command-Control-F. See Menus->The View Menu in the HIG. Safari, Mail, iCal and Xcode use it, but Terminal does not.

  3. Lri Says:

    It could be more convenient to modify .GlobalPreferences directly:

    defaults write -g NSUserKeyEquivalents -dict-add “Enter Full Screen” “^f” “Exit Full Screen” “^f” “Full Screen” “^f” “Full Screen Mode” “^f” “Normal Screen” “^f”

    (^@f = ⌃⌘F)

  4. charles Says:

    To exit full screen, ‘esc’ often works too.

  5. Kip Says:

    I’ve tried doing this. The shortcut is set, but only occasionally works. What are the conditions for this to work, because it seems like it only works right after the window gets focus.

  6. Jason Says:

    Cheers 8]
    Set mine as Command + Shift + F so that it is the same shortcut as Firefox Full screen! Wonderful!

  7. dorian_grey Says:

    The most horrible thing is iTunes: It uses the standard CTRL CMD F but als CMD F alone. And there is no “place cursor in search field” anymore.

    Nice work, Apple. Read your own HIG!

  8. Skidmark Says:


    “The most horrible thing is iTunes: It uses the standard CTRL CMD F but als CMD F alone. And there is no “place cursor in search field” anymore. Nice work, Apple. Read your own HIG!”

    Check your facts. It is, and always has been, Option-Command-F to place the cursor in the search field.

  9. dorian_grey Says:


    Yes, you are right. I corrected that shortcut a long time ago, so I totally forgot about the original absurdity.

    However being consistent here, instead of finally changing that shortcut to comply with their own platform’s standard, was really not the best idea! They even made it worse by assigning two nearly identical shortcuts to the same function, while ignoring their own standards in the process once again (CTRL-CMD-F is the standard shortcut for fullscreen, _not_ CMD-F).

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