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5 Essential Keyboard shortcuts in After Effects

Everyone has his or her favorite key commands, and I'm no exception. Here are my five favorites for Adobe After Effects:

01 - Fit To Frame

Command-Option-F (Mac)
Ctrl-Alt-F (Win)

This somewhat obscure key command is probably my all-time favorite. Adobe defines it's function as "scales and repositions selected layers to fit composition", but I've always thought of it as "Fit To Frame", because it automatically resizes and centers layers to fit their comps. It's really convenient for those times when you have to work with footage in many different frames sizes and aspect ratios, and you just want to make everything exactly the same size without having to figure out correct scaling ratios and so on.

02 - Show only Properties with Keyframes or Expressions

U (just the plain U key on both Mac and Windows)

This is a wonderfully useful key command that solos only the properties for all layers that have been animated, letting you isolate just the animated properties with a single keystroke.

The "U" key solos just the animated properties.

03 - RAM Preview

0 (the zero key on your numeric keypad, with Number Lock on)

Control-0 (Mac only)

Most of you probably know about hitting 0 to start a RAM Preview already, but I'm bringing it up because I want to point out a Mac-only alternative, hitting Control-0 instead. This key command proved invaluable to me when I upgraded recently to a wireless Macintosh keyboard, which has no keypad, and not being able to start a RAM Preview with a keystroke was driving me nuts until I found out about the alternate. If you have a wireless keyboard, you'll want to know about this too!

04 - Single-Frame Timeline Zoom

; (Mac and Windows)

When you're working in the TImeline, hit the semicolon key to zoom all the way into the single-frame level for highly detailed animation, then hit it again to zoom all the way out to show the entire comp duration.

05 - Comp Window Zoom In-Out

. (Period key on main keyboard) - Zoom In  (Mac and Windows)

, (Comma key on main keyboard) - Zoom Out  (Mac and Windows)

Another very handy pair of keys that will zoom you in and out of a Comp, Layer, or Footage panel. They're conveniently located next to each other so you can rapidly zoom in and out of your main view for precise keyframing.

Want to create amazing motion graphics in After Effects

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.

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