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FCP X Basic Keyboard Shortcut Guide

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I’m always asked in my classes how editors can memorize all of the keyboard shortcuts right away. The more time you edit from the keyboard, the faster and more efficient you will be working. The more time you are working a mouse or trackpad, the slower and less efficient you will be working. Of course we need to do both, but spending more time on the keyboard with shortcuts makes for faster editing.

Memorizing Shortcuts

Having taught Final Cut classes for many years to more students than I can count, I have found that trying to purposefully sit with a list of shortcuts and memorizing them does not work. What I have found works is what I tell all of my classes. If you go to the same menu command or tool selection more than twice in an edit session, look at the shortcut listed, and purposefully make the effort to memorize just that one, at that time. When that one becomes natural, move to the next command or tool you find yourself using often. This way you will pick up many keyboard shortcuts in a fairly short amount of time and they will come more naturally to you.

When I say “the shortcut listed”, where is that exactly? If you mouse over a button in the interface, a Tool Tip pops up. This is a small yellow strip that comes up with a description and the keyboard shortcut spelled out for you. When you access a command or tool via a menu, the keyboard shortcut is listed to the right of it.

I also want to point out the symbols used to indicate the modifier keys. Command is the “cloverleaf” symbol. Option is the symbol that show the regular path you always take and then the optional path you’re taking now. Control is the “carrot” or “control” symbol used by programmers. Shift is obviously an arrow key. If you see a slanted thin arrow, that is the Home and End keys on a full sized keyboard.

Figure 1

Mac OS X Essentials

There are a few keyboard shortcut essentials I do encourage my students to memorize over the 3 days of class they participate in. I’ll take you through those here, in the order of workflow. These are the most common, and will speed up the work of every Mac user and FCP X editor. Thumbs on your Command key, here we go!

Here are the Mac universal shortcuts all Mac users should know:

  • Copy: Command-C
  • Paste: Command-V
  • Cut: Command-X
  • Undo: Command-Z
  • Quit an application: Command-Q
  • Switch between apps: Command-tab
  • Close a window: Command-W

These you really need to just burn into your brain, force yourself to use them, you’ll find using your Mac just gets really easy. Remember that things like copy, cut, paste, undo, etc, work inside the FCP X timelines, too.

FCP X Essentials

  • Creating a new Event: Option-N
  • Import media: Command-I
  • Activate skimming: simply S
  • Assigning keywords: Command-K
  • Activate timeline: Command-2
  • Activate Inspector: Command-4

These help right off the bat if you can get them under your belt.

When editing, there are three buttons in the toolbar, the keys match them, from left to right:

  • Connection Edit - Q
  • Insert (wedge) Edit -W
  • Append Edit - E
  • Overwrite Edits I call the “Dangerous Edit” as they destroy other clips is D, just below E, to keep it safe from accidents.

Figure 2

The editing tools are super easy to remember. If you look at the drop-down menu, it is the first letter of the tool. The most common being:

  • Selection (arrow) tool: A
  • Position tool: P
  • Range selection: R
  • Trim: T (covers ripple, roll, slip, slide all in one tool)
  • Blade: B 
  • Blade selected clips without actually switching to the Blade tool: Option-B

Figure 3


If these are the only keyboard shortcuts you ever memorize, you will be so far ahead of the game. You will see your editing work become much faster and easier. Again, trying to simply use rote memory from a spreadsheet is the worst way to go about this. With a little self discipline, picking them up as you actually work, one at a time, from the Tool Tips and menus, you’ll find them becoming very organic to your daily editing tasks.

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Overview and Quick Start Guide course!

Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.


Jul 11, 2013

The only shortcut I'd add to that is N for sNapping. If you're in the middle of an operation and Snapping is set to the opposite of what you want, only N will let you finish the job without having to drop the clip (or edit) and pick it up again.
Jul 12, 2013
Suggested correction: the blade command is Command B, not Option-B.
Also useful, Blade All is Command Shift B
Jul 12, 2013
There are so many, and the article limits what I can cover, so I covered the bare basics, as stated. But yes, there are many more that are very useful. This is far from comprehensive. I do explain how to expand form here. Snapping is very useful, indeed.

And yes, good catch, Blade-ing is Command, not Option.
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