RStudio shortcuts for laptop productivity

November 2, 2019 - 3 minutes
RStudio keyboad-shortcuts

I spent last week working in train cars, coffee shops, and libraries. My to-do list was mostly data analysis, so I was a little worried about shrinking my workstation workflow to just my 13” laptop. The reduced screen real-estate and lack of a mouse, motivated me to experiment a lot with RStudio’s keyboard shortcuts. These are the six that I found myself using the most.

Zoom Plots

Control + Shift + 6

My favorite shortcut of the bunch

By far the biggest pane of working on a small screen for me is plotting. Trying to inspect even midly complex plots on 14 of of 13” is a bad time. And if you use any plot() based graphics, you will be seeing the “figure margins too large” error message a lot.

Repeating this shorcut shrinks panels back to their prior sizes. Also worth mentioning, this does not move your cursor. So if you just ran into a fatal plot margin error in the Console, you just zoom then u-arrow. + Return to rerun and dodge the fatal margin error.

Focus to:

Learning to navitage RStudio with less mouse helps even at a desk workstation, and I felt it become even more valuable when all I had was the trackpad. These are the “Big 3” re-focusers, that I use all the time.


Control + 2

Moving the active cursor to the Console is great for all things interactive.


Control + 1

Of course you’ll have to move back. Remembering the “one, two” pattern for was helpful.


Option + Shift + T

This one was harder for me to remember becasue it wasn’t in the Control + # pattern. But I use the git CLI a lot, so I had to learn it.

Switch between Editor tabs

Control + Option + l/r arrows

This is very very useful for switching between R scripts or View() windows.

Show all panels

Control + Shift + 0

I found this most useful after I’d hit the wrong Zoom shortcut by mistake, it was effectivly my IDE reset switch.


Now that I’m back to my normal workstation, I’m still using all of these shortcuts. It does require a lot of conscious effort at the begining to use the shortcuts and not bail out to the trackpad. But it’s totally worth it, just after the one week of trying I can feel my muscle memory is improving.

You can see all of RStudios available shortcuts for yourself with yet another keyboard shortcut Option + Shift + K.

The screen screen recordings in this post are made with KeyCastr which is also a great tool for teaching code. Thanks to Jeff Boichuk for sharing!