The Complete Guide to Using the Tilde Key…

Okay, so I thought that if you’re anything like me, you probably pay hardly any attention (if any at all) to that weird little squiggly key on the far upper left corner of your keyboard. Then I thought to myself, “Self, there MUST be something that this stupid button is good for!” Since I’m not very fluent in Spanish, I figured that my next option was to find some uses for the tilde within my favorite trio of programs: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign…

Well, I did some research, and dug through some of my mountains of books to come up with as many functions as I possibly could for that previously-useless little plastic cube. Here’s what I found:


  • If you’re using any of the shape tools (the Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Line tools, etc.), while dragging out a new shape, if you hold the ~ key, Illustrator will create tons of progressive copies of your shape.


  • This next trick is one that I’ve only seen in one other place. Everyone else seems to not know about it… so here we go: If you’ve selected a shape that has a pattern fill, then you can modify that fill independently of the shape that contains it by holding down the ~ key while using the Rotate, Reflect, Scale or Skew tools. How awesome is that!?

Here’s the shape with a regular pattern applied (the pattern is Bamboo, from the Nature_Foliage pattern swatches library that comes with Illustrator) before I modified it:




  • While any image is open, you can hit Ctrl/Cmd-1 to view the Red Channel, Ctrl/Cmd-2 to view Green and Ctrl/Cmd-3 to view the Blue Channel. If you want to see the composite RGB image again, all you have to do is hit Ctrl/Cmd-~ and voila! Your image will be full-color once more, rather than grayscale.

Red Channel (Ctrl/Cmd-1):

Green Channel (Ctrl/Cmd-2):

Blue Channel (Ctrl/Cmd-3):

Composite RGB (Ctrl/Cmd-~):


  • If you (like me) often tend to have multiple files open at once in InDesign, these next two shortcuts will be real timesavers. Hitting Ctrl/Cmd-~ will take you to the next open document’s window, while Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-~ will go to the previous document’s window.

First document that’s open:

Then, after hitting Ctrl/Cmd-~:


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