Photo of someone at a laptop with After Effects open to an active After Effects project

Get your notepad ready: here are 5 keystroke shortcuts you'll want to tape to your monitor. Whether you're chasing a deadline or looking to more efficiently complete your video projects, those reliable keyboard shortcuts for After Effects can greatly speed up your workflow.  

  1. Reveal keyframes (U):
    1. For layers: Select your layer in the Project Panel and hit the U key to reveal all of the keyframes used in that layer in the Timeline.
    2. For an entire composition: Make sure that all of your layers in the Project Panel are deselected and then hit the U key. All of the keyframes used in your composition will now be visible.
       
      Screen shot of After Effects showing a timeline with keyframes not shown
      Screen shot of After Effects showing a timeline with keyframes revealed by pressing U on the keyboard
  2. Nudge Keyframes in Timeline (Option/Alt+Up/Down): Nudge your keyframes one frame at time by selecting the keyframe(s) in the Timeline. Then simultaneously hold down the Option key (for Mac) or Alt key (for PC) and tap the Left or Right arrow key. When you press the Right arrow, the keyframe(s) will move one frame to the right in your timeline; Left, and the keyframe(s) will move one frame to the left. 
     
    Screenshot of After Effects timeline showing a keyframe and a red arrow pointing to the right indicating the direction we want to move the keyfram.
    Screenshot of After Effects timeline showing a keyframe moved to the right with a red arrow pointing right indicating we are going to move the keyframe further.
    Screenshot of a timeline in After Effects showing a keyframe moved.
  3. Reveal position option (P): Hit the P key on your keyboard and the Position option will appear in the Project Panel.
    This lets you adjust the position (X, Y, and Z axis) of your designs, animations and graphics on the fly. 
     
    Screenshot of a timeline in After Effects
    Screenshot of After Effects showing position attributes revealed on every layer after highlighting them all and pressing P on the keyboard
  4. Pre-compose shortcut (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+C): Pre-comps help you organize your complex projects by enabling you to group layers together in new compositions. To create a new pre-comp the quick way, select the layers that you want to group together in the Project Panel and then press Command (for Mac) or Ctrl for PC), Shift and C at the same time to bring up the Precomp option.
     
    Screenshot of the After Effects Pre-Compose Pop-UP
  5. Show/hide ruler (Cmd/Ctrl+R): The Ruler tool helps you lay out your objects and text with precision. To activate, simply hit the Command key (for Mac) or the Ctrl key (for PC) and the R key. Type Command (or Ctrl for PC) and R again to hide. (This works in Photoshop, too!)
     
    Screenshot of After Effects showing rulers on around the footage in the composition window

As you familiarize yourself with a few keyboard shortcuts, gradually add new ones to your workflow. Over time you will build up muscle memory and notice you are able to more efficiently fly through certain tasks in After Effects.

For more tips on working in After Effects, check out our post on MOGRTS. And for free workshops, professional courses, filmmaking bootcamps, and more resources to make your productions successful, visit www.mnn.org/learn