Script of the Week: Shortcut Key Reference

This week’s script of the week does not, by itself, replace any multiple-step tasks in After Effects for you, yet it may have the most power overall to make your workflow more efficient.

In my book and whenever teaching people to work in After Effects I find myself a huge advocate of keyboard shortcuts, of which there are literally hundreds in After Effects. Some of these shortcuts are listed right in the UI menus, while others can only be discovered if you look them up, or if someone teaches them to you. Given enough time, you can learn them in an ad-hoc fashion, but attempting to learn them all at once by, say, reading the manual cover-to-cover just doesn’t work unless you have a strong photographic memory. That shouldn’t be a prerequisite for working efficiently.

Shortcut Key Reference simply takes the list of shortcut keys that is used by the application itself and places it in a panel that can be left open in the After Effects UI. It’s searchable, so if what you’re trying to do has a term that is easy to define, you can look for it, but it’s also easily scannable; you can take a minute or two to just look down the list until you hit one you didn’t know, and try it.

The categories and names aren’t always completely intuitive for searching purposes, although you will find search works great for those times when you know a certain shortcut exists and just can’t remember it. By clicking the HELP button in the UI you can access a few preferences, including the ability to toggle live search updates. I turned these off since I found that, on my laptop at least, the list didn’t update fast enough for me to keep typing.

I recommend this script for anyone who uses After Effects, whether a beginner trying to get the hang of the workflow, or an expert who thinks there’s nothing new to learn about the application. It’s available as a shareware download from

Mark Christiansen

Mark Christiansen

Author of After Effects Compositing series at; founder of New Scribbler LLC, developer of Cinefex for iPad; Adobe Press author, VFX artist on major motion pictures including Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End