To get the attention of people with no prior experience of Pro Tools I have been known to say that I can teach them Pro Tools in five shortcuts. Of course in reality it takes more but these five are enough to dramatically speed up your navigation of the edit window. I am a self-confessed shortcut nerd but I have always maintained that there is no point learning a shortcut unless it is for something you do a lot. These five shortcuts are for things you will do every session. If each one saves you as little as a second each time you use it then cumulatively they will save you hours.
⌘= - Toggle Mix/Edit window
⌘[ or ⌘] - Zoom in and out.
⌥A - Zoom out to show entire session (horizontal zoom)
⌥F - Zoom in to fill screen with current edit selection (horizontal zoom)
⌘⌥⌃↑ or ↓ - Vertically fit all tracks to screen
To explain further.
When I started using Pro Tools I was using a 14” CRT monitor at 800 x 600 resolution (it sounds tiny now but it was a lot bigger than the LCD on an Akai sampler…). A thing which impressed me straight away was that I was always working in one of two windows and I could use cmnd + = to switch between them. I prefer to work with both the edit and mix windows full screen with no IO, inserts or sends in the edit window to maximise the available space for the timeline. I’m sure this is because of the small screens I started on but I’ve found its still a logical way to work although I know some people prefer staying in the edit window or using multiple monitors. Try fullscreen mix and edit windows and cmnd + =. In my opinion the most important shortcut in Pro Tools after the spacebar.
There are many ways to zoom horizontally but I start with cmnd + square brackets to get people away from using the zoom tool and the +/- buttons at the bottom right of the edit window. Both are painfully slow in my opinion and while R and T and zoom presets are alternatives, the cmnd + square brackets shortcut is always available and you don’t need to know about command focus settings to use them.
When editing its often easier to zoom in, edit, then zoom out again rather than zoom in and scroll the screen from side to side. It can be easy to lose your bearings and anyway its quicker to zoom out, find the section you wish to look at and zoom in on that. Using opt + A to zoom out to view from the song start to the last event on the timeline combined with opt + F to zoom in on the edit selection allows very speedy navigation.
Finally to fit all the tracks in your session to the screen depth use cmnd+opt+cntrl with the up or down arrow. This shortcut in conjunction with opt+A will fit your entire session to the screen both horizontally and vertically.
There are of course loads of shortcuts which are just as useful as these but I do find these ones really help new users feel in control of their software. I’ve found most users figure out things like spacebar to start/stop and return for return to zero on their own so I haven’t included these. The PC versions are much the same but substitute Cntrl for Cmnd. Which shortcuts do you think you need to know first?