Hidden Shortcuts to Make Level Design Easier in Unity.

Objective: introduce Unity users to Hotkeys and Shortcuts to improve productivity.

Okay, I admit the title is a bit misleading. These are not “hidden” methods of boosting your productivity. Unity has done a fantastic job documenting all this information in their manuals, and the web is littered with various articles and PDF documents we can access as a reference.

Unity, by design, allows developers to create content quickly. However, many junior/new developers are not maximizing their potential speed and efficiency due to the simple fact that they are often unfamiliar with these keys.

With this article, I’m just going to present the reader with the most common hotkeys and shortcuts that can help improve their productivity while using Unity. I’ll finish off with a quick look at Unity’s Shorcuts Manager.

What are Hotkeys?

“Hotkeys” are keys or combinations of keys on a keyboard that are linked to certain commands, tools, or actions within a program or platform you may be using. Unity has many shortcuts that are programmed into the software, but you can create and customize your own shortcuts to adapt to your own workflow preferences. The ones listed below are, in my opinion, some of the handiest keyboard shortcuts that will speed up your editing sessions.

Basics:

Hand Tool: [Q]

Move Tool: [W]

Rotate Tool: [E]

Scale Tool: [R]

Rect Tool: [T]

Unified Tool: [Y]

Toggle Pivot Position: Pivot/Center: [Z]

Toggle Pivot Orientation: Global/Local: [X]

Vertex Snap: [V]

Toggle Grid Snap: [\]

What are Shortcuts?

Shortcuts are key combinations that are linked to certain tools or actions. You find shortcuts in pretty much all software, and some have become somewhat standard such as the Copy [Ctrl/Cmd + C], Cut [Ctrl/Cmd + X], and Paste [Ctrl/Cmd + V]. Unity has many shortcuts that are integrated into the software, but you can create and customize your own shortcuts if desired.

Scene Files:

New Scene: [Ctrl/Cmd + N]

Open Scene: [Ctrl /Cmd + O]

Save Scene: [Ctrl/Cmd + S]

Save As: [Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + S]

Editing:

Create Empty Game Object: [Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N]

Duplicate: [Ctrl/Cmd + D]

Undo: [Ctrl/Cmd +Z]

Redo: [Ctrl + Y] (PC) [Shift +Cmd + Z] (Mac)

Cut: [Ctrl/Cmd + X]

Copy: [Ctrl /Cmd + C]

Paste: [Ctrl/Cmd + V]

Select All: [Ctrl/Cmd + A]

Invert Selection: [Ctrl/Cmd + I] (selects everything else except what you previously had selected)

Deselect All: [Shift + D]

Find Object: [Ctrl/Cmd + F] (search through your Hierarchy)

Move Object to View: [Ctrl/Cmd + Alt + F] (takes the object and moves it to your location)

Unity’s Shortcuts Manager

This is the main tool that Unity uses to manage keyboard shortcuts. With it, you can view all existing shortcuts, manage them, and create new ones.

To access the Shortcuts Manager on Windows and Linux platforms, select Edit > Shortcuts. If using macOS, select Unity > Shortcuts.

Shortcuts Manager window. This view depicts the keys that have shortcuts assigned to them without the use of modifiers (such as CMD, CTRL, SHIFT). They are basically “hotkeys”. Pressing a modifier on the keyboard map will show which key combinations use that modifier. In other words, you will see the “shortcuts”.

This brings up a window that shows a color-coded keyboard layout. The drop-down on the top left allows you to select, manage, and switch between shortcut profiles. Commands are organized by category below the keyboard and can be either “global” or “contextual” Commands.

  • Global commands are always available. For example, whenever you press certain keys linked to the global command for “Undo,” it will always undo the previous action regardless of what windows or tools are currently active.
  • Contextual commands are linked to a certain view or toolset; for example, they only work when you are in the Animation window.

Something to watch for when editing global and contextual commands is that you may end up creating shortcut conflicts. You need to keep track of which commands are global and which are contextual when changing and/or customizing shortcuts.

Assigning Shortcuts

you assign shortcuts in two ways: using the keymap or from the Command list. To use the keymap, click on any modifier key you wish to include (such as CTRL / CMD or SHIFT), then you drag and drop the command from the Command list onto the desired key from the keymap.

Assigning a Shortcut using the keymap method.

The other method described in the Unity manual instructs you to double-click the Command in the list, then while keeping the cursor in the shortcut field, press the key combination on your keyboard to assign as required. Now I’ve tried doing this with SHIFT-P, but none of my modifier keys register, and all I get is the P key assigned with a binding conflict created.

Binding Conflict Message

Not sure if this is a bug, but at the time of writing this article, I simply could not get this method to work. For this, I would recommend using the keymap method :)

Unassigning or Resetting Shortcuts:

This part is fairly simple. Right-click either the key on the keymap or the Command on the command list you want to unassign or reset. Then, from the menu that appears, select “reset to default” or “remove shortcut” to either reset the key to its default shortcut assignment or remove the shortcut entirely.

Removing a Shortcut. The method shown is to Right-Click on the command from the Command list.

Conclusion

Unity’s Shortcuts Manager is a powerful tool to help you customize your keyboard. Using hotkeys and shortcuts is an effective way to speed up your productivity and I would recommend users to familiarize themselves as soon as possible with what Unity has to offer. Thanks for reading :)

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Michel Besnard

Michel Besnard

Military member with 35+ years of service, undertaking an apprenticeship with GameDevHQ with the objective of developing solid software engineering skills.