Final Cut: Keyboard Shortcuts for Dragging in the Timeline

The following tips come directly from the FCE 4.0 user manual (p. 410 & 413). These are keyboard shortcuts for arranging clips in the time line.

Using the Command Key to Drag More Slowly
When you’re dragging clips, edit points, or keyframes, usually the default one-to-one correspondence between the motion of your mouse and the motion of the item you’re dragging works just fine. However, you can drag even more precisely by pressing the Command key to slow, or “gear down,” the dragging speed after you’ve started dragging.

For example, holding down the Command key after you’ve started dragging a clip causes the motion of that clip in the Timeline to be much slower and more precise. This can be helpful if the Timeline is zoomed out so that individual clips look small. It’s also useful if you want to make very small changes to an edit point, a keyframe parameter, a volume level, or anything else. You can use the Command key to modify nearly any dragging operation in Final Cut Express.

Modifying Selections and Commands Using the Option Key
When you’re working with clips in the Timeline, you can use the Option key to do one of three things:

  • Hold down the Option key while you select a clip to temporarily turn off linked selection (if it’s on) or turn it on (if it’s off ).
  • Hold down the Option key after an item is selected, then drag the item from its original position to make a duplicate of that item.
  • Hold down the Option key after you’ve started dragging a clip and hold it down as you release the mouse button to perform an insert or shuffle edit (depending on where you drag the clip in the Timeline). For more information, see “Moving Items Within the Timeline” on page 407.


Note: If you use the Option key to modify a command and don’t see the results you wanted, you probably held down the Option key too long or at the wrong time. In some cases, you need to remember to release the Option key once you have achieved the result you want. For example, you may hold down the Option key while dragging a clip to duplicate it. Once you begin dragging the clip, however, Final Cut Express already intends to duplicate the clip, and now the Option key tells Final Cut Express to perform an insert edit. If you prefer to do an overwrite edit, you need to release the Option key.

Another situation is when you intend to duplicate a clip by pressing the Option key, but you instead turn off linked selection and only select one clip item. To avoid this, you need to select the clip first, release the mouse button, and then press the Option key before dragging it to duplicate it.

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