If you’re running Windows in a Parallels environment on an Intel Macintosh, you may have found that the shift-constrain-copy keyboard shortcut no longer works. Ctrl-drag-copy still works, but the shift-constrain no longer works. I’ve laid out how to change the keyboard configuration in Parallels to remedy this.

Anybody who has changed platforms can relate to the annoyances of relearning keystroke combinations to compliment mouse functions. For example, option-click-drag to move and copy something in a graphics app on the Macintosh will translate to ctrl-click-drag in the same app on a PC. “Alt” on a PC is in the same place as “option” on a mac. So, “control” is typically one key to the left. It’s minor, but annoying.

When frequently hopping between the two platforms, it’s gets a little more than annoying, but still not too bad. It’s when Parallels kills the ability to shift-constrain a drag-copy. I’m talking about the ability to constrain the displacement of an object to just the Y or X axis by holding “shift” and “ctrl” as you click-and-drag to copy an object. You can ctrl-drag-copy, but you cannot shift-constrain. Parallels took an annoyance and brought to a full-blown frustration.

If you’re experiencing this and searching for the answer on how to remedy this – (I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I wrote this) you’ll be happy to know that you can get your shift-constrain-copy back.

Here are the settings you need to make your Parallels preferences pane. Open it from under the Parallels menu item then goto the keyboard tab:

The bugger is the Mouse Right Click setting. I’m really sorry, but I cannot remember what the default was exactly. (I think it was just “ctrl” because that is the typical contextual-menu click shortcut. Can someone confirm, please?) This setting needs to change, I choose the above. The drawback: you need two keys to get your contextual menu up. For me, this is okay because I generally use a two-finger tap on my trackpad. The bonus to this is, though: I can now get my contextual menu in Axure (it didn’t work before).

Also note that I changed the Release Input to ctrl-option-R. That’s because there will be a conflict with the new Mouse-Right-Click setting. If you’re working in Coherence mode (in which OS X treats the windows and apps in Windows as brothers for drag-n-drop, copy-and-paste, etc.), you don’t need this anyway. That’s the keystroke to give you back your mouse in OS Window mode.

Another recommendation: Change Toggle Coherence Mode By default, ctrl-option-shift will release Parallels from Coherence mode. That can be really annoying to your workflow because inevitably you will press the three together and get a surprise sliding animation of all your windows. It’s a cool animation, but obnoxious when you’re racing against the clock on a deadline.

Okay. So, go back into Visio or Axure and give it a whirl. Ahhhh, see? Sweet shift-constrain-copy is back.

Oh and if you’re looking for a way to completely keep your Mac-style shortcuts to minimize the aforementioned annoyances, there are utilities called “keymapping” that should help.


Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • natalie says:

    Thank you!!!! My children managed to somehow get parallels stuck in “coherance” mode and I had no idea what had happened or what to do about it. Many useless articles on the web – yours was the first to actually define the problem and give me a solution.

  • My Pleasure, Natalie. Glad you found it helpful. I personally prefer to run in coherence mode because it feels more like I’m just running apps on my mac as opposed to running Windows.

  • Damon Dean says:

    I second the thanks! I work in Visio constantly, and when I switched to a Mac, I got Parallels basically for Visio because Omnigraffle doesn’t quite cut it. I never realized how important Ctrl + Shift constrain copy was until it didn’t work :). But this did the trick. I kept thinking that Microsoft had deprecated the feature for some strange reason. Nope…just quirky Parallels.