Mysteries of Software: VLC Media Player full-screen controls

The VLC Media Player packs a lot of power, but most of it is hidden behind its meager interface. Learn how to control video playback in full-screen mode with hot keys.


Here's an answer to a question that no one has ever asked me: "What are the full-screen keyboard controls for the open-source video software VLC Media Player?"

Boy, I'm glad you never asked me that fantastic question, because VLC Media Player (for Windows or Mac) is excellent free software that has gone on to inspire other open-source projects like Songbird.

VLC Media Player Hotkeys settings
All of the full-screen controls are easily customizable. (Credit: CNET Networks)

The answer to the question is indeed out there in the wild tubes of the Internet, but it's pretty tricky to find, because it's hidden in a screenshot (and an outdated one at that.)

The easiest way to control full-screen playback is via keyboard hot keys. The VLC documentation at the VideoLAN Web site linked to above explains how to change the hot keys, but it doesn't provide a quick and easy reference.

All of these hot keys are indeed customizable, although the VideoLAN documentation is a bit outdated. To change the key bindings, go to the Settings menu, then select Preferences, or hit Ctrl-S. Now expand the Interface menu, and select "Hotkeys settings."

Although the interface for the Mac is similar, I'm writing this using 0.8.6b version for Windows. (I've also heard that there's a full-screen-control GUI skin for the Mac.)

Here are the default hot keys for the Windows version. Do not ask, and ye shall receive.

Basic playback:
spacebar - Play/Pause
S - Stop
N - Next file in playlist
P - Previous file in playlist

Time shifting:
Shift+Right arrow - Very short skip forward (3-second default)
Shift+Left arrow - Very short skip backward
Alt+Right arrow - Short skip forward (10-second default)
Alt+Left arrow - Short skip backward
Ctrl+Right arrow - Medium skip forward (1-minute default)
Ctrl+Left arrow - Medium skip backward
Ctrl+Alt+Right arrow - Long skip forward (5-minute default)
Ctrl+Alt+Left arrow - Long skip backward
- (minus sign) - Slow playback by half (up to .125x)
+ - Double playback speed (up to 8x)

Display settings:
A - Toggle aspect ratio (16:10; 16:9, 1:1, 221:100, 4:3, 5:4, default)
C - Toggle crop (same ratios)
T - Show time played/time left
I - Bring VLC interface to front
Ctrl+H - Increase subtitle delay by 50ms (for infinity)
Ctrl+J - Decrease subtitle delay by 50ms
K - Switch subtitle track

M - Mute on/off
Ctrl+Up arrow - Turn volume up (1/32)
Ctrl+Down arrow - Turn volume down
Ctrl+K - Increase audio delay by 50ms (for infinity)
Ctrl+L - Decrease audio delay by 50ms
L - Switch audio track

Ctrl+Alt+S - Takes screenshot of current frame
Ctrl+Q - Quits program completely

So how do you get to full-screen mode in VLC? Just hit F to enter or exit full-screen view. If you're the mousing sort, just double-click. There is a way to control playback with mouse gestures, but that's a mystery for another day.

About Peter Butler

Peter has been working at since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.