I'm covering some shortcuts in the next article, but since I'm taking baby steps with this series, nothing as advanced as enabling the functionality you require with your second question. I will only get to that sort of usage much later on (good question, though - keep 'em coming).
Here's a link to the steps for your second question. As solutions go, it's a little bit geeky / fiddly to set up initially, but I tried it - took me 5 minutes to do, and creates the right-click functionality you require: http://www.macworld.com/article/1151236/createnewfileservice.html
Your solution to the first one is correct, by the way - that is the best way to navigate to a folder, which I'll get to earlier in the series. Some other less-targeted methods will be outlined in the next article.
As a general comparative list of Windows / Mac / Linux shortcuts, look no further than http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_keyboard_shortcuts
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