How to Create a Keyboard Shortcut on a Mac

How to Create Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac with macOS

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Mac

Want to be the fastest to operate your Mac and have do with they keyboard what possible no one else has done before? Find out here how to create a keyboard shortcut on a Mac for any menu item you frequently use.

First, the Angle to Best See the Stars

is the right one, 90°.

Straight up from the ground, any star’s light takes the shortest route through earth’s atmosphere—the atmosphere that is full of particles and perturbations that distort the view (and, perchance, make the stars twinkle).

Now, the shortest path to take any action on a Mac is, of course, straight down with your fingers onto a combination of keys that form a shortcut. You can even set up your own:

How to Create a Keyboard Shortcut on a Mac (for Just about Anything)

Time needed: 5 minutes.

To create a custom keyboard shortcut for any action you can take using the menu on a Mac using macOS:

  1. Open System Preferences.

    Tip: You can select  | System Preferences… from the menu, for example.

  2. Go to the Keyboard category.

    Mac keyboard settings

  3. Open the Shortcuts tab.

  4. Make sure App Shortcuts is selected on the left.

  5. Click + under the list of current application keyboard shortcuts.

  6. Choose the program for which you are creating the custom Mac keyboard shortcut under Application:.

    Note: Do select All Applications if you want the shortcut to work across all programs. Remember, though, that this makes it more likely that your custom shortcut combination will conflict with an existing one.

  7. Type the menu item exactly as you see it in the application.

    Note: Use only the item’s name; you need not include the whole menu structure.
    Example: To add a command for the File | Export as PDF… menu item in Safari, type Export as PDF….

  8. Press the keyboard shortcut you want to use for the command under Keyboard Shortcut.

    Example: To use Command Shift P for exporting a page as PDF in Safari, press the Command, Shift and P keys at the same time while the Keyboard Shortcut field is in focus.

  9. Click Add.

    Tip: You can always change your custom keyboard shortcut directly in the list of current shortcuts.Add a custom keybaord shortcut on a Mac

How to Create a Keyboard Shortcut on a Mac: FAQ

Will my custom Mac keyboard shortcuts overwrite existing ones?


If you set up a keyboard shortcut for Export as PDF… in Safari that uses Command Shift P, for example, that will overwrite any existing shortcuts — even global ones — that use Command Shift P for the Print… command.

You can assign a new custom Mac keyboard shortcut for the global command, of course.

What happens if two custom keyboard shortcuts I’ve added to my Mac use the same key combination?

If you create keyboard shortcuts on a Mac that share a key combination, the one further up in the list in system preferences will be in effect.

Exception: Application-specific custom keyboard shortcuts will still overwrite global ones (that appear under All Applications).

How can I remove a custom Mac keyboard shortcut?

To delete a keyboard shortcut you have created on your Mac:

  1. Open the Shortcut settings in System Preferences.
  2. Highlight the custom shortcut you want to remove in the list of current shortcuts.
  3. Click  beneath the list.
    Note: The shortcut will be removed without further confirmation, and you cannot easily undo the deletion.

Can I create a Mac keyboard shortcut for Automator Quick Actions?


After you have created a Quick Action in Automator, you can define a keyboard shortcut for performing it on the Keyboard preferences window’s Shortcuts tab, under Services.

Use the steps for creating a keyboard shortcut for a menu item to add the desired shortcut.

How do I create an app shortcut on my Mac to launch an application with a keyboard combination?

To set up an app keyboard shortcut:

  1. Open Automator.
  2. Select File | New from the menu.
  3. Choose Quick Action.
    Note: In earlier versions of Automator, select Service instead.
  4. Click Choose.
  5. Make the first line of the quick action read Workflow receives no input in any application.
    Workflow receives "no input" in "any application"
  6. Select Actions and Library in the sidebar.
    Tip: If you do not see the sidebar, click Library in the toolbar.
  7. Drag and drop the Launch Application action to the workflow.
    Tip: Type “launch” over Name to find the action quickly.
    Drag and drop the "Launch Application" action
  8. Pick the desired app to launch under Launch Application.
  9. Select File | Save… from the menu.
  10. Choose a name for the action.
    Tip: Yes, Launch Music will do.
  11. Click Save.
  12. Open System Preferences.
  13. Go to Keyboard and then Shortcuts.
  14. Select Services on the left.
  15. Highlight the General action you just saved.
  16. Click Add Shortcut.
    Add app shortcut on a Mac using macOS
  17. Type the desired keyboard shortcut.

Can I switch to the application using the app keyboard shortcut?

Yes, if the application is already running, macOS will switch to it if you press your custom app shortcut key.

(How to create a keyboard shortcut on a Mac tested with macOS Big Sur 11.0 and Catalina 10.15; updated January 2021)

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