Want to be the fastest kid to operate to your Mac? Find out here how to create keyboard shortcuts 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 Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac

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.

  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.

How to Create Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac: FAQ

Will my custom Mac keyboard shortcuts overwrite existing ones?

Yes.

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 keyboard shortcuts on a Mac for Automator Quick Actions?

Yes.

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 to create keyboard shortcuts on a Mac using macOS tested with macOS Mojave 10.14; updated December 2018)