Did you know you can create a custom keyboard shortcut for any menu item on the Mac? You can create keystrokes for common action items across many applications, or even just for a specific menu option in a particular application. Making custom keyboard shortcuts in Mac OS is an excellent power user tool, but despite being robust and highly customizable, it’s actually quite easy to implement and is helpful for all Mac user levels.
This is an excellent Mac power user tip, and if you find yourself frequently accessing the same menu items within an app or all applications, consider setting up a custom keyboard shortcut for that item to speed up your workflow. This tutorial will walk through the appropriate steps to making a custom keystroke out of a menu item, it works in basically every version of Mac OS too.
How to Make a Custom Keyboard Shortcut on Mac
This works to create a custom keyboard shortcut in macOS and Mac OS X, the technique is compatible and behaves the same in basically every version of Mac OS system software dating back well over a decade. Here is how this excellent feature works:
- From MacOS, go to the Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and then go to the “Keyboard” preference panel
- Choose the “Shortcuts” tab and then select ‘App Shortcuts’ from the left side menu
- Click on the “+” plus button to create a new keyboard shortcut on the Mac
- Next to ‘Application’ choose whether you want the keyboard shortcut to be used in all applications or a specific application (we are using ‘All Applications’ in this example)
- Next to ‘Menu Title:” type the exact name of the menu option item you wish to create a keyboard shortcut for (in our example here we are using “Rename…” from the File menu)
- Click into “Keyboard Shortcut:” and press down the exact keystroke you wish use for the keyboard shortcut you are making (in this example we are using Command+Control+R)
- Click “Add” when finished
- Go to any application with the aforementioned menu item available and pull down the menu to confirm your custom keyboard shortcut is now available for use (in this example, “Rename…” now has the custom keystroke alongside it)
Note that you must use exact syntax for menu items to create custom keyboard shortcuts. That includes any capitalization, punctuation, periods, and precise text – the name entered for the keystroke absolutely must match the menu item otherwise the menu keystroke will not work.
You must choose a custom keyboard shortcut that does not overlap or interfere with an existing keyboard shortcut in use on the Mac, whether in all applications or in the chosen application, respectively.
Once you have finished making your custom keyboard shortcut, go ahead and go to an application and an appropriate scenario to test out the keyboard shortcut. If you follow the example we use of creating a ‘rename’ keyboard shortcut, then you simply open any file within an app like TextEdit or Preview (or any other app that supports the File > Rename option) and hit the appropriate keyboard shortcut to initiate that function, in this case it’s renaming the file that is currently opened and in the foreground.
We have used variations of custom keystrokes in many prior tips, including to perform actions like setting a keyboard shortcut for Save as PDF, making new emails with an attachment via keystroke, using Save As on Mac versions that removed the keystroke, and much more. The options are broad and vast, encompassing system functionality, default apps, and third party apps, if it’s in a menu you can turn it into a keystroke.
Making Custom Mac Keyboard Shortcuts for All Applications vs Specific Applications
A brief explanation on using All Applications versus a specific app when setting up custom keystrokes:
- Create a custom keyboard shortcut for ALL Applications – choosing “All Applications” will allow that keyboard shortcut to be used in every single app that has the menu item option. This is most relevant to common shared menu items, like things found in the File and Edit menus on all Mac apps
- Create a custom keyboard shortcut for a specific application – choosing a specific app will create that keyboard shortcut confined to the selected application. This is helpful if you’re using a particular menu item quite often in one application, for example to flip a picture or zoom a window, or some other app specific menu item
Is this a great trick or what? Mac power users have been using custom keyboard shortcuts for many years, but as you can see it’s not particularly difficult to set these up, so even if you’re more of a novice user you should be able to get some use out of this tip.
Do you make custom keyboard shortcuts on your Mac? Do you have any particularly helpful keystrokes or keyboard shortcuts you use that you’d like to share with other users? Let us know in the comments!