How To Use Hot Keys To Launch Applications in OS X

If you need to quickly launch a program in OS X, you can use the Launchpad interface, or more quickly find it in Spotlight or use a link in the Dock. However, another option that might be particularly useful for some utilities is to simply bind them to a hot key shortcut. For example, common utilities you many need when troubleshooting problems in OS X include Activity Monitor, Disk Utility, Console and Terminal. If you regularly access these or other programs, you may want to have these at your fingertips, and binding each to a hot key may help.

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To do this, you will need to make an Automator workflow that will open the desired application. Once you save this workflow as a service, then you can easily bind it to a hot key in System Preferences.

We’ve narrated these steps below, so be sure to check them out:

1. Open Automator, and create a new Service workflow. Set the workflow’s parameters (located at the top of the window) to receive “no input” from “any application”.

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2. Search for and drag the action called “Launch Application” to the workflow area. Set the program to be opened from the drop-down menu (Google Chrome in all the example photo below) and then save this workflow with a relevant name.

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3. The final step is to go to the Shortcuts section of the Keyboard System Preferences, and select the Services section. This section will list a number of built-in and third-party services available for use, and it will also list the custom ones created in Automator under General. All you need to do is located the one you created, and click the “Add Shortcut” button that appears when you select it. Now just enter your desired hotkey/shortcut; it can be absolutely anything. But we’d advise you to make a unique one.

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A few other shortcuts that we recommend using are sequenced hot keys such as “Control + Option + Command + 1″, or “Control + Option + Command + 2″, etc, or using the Function keys (depending on your Mac, you may have to hold down the Fn key to activate these). An example is to use the “Option + Command + Tilde” hotkey for Activity Monitor, since it is also close to the “Option + Command + Esc” hot key for Force Quit – but any hot key that doesn’t conflict with other assignments will do.

You can repeat this setup to create specific shortcuts to open for any additional programs that you frequently use. Let us know if you have any handy hotkey that you are using.