Creating Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac Menu Items

Everybody loves a good shortcut. Not only do they save time, but they look impressive when you’re doing work and someone catches an action on screen but can’t tell how you made it happen.

When you pull down a menu within a program, certain actions have a given keyboard combination next to them. While tons of applications built for Mac come loaded with shortcuts meant to make the user experience easier, there are certain functions that just don’t get the same love. If you find yourself using those particular options on a regular basis and would like to stop searching the menu bar for it every time you need it, then consider defining your own shortcut for the action in question.

To create a shortcut, you’ll need to open up your System Preferences from the Apple menu.

From here, you’ll want to select “Keyboard” from the Hardware heading.

System Preferences - Select Keyboard

Once you’re into Keyboard menu, you’ll be presented with two tabs: “Keyboard” and “Keyboard Shortcuts.” Select Keyboard Shortcuts.

From the sidebar, select Application Shortcuts.

Add Keyboard Shortcuts

Then click the “+” button to add a new keyboard shortcut.

From the drop down list, select the application you’d like to add a shortcut to.

In the Menu Title text box, type in the name of the action that you want to create a keyboard shortcut for. Make sure to type the name exactly as it appears.

In the Keyboard Shortcut text box, you will be able to define the exact keystrokes you would like to hit to perform the given command within the application. If the shortcut you choose is already taken by another command it will override it, so make sure your keystroke of choice is available or you know what you’re replacing.

Setting the Keyboard Shortcut

Click Add when you are satisfied with your setting.

Now when you open up your application and take a look at the drop down menu that houses your command, you should see a keyboard shortcut next to it. Here is the before and after in the example I used, adding a shortcut to Zoom in the web browser RockMelt.


Before adding a shortcut


Newly defined keyboard shortcut

As you can see, my shortcut is now listed in the menu. Of course, it works when you perform the keystrokes as well.

Sometimes the shortcuts that come with an app aren’t exactly helpful to a user’s specific situation. You can also use this process to modify an existing shortcut if you find an easier combination of keystrokes easier to remember than the default setting. Follow the same steps as above and simply type in the name of the command that you would like to change the shortcut for. Similarly, if you find yourself needing to perform a given task regardless of what application you may be in, you can define a universal shortcut that will work in all applications. If this is the case, follow the steps above and select All Applications from the Application drop down menu when creating a new shortcut.

However you choose to use this tutorial, it promises to make your life easier – one shortcut at a time.

Image credit: By Vintuitive

AJ Dellinger

AJ Dellinger is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. He's been described as amazing, flawless, the best, and extremely modest. His work can be found at Digital Trends, Mac|Life Magazine, Gamezebo, and many others. Follow him on Twitter, @ajdell.