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There’s a huge array of keyboard shortcuts baked into macOS, but there’s always room for more. New shortcuts can be a godsend if you spend most of your day in a particular app – or want to access a tool across all programs. Here’s how to create a keyboard shortcut in macOS.
First, check if a shortcut already exists and, if it’s not too complicated, learn it off by heart. I’d definitely recommend doing this for shortcut-heavy apps such as Adobe InDesign and Photoshop – a lot of thought has been put into simplifying the processes so it’s worth sticking to the defaults. Yes, they can be a pain to master, but they’ll quickly become second nature.
To see if a handy shortcut already exists, open a menu and it will be listed next to the option (such as Save and Print). However, if you’re not familiar with Mac symbols, these can look like unintelligible hieroglyphics. Here’s a quick decoder:
⌥: Alt, which is sometime called the Option key
⌘: Command, or simply Cmd
If, however, there’s a task for which a shortcut doesn’t exist, let’s get started…
How to create a keyboard shortcut in macOS
As an example, I’m going to create a shortcut that simply restarts your Mac, saving you a couple of clicks. However, you can also create app-specific shortcuts, which I’ll show you how to do along the way.
To begin, head to System Preferences by clicking on the Apple logo in the top-left of the screen and selecting the option from the menu. In the settings window that appears, select Keyboard.
Once you’re in the Keyboard section, click on the Shortcuts tab and then App Shortcuts (the bottom option of the left-hand list).
To add a shortcut, click on the + button. The following box will appear.
You have two main options. You can either select a specific application from the top drop-down menu to create a shortcut that only exists in that app (for example, a shortcut that mutes a website in Google Chrome or brings up your games library in Steam) or set a system-wide shortcut. We’re going to do the latter and make a shortcut that restarts the Mac whatever app you’re in.
Enter the exact name of the menu item into the second box. For us, it will be “Restart…”, but for the two app-specific examples given above, it would be Mute Site and View Games Library. Make sure you type it in correctly.
Now it’s time for the main event: entering the keyboard shortcut. Click on the final box and perform the shortcut you want to set – there’s no need to type out the names of the keys. For this article, I’m going to use Cmd+Shift+Alt+R to restart my Mac.
The symbols will then appear and it’s worth double-checking just to make sure it’s correct. If you’re happy, click Add. Your shortcut will now appear in the System Preferences list (you can always remove it by selecting the item on the list and then clicking the “–” button).
All that’s left to do is start using your shortcut and save precious seconds.
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