How to Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts on Mac

Last Updated: October 12, 2016

Macs come with some really great trackpad gestures, and a ton of amazing Mac keyboard shortcuts that are bound to increase your productivity on the machines. There are basically two kinds of keyboard shortcuts: global, and app specific. The global shortcuts work everywhere inside macOS, while the app specific shortcuts only work inside the apps that support them. If you use an app (say, Google Chrome) a lot, and you want to create custom shortcuts for it, you’re in luck! In this article, I will walk you through the process of creating custom Mac keyboard shortcuts for apps. These can be apps included by Apple, or even third party apps that you have on your Mac.

Figuring Out the Action You Want

Shortcuts are basically a quick way to make an app or perform some action. For example, in Chrome, pressing Cmd + D acts as a shortcut to add the current tab to bookmarks. Cmd + Shift + D adds all the open tabs to bookmarks, and so on. While there are shortcuts for a lot of the actions that Chrome can perform, what if you wanted a Mac keyboard shortcut for an action that doesn’t have a defined shortcut?

Launch the app that you want to create the shortcut for. I’m using Google Chrome. We first need to identify the exact name for the action that we need a shortcut for. You can do this by going to “Help” in the menu bar, and searching for the option that you want. In my case, I’ll search for “Open all Bookmarks“.

custom mac keyboard shortcuts

Create the Custom Keyboard Shortcut

1. Next, open System Preferences, and go to Keyboard -> Shortcuts -> App Shortcuts

custom mac keyboard shortcuts

2. Click on the Plus icon, and select “Google Chrome” in the “Application” drop down menu.

custom mac keyboard shortcuts

3. Type the exact name of the option you want to create a shortcut for. In my case, I’ll type “Open all Bookmarks“.

custom mac keyboard shortcuts

4. In the Keyboard Shortcut text box, press the keys that you want to use for the shortcut, but make sure you don’t use any of the system shortcuts, as they may cause a conflict. I’m using Cmd + Opt + Shift + A, and Click on add.

custom mac keyboard shortcuts

Now, you can go to Google Chrome, and try out your brand new shortcut, and you will see that all the bookmarked tabs open up. You can create custom shortcuts for any of the actions available in the menus for an app, so play around with them a bit.

Note: You can even go to Bookmarks in the Chrome menu bar, and you will see your shortcut listed next to the menu entry for “Open All Bookmarks”.

custom mac keyboard shortcuts

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

If your shortcut does not work, you should check out the following things, to make sure that everything is fine.

1. The first thing you can try, is restarting the app you created the shortcut for. If the shortcut still doesn’t work, move on to the next step.

2. Check the name of the option, and make sure you have spelled it exactly the same as it is written in the app. If there are any mistakes, you can simply delete the shortcut that you created, and create a new shortcut.

3. If you have spelled everything right, and the shortcut is still not working, chances are you picked out a keyboard shortcut that is already in use by another app, or by macOS itself. In this case, you will need to remove the shortcut that you created, and create a new one, making sure that you use a key combination that is not in use by another app.

SEE ALSO: How to Set Up Custom Gestures on Mac using Better Touch Tool

Create Your Own Custom Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Now that you know how you can create custom keyboard shortcuts on your Mac, you should go right ahead, and create shortcuts for all the apps that you use most commonly. However, don’t create a lot of shortcuts, because with the increase in the number of custom shortcuts, the chances that you create a conflicting key combination also increases.

Have you ever wanted to create custom keyboard shortcuts on your Mac? How did you do it? Did you use the method we discussed in this article, or did you go with a third party app? We would like to know about your experience with creating custom keyboard shortcuts on your Mac. Also, if you face any problems, or if you think we missed out on a simpler method to create custom keyboard shortcuts on Mac, do let us know in the comments section below.


Akshay has been a gadget freak since longer than he cares to admit and loves everything to do with technology. When he's not fanboying over the latest and greatest in the tech universe, he watches Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.