The Mac is well known for encouraging people to use keyboard shortcuts and, thanks to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, developers program shortcuts into their apps consistently. That way, you can often learn once and expect similar experiences across applications.

Also, as you explore application menus to learn their shortcuts, you can start practicing a shortcut without leaving the menu it’s in. This differs from Windows, where keyboard shortcuts are nonfunctional while a menu is open.

Plus, did you know you’re not limited to the shortcuts that come with each application? Where a shortcut you want doesn’t exist, it’s really easy to create your own.

March Forth

These three amazing prints from Christopher David Ryan grace the wall above my desk, a regular inspiration of design and creativity. Do you understand the hidden meaning?

These are some of the most common shortcuts on the Mac that are preprogrammed. You’ll consistently find them in the File and Edit menus of most applications.

Missing Actions

In System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts, you can create App Shortcuts. For example, in Mac Mondays: Gone Fishing, I mentioned Apple’s directive to send Apple-related phishing emails by forwarding as an attachment.

However, this command in Mail’s Message menu lacks a keyboard shortcut. Since I receive and report these emails often enough, I created one with Shift+Command+Option+F.

To make your own, click the +, choose the assigned application, type the exact menu command in the Menu Title field, click in the shortcut field, and press the desired key or combination of keys. Click Add and the shortcut will be available to use instantly.

Commanding Change

Sometimes a command has a different shortcut than the one you want to use. A developer might even change a command from one shortcut to another when updating their app, like when Apple released macOS Mojave and changed the key for looking at an individual picture in Photos.

Prior to Mojave, Photos used the spacebar to show and hide the Viewer, mimicking the user experience with Quick Look. I was appalled when I discovered Photos changed to Return for this toggle and immediately sought to revert.

Note: Oddly, you cannot just press the spacebar in the shortcut field. To get Space assigned as the shortcut, press fn+Space. For menu choices that toggle dynamically between two commands, like Open Viewer and Close Viewer, make sure to create a separate shortcut for each.

When creating shortcuts, a custom shortcut will always take precedence over a default shortcut. Also, it’s vital that you type the menu title exactly, including uppercase and lowercase letters and any other characters. To access the ellipsis character, don’t just type three periods; press Option+Semicolon.

Let me know if you’re struggling with setting a custom keyboard shortcut. I’m happy to help.