Adding Custom Menu Keyboard Shortcuts

If a menu item in an app doesn't have a keyboard shortcut, you can always add one through System Preferences. You can also change keyboard shortcuts for menu items that already have one. This is a built-in system function so it works with almost any app.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with On today's episode let's look at adding your own custom keyboard shortcuts to menu items.

A common thing I'm asked is why there is no keyboard shortcut for some menu item. So for instance I was recently asked in Mail here if you want to access the field for Cc you've got no shortcut. For bcc you've got a shortcut but there is no shortcut here for cc.

Well the thing a lot of people don't realize is that you can create your own. You can set this. And this isn't something special in Mail. This works in any app that uses Menu here at the top.

So let's, as an example, create a shortcut here for the Cc Address Field. It's really easy to do.

We're going to do this first by carefully noting what the exact text of this field is here. So it's Cc, space, Address, space, Field. We're going to remember that and we're going to go to System Preferences. In System Preferences we'll go to Keyboard and then we'll go to Shortcuts.

Shortcuts here has a whole list of different things including App Shortcuts at the bottom. We can add our own app shortcut and we want to set it for a specific application in this case. We could set it for All Applications but it is unlikely that other apps are going to have this exact same menu item. In other cases you may want to do that.

But I'm going to select Mail here and I'm going to type in exactly what I saw. It has got to be perfect. So if anything you've missed, any space or the exact spelling of a word, it is not going to be there. And I'm going to do Command Option C and I'm going to hit Add.

You can see it adds it here. It adds Mail app to the list of shortcuts. You can expand and collapse these. It says Cc Address Field is Option Command C.

Now if I switch back to Mail here and go to View, sure enough there it is. It just added it right there. So now I can actually use that keyboard shortcut instead of selecting here I can do Option Command C and you can see it adds or removes the Cc field.

So you can not only do that to create shortcuts for something that is missing like for instance Expand AllConversations or Collapse All Conversations. You can add those as keyboard shortcuts as well. But you can change ones that are there.

So I can, for instance, if I wanted to get the Bcc Address Field and change that to something else I can do that as well. Go to System Preferences and create a new app shortcut for Mail and I get the exact spelling there. I'm going to do something a little different and add the Control key to that and I'm going to hit Add.

Now when I go in here, go to View, you can see that it has altered that one. So you can't remove them but you can actually go ahead and alter what they are.

One thing to be mindful of is some Menu item shortcuts are actually set dynamically. For instance, in Safari here if I were to go to Bookmarks and Favorites notice that I've got these shortcuts here for some of my favorites. These are very handy. Option Command 1, Option Command 2, etc. These are actually set by the order of things in your Bookmarks' Favorites folder. You can actually see them. If I go here I can see the Favorites bar here. If I go Show Favorites it will come up in the same order here. If I Edit Bookmarks they will come up here.

So if I were to switch Apple and iCloud, for instance, now iCloud is first. If I go to this menu, Favorites, you can see iCloud is there. So don't get frustrated trying to change these or look for similar things in other apps that you use where they are populated automatically and changing them is not going to work through System Preferences. But there is actually an easier way to change or modify those inside the app.

Comments: 19 Responses to “Adding Custom Menu Keyboard Shortcuts”

    Bruce Holland
    12/17/15 @ 1:44 pm

    Hi Gary. Can you help. I followed your instructions on this video. In Pages I tried to set up a short cut for “Start Speaking”. I set it up only for Pages. The short cut I entered was shift/option/z. It shows up when I go to Edit/Speech/Start Speaking as you said it would. But when I use I highlight a piece of text in Pages and push the keys “Shift/option/Z” the text just disappears. Can you help please.

      12/17/15 @ 1:52 pm

      Try using a different shortcut that uses the Command key in addition to others. I think you are just typing that character.

    Print Path
    12/17/15 @ 2:22 pm

    Hi Gary, In pages I would love to make a shortcut for things that have 2 layers of choice. For example, “Mask with Shape” and then “Rounded Rectangle”. Is that possible? I tried both ‘command M’ and ‘alt M’ for “Mask with Shape” without success.
    Thanks for this great post Gary!

      12/17/15 @ 2:30 pm

      Doesn’t matter how deep the menu item is. Try a more obscure shortcut as those are probably already in use.

    12/17/15 @ 2:27 pm

    I tried to add shortcut to Quicken. I tried “Print Checks…” and used commd-opt-P. Doesn’t appear in menu and doesn’t work. Where have erred???

      12/17/15 @ 2:31 pm

      Did you try three periods? You’ll probably need to do a true ellipsis character. That’s Option plus the ; key.

        12/17/15 @ 2:43 pm

        Tried the ellipsis, still no shortcut.

    12/17/15 @ 2:34 pm

    which should be chosen in preferences, Text Boxes and lists only or All controls?

      12/17/15 @ 2:39 pm

      That’s for Keyboard Access, nothing to do with these shortcuts.

    12/17/15 @ 2:37 pm

    Tried the ellipsis character, still no shortcut.

      12/17/15 @ 2:38 pm

      Maybe there is a conflict. Try a more obscure character sequence.

        12/17/15 @ 2:46 pm

        Tried Contr-opt-P, still not shortcut. I checked all the other shortcuts in order to avoid any possible conflict.

          12/17/15 @ 3:06 pm

          Could just be a problem with Quicken then.

    jasper robinson
    12/18/15 @ 7:06 am

    Most of the problems that I have with shortcuts are the result of shortcut clashes (i.e., the same shortcut being used for two purposes). This could be avoided if there were a way to view all of the currently-used shortcuts to allow manual checking – is this possible please?

      12/18/15 @ 8:47 am

      I don’t know of any way. Some apps have hundreds of them, and some people have hundreds of apps. So that would be a long list.

    Tripp Frohlichstein
    12/21/15 @ 10:55 am

    Using Keynote, I regularly need to use an advanced option to get to “character fill color.” I can’t find it in the menu bar. It takes three clicks every time. Is there a way to set up a keyboard shortcut using the basic Mac functions or do I need to get another app?

      12/21/15 @ 10:59 am

      What are you trying to do, exactly? Do you want to set the character fill color to something specific? If so, look into using styles in Keynote.

    1/6/16 @ 12:57 pm

    Any way to get a shortcut (or is there) to toggle between the Notification Center tabs: Today and Notifications

Comments Closed.