Apple logo.

Frustrated because there’s not a keyboard shortcut for a command you constantly use in a Mac app? You can create one in System Preferences!

First, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner, and then select “System Preferences.”

In “System Preferences,” click “Keyboard,” and then click the “Shortcuts” tab.

Click “App Shortcuts” in the sidebar.

Click the plus sign (+) to add a new shortcut.

A new window containing a drop-down menu and two text fields will appear. Click the dropdown labeled “Application” and select the Application for which you want to create a shortcut (we chose “Pages”).

Select the application you want to have a keyboard shortcut.

Next, open the app and look for the exact name of the menu command you want to turn into a shortcut. We chose “Page Thumbnails” from the “View” menu, as it doesn’t already have a keyboard shortcut.

We clicked "View" and "Page Thumbnails" to create a keyboard shortcut.

Return to the keyboard shortcut entry window and type in the exact name of the menu command you want to turn into a shortcut in the “Menu Title” box.

Then, click the “Keyboard Shortcut” box and type the shortcut you want to use to trigger it. We chose Shift+Command+K because it wasn’t already taken.

You can use almost any combination of Command, Option, and Control with any number, letter, or character key. You can also use Shift to make a unique combination.

Type the name of the menu command in the "Menu Title" box and the shortcut you want to use in the "Keyboard Shortcut" box.

Click “Add” and the popup will close. You’ll now see your shortcut listed in the “Keyboard” preferences. In the app, you should also see your new shortcut in the drop-down menu next to its associated command.

A keyboard shortcut next to "Page Thumbnails" in the "View" menu in "Pages."

From now on, whenever you press that key combination, the menu item you chose will be triggered.

If you want to remove a custom shortcut later, just revisit System Preferences > Keyboards > Shortcuts, select the custom shortcut in the list, and then press the minus sign (-).

Custom Mac Shortcut Tips

Creating a "Compress" shortcut for "All Applications" in Keyboard Preferences on Mac.

Keep the tips below in mind whenever you’re creating keyboard shortcuts:

  • When creating a shortcut, you must use the exact name of a menu item. This includes any capitalization, spaces, or punctuation.
  • The key combination you specify must be unique. If there’s a duplicate, one of the functions won’t execute properly.
  • If the keyboard shortcut you want to use is taken, try adding Shift, Control, or both. For example, instead of Command+V (which is reserved for pasting text), you could use Shift+Control+Command+V.
  • You can make universal keyboard shortcuts. Just select “All Applications” from the “Applications” list. Your shortcut will then work in any app that has the same menu item you type.
  • “Rename,” “Compress,” and “Bring All to Front” would all make useful shortcuts. These would come in handy for window management in many apps. “Compress” works in Finder, but it also might in other programs.

Keyboard shortcuts are a powerful feature to have in your Mac arsenal. Browse your favorite apps, and see what you come up with!

RELATED: 35+ Mac Text-Editing Keyboard Shortcuts to Speed Up Typing

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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