How to Change Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac

Keyboard shortcuts are very useful, but sometimes they don’t do exactly what you want. Read on to learn more about changing keyboard shortcuts on a Mac.

What are Keyboard Shortcuts?

Have you ever used Command and Q to quit a program, or Command and C to copy some content? Those are keyboard shortcuts. They are keys that you press instead of choosing a menu item or clicking on a button.

Keyboard shortcuts are especially useful for actions that we perform often. Cut, copy, paste, take a screenshot, quit, create new, for example.

For people who have trouble directing a mouse or a trackpad, or difficulty seeing or controlling the cursor, keyboard shortcuts are also very useful.

Not all commands are set up by default with corresponding keyboard shortcuts. Users can customize both the key combinations, and also the commands they perform. For Apple’s description of this process, see this document about Keyboard Shortcuts or this one about the Modifier Keys.

To see which keyboard shortcuts are available, click on a menu at the top of the screen. To the right of any particular menu item, there will be a listing of the keyboard shortcut equivalent if one exists. The keys that the symbols refer to are as follows and are referred to as modifier keys.

  • Command (or Cmd) – ⌘
  • Shift – ⇧
  • Option (or Alt) – ⌥
  • Control (or Ctrl) – ⌃
  • Caps Lock – ⇪
  • Function – Fn

⌘ ⇧ ⌥ ⌃ ⇪ Fn

Using these symbols, if you see that the keyboard shortcut for creating a new folder in Finder is ⌘ ⇧ N, you know to press the modifier keys Command and Shift along with the letter N and you will create a new folder.

Change Existing Shortcuts

Open System Preferences on your Mac. Select Keyboard. Click on Shortcuts.

There are seven categories of shortcuts listed on the left hand side of the window. For the purpose of this post, we will look first at Screenshots.

In the Screenshots section, there are 5 default keyboard shortcuts. Each activates a different functionality of the Screen Shot app. These existing keyboard shortcuts can be turned on or off by clicking on the checkmark next to each. To change the keys used for the shortcut, click on the key combination and type a new combination.

Add new Keyboard Shortcuts

Moving to App Shortcuts, users will be able to add keyboard shortcuts to menu items that don’t have shortcuts yet. Click on the + to add a shortcut. Click on All Applications to view a list of applications on this computer and choose the one you want.

For this example, in the Mail app, we are going to add a Keyboard Shortcut that will create a PDF from the selected email. The menu item we are adding a keyboard shortcut to is called Export as PDF…

In the Shortcuts system settings we specify the menu title and the shortcut we want to use. Option Command G. Click Add.

This new shortcut will now be displayed here in the settings and also in the Mail Menu.

If you would like help with this process, just call or email and we’ll be happy to assist you! If you have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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