How often do you use an application and find yourself clicking on a toggle or button and wishing, “Ugh! I wish there was a command key to do this!”
There are utilities available like KeyBoard Maestro or QuicKeys that allow you to do this, but starting with Mac OS X ‘Lion’ 10.7 Apple seriously beefed up the ability of the OS to create custom command key equivalents for menu items.
As an audio post production engineer, one application I use all day is AVID’s Pro Tools. As in most quality programs, it has commands keys for just about anything… but not exactly everything!
For example, when editing audio regions, I want as much screen real-estate as possible dedicated to showing the waveform. If you look at Figure 1, you’ll see two bins on the left and right of the edit window called “Track List” and “Clip List” respectively. Hiding these provides a larger waveform editing window, but as you can see there is no command key toggle.
Let’s create our own!
Under the Apple menu in the upper left corner of the screen, select “System Preferences”. From the second row of icons select ‘Keyboard”. From there you’ll see two buttons, “Keyboard” or “Keyboard Shortcuts”. Select “Keyboard Shortcuts”.
In the left panel you’ll see a list of services and applications from Apple and on the right a list of systemwide command keys for those services.
In the left column, select “Application Shortcuts”. By default, the only listing on the right will be “Show Help Command”. To add commands for Pro Tools, click the Plus Button (+). This will cause a dialog to drop down with more options.
Click the popup menu next to “Applications”. Pro Tools won’t be in the list, but if you scroll to the bottom there is an option for “Other”. From there you can navigate and select the Pro Tools application.
The box for “Menu Title” wants to see input in the following format: Main Menu->Submenu1->Submenu2… etc. For our example (hiding the “Track List”), the menu path is View->Other Displays->Track List, so type that into “Menu Title”.
The last thing to enter is your new command key. Personally, all my custom command keys begin with “Shift-Control”. I have found few (if any) Mac Applications that use this key combination, but feel free to use whichever combination you want as long as it doesn’t conflict with some other application command.
When you’re finished, the window should look similar to Figure 2.
Hit “Add” to close the dialog box. You should now see the new entry for your command key (Figure 3).
Open Pro Tools and confirm the new menu command key! Now you can add commands for a wide variety of menu options that by default don’t have shortcuts! Some of my favorites are toggling the View on I/O, Plugins and reverb sends.
Adding command keys to your often used apps will not only make working on your Mac more enjoyable, but will allow you to work faster, which is critical when a client is paying for your services!