A Shortcut to Shortcuts

Petter Silfver
May 29, 2017 · 2 min read

It might seem a bit old school, but I still use Keyboard.prefpane in System Preferences on macOS to manually add application specific keyboard shortcuts. Most of the applications that I use for automation are a bit over the top for just defining a simple keyboard shortcut.

Unfortunately, Keyboard.prefpane is also far from ideal. Adding shortcuts can be a real test of patience when the path in the menu bar is long and complex. For example, I have this shortcut defined for Sketch.app under the App Shortcuts category:

shift+cmd+opt+3
Plugins->Automate->Arrange->Order Layers By ...->Position Y

The main obstacles are normally:

All this is performed using narrow input fields that doesn’t seem to have gotten any attention since the day they were conceived.

Shortcut to Shortcuts

Here’s a visualisation of how one could imagine and hopefully improve the creation of keyboard shortcuts directly in the menu bar.

I’ve simply reused two already established design patterns:

This would enable users to define shortcuts for actions as they find them in the menu bar, instead of moving over to a separate application. Options with already defined shortcuts would say “Edit Shortcut” as the trigger key is pressed, and use the same modal view for editing.

If there is someone out there who would actually build this, consider me your first paying customer.


On a different note: I spend all my time and attention between 9am and 6pm designing experiences for other people. Improving My Everyday with Design is where I’m in the limelight.

Improving My Everyday with Design

I spend all my time and attention between 9am and 6pm designing experiences for other people. This is where I’m in the limelight.

Petter Silfver

Written by

Head of User Experience at Volvo Car Mobility (previously R/GA and Doberman)

Improving My Everyday with Design

I spend all my time and attention between 9am and 6pm designing experiences for other people. This is where I’m in the limelight.