Why Would I Want To Do This?
There is no shortage of ways to launch an application on your Mac. While you can add items to your dock for clicking or dig through your Applications folder, there is no substitute for a quick keyboard shortcut, a custom key combination that when triggered will open up your application of choice. Keyboard shortcuts are useful because they don’t require you to remove your hands from your keyboard while typing to navigate around with your mouse or trackpad. Use of keyboard shortcuts within your apps is handy, why not use them to launch your programs as well?
The easiest way I have found to create keyboard shortcuts is with a handy free utility available from the Mac App Store called Snap. It’s one of those apps that does exactly what it is supposed to do without excessive complexity. Yes, there are a million launcher utillities and keyboard macro programs out there and indeed they are super powerful but Snap does a great job, simply.
Set Your General Preferences
Once you have installed the application from the App Store and run it for the first time, you’ll want to define your preferences to make Snap work how you want it to.
- Click on the Snap Menu Item and choose Preferences from the drop down menu.
- Go ahead and set the Start Snap at login option to on – this will make sure that it’s always ready to accept your shortcuts.
- I like the menu bar icon on (although I will move it down to my Bartender Bar).
In addition to custom keyboard shortcuts which we’ll get to in our next step, Snap will also open up items in your dock using the key you specify in the lower preference area – for example command / ⌘ as shown above, so ⌘ 1 will launch the first item in the dock, ⌘ 3 will open the third item.
In my actual usage I rarely use my dock and don’t keep programs there for launching purposes but I can see this being really handy for a handful of apps that you use regularly.
Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts – Step 1
What we’re really looking for is the ability to create our own keyboard shortucts.
- Click on the Manual tab which will show you any pre-existing shortcuts you have made.
- Click the + to add a new shortcut to Snap.
Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts – Step 2
Clicking the + will open up your default Applications folder, you can move to another location if necessary.
- Single click to select the application you are wanting to associate with your new shortcut. I have chosen xScope in the example above.
- Choose the key combination you wish to use for this shortcut by placing your cursor in the shortcut key box and then typing out the desired shortcut. It will appear in the box as you create it. In this example I have assigned alt – shift – x to be the desired shortcut.
- Click the Open button to complete the set up.
Confirm and Test Your New Shortcut
I think this is a great time to test the new shortcut we’ve just created since you’ve got the key combination right there and it’s still accessible if you need to make any changes. In this case pressing the alt-shift-x does indeed bring up my xScope palette.
What’s really handy is that once you have the application started and running, using the key combination will bring the already running application to the front and while active, hitting the combination again will hide the application. This makes it really easy to pull up frequently used applications and to quickly access and hide them during the course of your day.
As mentioned, Snap is a free download from the Mac App Store and fills a nice gap for those who are looking to become more keyboard savvy and want access to their frequently used apps quickly and easily.