A System For Global Keyboard Shortcuts

Written on March 14, 2009 – 3:20 pm | by Dan

I used to never use keyboard shortcuts, but these days a few of them are so ingrained in my brain that I can’t live without them. On the keyboards I use, the S key is beginning to fade. It starts with Command (or CTRL) + S. From there you begin copying and pasting with keyboard shortcuts and within a week you get a little irritated when you need to use the mouse for something, or when some application (for instance, some programs from Microsoft and Adobe) uses non-standard keyboard shortcuts.

But what about GLOBAL shortcuts? What do you do on your Mac (or PC) that you need to do no matter what application is active?

Music Playback

No matter if you use an app like Coversutra or just Quicksilver, once you begin to control iTunes with your fingertips you’ll never want to go back to the old way of stopping what you are doing, switching to iTunes, and picking up where you left off. Quickly muting, rating, and forwarding to the next song is a wonderful way to work without having to stop any flow.

On Macs, what’s worked for me is this:

CTRL+OPTION+(whatever you want here)

I’ve reserved CTRL+OPTION for iTunes functions (with the exception of Omnifocus for spacebar). Want to go forward? That’s CTRL+OPTION+Right Arrow. Rate the currently playing song 3 stars? CTRL+OPTION+3. Playback/Pause? CTRL+OPTION+P. It goes on like that and works for me.

Coversutra Shortcuts - 3/14/09

Keyboard shortcuts in Coversutra

Being able to quickly rate songs like this is essential to bending iTunes to your liking, I’ve argued.

Make some app active

There are some apps that sit in the background all day that you want open, but not active. For me these are typically messaging apps like Adium and Twitterrific. To bring these up, I just hit:

CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+(whatever you want here)

For instance, to bring up Adium I use CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+D. For Twitterrific I use CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+T

Not all apps let you assign a global shortcut like this. For those instances you could build a trigger in Quicksilver. I’ve switched to Launchbar which, unfortunately, doesn’t offer triggers. If you use the site-specific-browser Fluid you can assign each SSB a shortcut like this. I’ve assigned CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+R to Google Reader to it the active app when it’s running.

Other uses

Global shortcuts like this are really useful for actions you want to take right now. Task apps developers, like the people behind Omnifocus and Things, have made it easy for you to save an idea immediately after hitting a key combo.

The Quick Entry window in Things - by Flickr user Torley

If you want to do something quickly and get back to work, think of how you can get a global keyboard shortcut to do it.

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  1. 2 Responses to “A System For Global Keyboard Shortcuts”

  2. By Joel on Mar 15, 2009 | Reply

    Thanks for this.

    Coversutra rang a bell. Sure enough I had a license with a MacHeist-Update-thingy ~ and just never installed it.

    I’ve gone with your ctrl+opt+input idea, and so far I’m digging it.


  3. By Dan on Mar 15, 2009 | Reply

    I discovered Coversutra through Macheist too. I’m looking forward to when it incorporates a Genius shortcut. It’s kind of odd that none of the players I’ve looked at have done that yet.

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