Mac OS X Keyboard Layout, Keymapping, Keybinding, Tools

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Mac OS X Keyboard Layout, Keymapping, Keybinding, Tools

Xah Lee, 2011-06-05

This page is a collection of methods and utilities for keybinding, keymapping, for Mac OS X.

The list are from most simple to more advanced.

Swapping Modifiers

This is builtin. See: Mac OS X: How to Swap Control, Caps Lock, Option, Command Keys.

For more advanced modifier remapping (e.g. distinguish left Control vs right Control, remap Esc key, map Menu key, …), see: KeyRemap4MacBook @ Source

Adding/Changing Keyboard Shortcut in a Specific App

Mac OS X since 10.4 lets you do that. Just go to System Preferences, Keyboard & Mouse, Keyboard Shortcuts. Then click the + sign at button. See: Mac OS X 10.5 Help: Creating keyboard shortcuts for applications @ Source

Note: This mechanism is not very flexible. For example, it only lets you create a key for a action that has a menu. Also, once you created a hotkey, the original shortcut will be lost. You can't create a shortcut from any key on the numerical keypad. (that is, if you don't use the number pad to enter numbers, you can't turn them into extra function keys.)

App Launchers, General Key Macro Utilities

• Free: Quicksilver (software). A app launcher. Assign hotkey to launch/switch/open apps or files. The hotkey can be single key (e.g. F1) or combo-key (e.g. 【Cmd+F1】).

Keyboard Maestro @ A basic key macro software. Good, but a bit expensive.

• QuicKeys @ (for Mac and Win). A comprehensive automation software, with key macro features, and also key macro recording abilities. I used it in 1990s for 10 years and find it the best. It was the number one most touted productivity enhancement software in Mac community. The company changed hand a few times over the years. The first Mac OS X version released around 2001 is not so good. Since then i haven't used it. Don't know how good it is today.

Microsoft IntelliType

Buy a Microsoft keyboard then use the bundled IntelliType Software. Note: depending on what keyboard model you buy, not all features of IntelliType will be available. But basically, if the keyboard cost $30 or more, or has many special keys, most features will be there.

Highly recommended. With this solution, you get a functional keyboard, and with a software that does all launcher/shortcut common needs. No need to spend hours tweaking keymaps or config files.

See: What Microsoft IntelliType Can Do and Cannot Do.

See Microsoft IntelliType Hacks for some advanced config hacking of IntelliType for Windows.

Setting Up Text Editor Keybinding Behavior; Hotkey to Insert Text

You can use Mac OS X's system-wide mechanism by creating a key config file DefaultKeyBinding.dict. See: Creating Keyboard Layout in Mac OS X.

Setting Up Key Layout for Typing Math Symbols, APL Keyboard, Unicode Characters

Use DefaultKeyBinding.dict. See: Creating Keyboard Layout in Mac OS X.

See also: How to Create a APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout.

Keybinding, Keymapping, in Emacs

If you use emacs on the Mac, see:

Advanced Key Interface Mapping; Low-Level Tools and Utilities

For Microsoft Windows, see: Keyboard Layout & Key Macro tools for Windows.

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