Best practices for choosing hotkeys?

I just made my first macro (yay me) and linked it to the F5 hotkey and that works great and seems to work well in Finder or in any app that I'm in.

I'd like to make a few more like that - but would like advice about what keystrokes work well, without conflicting with other stuff. I don't want to set stuff up only to find out that it does something crazy if I try to use it in a web browser or a word processor or whatever. Any advice appreciated.

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Using Control key with an additional key, ie Ctrl-A, is a good choice.

If you use Karabiner, you can also use the Caps lock key to have more options with even less conflicts.

It depends mostly on what apps you use the most.
You can also restrict key combinations to work in only one app.


I guess control is rarely used by Mac apps and the Finder so that makes sense, thanks.

Karabiner looks really interesting, I'll have to look into it.

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Pretty stable app. My main use of Karabiner is to assign Capslock to F19.

I stole two of David Sparks tricks:

1 As suggested above, use Karabiner and assign, say, caps lock as a hyper-key. ⌘⇧⌥⌃. There’s a Karabiner rule that does this that you can download, which also allows the caps lock to work as a caps lock

When you have a bunch of macros that are variants of each other or are part of the same ‘context’ (job lot), give them all the same shortcut key, eg ⌘⇧⌥⌃ + j.

This will invoke the ‘conflict pallet’, which lists all of the macros. You can select the macro that you want by typing the macro’s name. I name mine with a unique initial number so that I only have to type that number to select it.

2 Answer to a different question but the same problem: you can use “;” with a string trigger. Eg “;desk”. I’ll never want to type “;desk” in a document so there’s never any confusion.

Oh, and you can set macros to only work in certain apps or when certain apps are open, etc. So you might be able to use the same shortcut in more than one app without problems.


This is indeed a great use for a caps lock key. Don't press hyper + . (full stop/period) though, the underlying key combination runs the sysdiagnose process (as I recall, when I "hit" upon this myself, the fans revved up and things slowed down overall till the process had finished).

Yep, just to underline that for clarity: typed string triggers are not being recommended here as an alternative to hotkeys (we are warned officially that "in a non-text typing context... the simulated delete keystrokes could be destructive").

That's certainly a key point! (Oh, no pun intended...)

The control key was mentioned earlier... I have always avoided using it without other modifiers for my own shortcuts since it does get used by some of Apple's apps that I use and also by MacOS for some handy built-in text-editing shortcuts.

There are some good tips here: manual:Tips [Keyboard Maestro Wiki]



+1 to all that @TomasWolpertinger mentioned, CapsLock, typed string, and the "conflict" palettes (bad name, great functionality)