Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Custom keyboard shortcuts

I frequently add comments to both Word documents and PDFs. In Word, there’s an “Insert Comment” menu command and in Preview (the software I use to view PDFs) there’s a “Thought Bubble” menu command.

Another thing I frequently do is save my documents as I work on them. To do so, I press the Cmd-S keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-S in Windows) instead of using the command in the File menu. Using menus slows me down, which is why I’ve memorized quite a few keyboard shortcuts, including the ones almost everybody knows – copy, cut, paste, quit, close and so forth.

Cmd-S, like the other shortcuts mentioned at the end of the preceding paragraph, is a standardized shortcut. You can even see it beside the word “Save” in the File menu of just about any software you use to create documents of any kind.

But what if you want to use shortcuts for less common menu items, like Comment or Thought Bubble, and your software doesn’t provide shortcuts for those commands?

Fortunately, you can create your own shortcuts. Software like Word gives you the opportunity to create shortcuts for a variety of things. For instance, if I want to turn text into a Heading 1, I press the Ctrl-1 shortcut. I programmed similar shortcuts for Headings 2, 3 and so forth, as well as the Normal style.

On the Mac, you can create shortcuts at the system level for specific programs as well as the exact same menu option if it is spelled exactly the same way in several different programs. In my case, I use Ctrl-C to both insert comments in Word documents and to insert thought bubbles in PDFs using Preview.

(I couldn’t find similar features in Windows 8.1. If anybody knows where they might be, please let me know – though I suspect you can download software that adds this feature to Windows.)

If you want to work more quickly and efficiently on your computer, learning and using keyboard shortcuts is the best option you have.

Interested in creating keyboard shortcuts on your Mac? There’s a great short explanation in the short video below.