Launch Mac Apps With Custom Keyboard Shortcuts and Automator

Automator Launch AppsIn another post recently we showed you the basics of Automator, a Mac tool for automating tasks. However, besides the basic stuff you can do with Automator, you can actually accomplish a lot more with it that might not be obvious by just following the ‘usual’ instructions.

In this entry we’ll show you how to use Automator to create keyboard shortcuts to launch applications on your Mac, which should prove very useful since most Mac apps can’t be launched by custom shortcuts.

Let’ get started.

First, open Automator and choose to create a new document. From the available options (where you can choose a Workflow, Application and such), select Service.

Automator Service

Once you do, you will be shown the Actions library. There, search for Utilities and select it. Then, on the panel to the right, look for the Launch Application action (use the search field at the top of the window if you can’t find it) and then click on it and drag it into the rightmost panel, where you will create your workflow.

Automator Launch Application Action

Automator Action Dragged

You will now notice a small panel above the action you just dragged. There you can tweak a couple of variables. Where it says Service receives, select no input. Then, to the right, select any application.

Automator Variables

After that, head to the action you dragged in the first place and select the application you want to launch from the drop-down panel. For this example, I’ll use Clear, a really nice task management app that we have covered before.

Automator Choose App

Before closing Automator (don’t worry, we’ll create the keyboard shortcut in a moment), save the service you just created using a name that is easy to remember.

Automator Save Service

Once your newly-created service is saved, open your Mac’s Preferences and go to the Keyboard menu. There, head to the Shortcuts tab and click on Services on the left panel.

Prefs Keyboard

Then, on the right one look for the service you just created (Hint: In most cases, the services you create with Automator can be located under General).

Preferences Create Shortcut

Select your service and you will see an Add Shortcut button appear. Click on it to set the keyboard shortcut you want to use to launch the app.

Important Note: Make sure to use a unique one, since I found that OS X Mavericks will favor an application’s native shortcuts if they are the same as the one you created.

And there you go. Up until a short while ago, I thought it was not possible to create your own shortcuts to open apps on your Mac in a simple manner. Of course, you could always use third party apps like Better Touch Tools for example, but as you can see, Automator is a very powerful tool that provides a native way to take care of this issue without having to fiddle with external software. So try it out and tell us what you think!

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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