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The function keys on your Mac’s keyboard are probably the least used of all. In fact, they’re so underused that by default when you press a function key it doesn’t act as a function key at all. Instead, it performs its other duty, whether that’s media playback control, brightness adjustment, or invoking Launchpad or Mission Control. To use a function key as a function key, you must hold down the fn button at the bottom left of your keyboard.

Change the behavior of function keys on your Mac

Nevertheless, function keys can be very useful if you customize them to do what you want them to do. Here’s how to create some of the best time-saving function key shortcuts for your Mac.

That’s about it for all things OS X keyboard-related. Apps for saving voicemail files to mac. It’s fairly easy to see why longtime Mac users are such enthusiastically emphatic keyboardists. Being able to not only use a keyboard shortcut to control system functions and application features, but also to add new shortcuts or change existing ones, are great powers to have.

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Use function keys without pressing fn

First thing first, let’s make function keys functional again:

  1. To reverse the default behavior of function keys, go to the Apple Menu and select System Preferences
  2. Click on the Keyboard pane
  3. Choose the Keyboard tab
  4. Check the box next to “Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys”

Customize function key shortcuts with preset actions

The easiest shortcut you can make is re-assigning function keys themselves to more useful actions:

  1. In System Preferences, choose the Keyboard pane
  2. Click on the Shortcuts tab
  3. Choose one of the categories on the left-hand side
  4. Select a preset from the list
  5. If the preset already has a shortcut assigned, click on it and tap the function key you want to use
  6. If it doesn’t have a shortcut assigned already, click Add Shortcut and tap the function key

If the function key you’ve chosen is already assigned to something else, you’ll see a yellow warning triangle appear next to it and the original shortcut. You will have to alter one of them to proceed.

Create function key shortcuts with custom actions

Now, to actually create shortcut combinations, do the following:

  1. Launch the app for which you want to add a shortcut
  2. Go to the menu that hosts the command you want to create a shortcut for and make a note of the precise name of the command
  3. Go to the Keyboard pane in System Preferences
  4. Select the Shortcuts tab
  5. Choose App Shortcuts
  6. Click the plus button
  7. From the All Applications drop down menu, choose the app for which you want to add the shortcut
  8. In the Menu Title box, type the name of the command exactly as it appears in the application’s menu
  9. Type the function key shortcut in the Keyboard Shortcut box

Now, whenever you’re in that app and tap the assigned function key, it will perform the specified command. For example, if you set up a shortcut to save a document as a template in Pages and assign it to the F1 key, then when you’re using Pages and press F1, the current document will be saved as a template.

If you want to go further than customizing function keys, there are several apps that can help you work faster and become even more productive.

Quick Tips: make your own shortcuts to work faster and more efficiently

Expand text with Rocket Typist

If you find yourself typing the same phrases over and over again in email messages or documents, Rocket Typist is your holy grail. It allows you to store organized snippets of text and recall them with custom abbreviations.

For example, instead of typing “Hello, my name is John Appleseed, I am a developer interested in…” you could just type “hmn” and Rocket Typist will fill out the rest. You could also find the pre-saved phrase in the app itself and paste it in that way.

Rocket Typist shows how minimal but productive a text expansion app can be.

Rocket Typist supports macros for things like time and date so you can be sure the current time and date will be placed in your document. And you can share snippets using AirDrop or Mail.

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Search intelligently with Lacona

Lacona is a bit like a keyboard version of Siri for those of us who don’t like talking to our Mac. Press the keyboard shortcut to invoke its text input bar and type a command, such as “search Amazon for bluetooth speakers” or “schedule lunch with Carol at 1pm tomorrow,” or even “play Born to Run.” As you type, Lacona will show a list of suggestions beneath the window, and you can use the arrow keys to navigate to and select the one you want.

Get a keyboard version of Siri

Automate your search on Mac with Lacona, an app that interprets what you’re typing and does what you’re asking for. Like Siri, only with text.

Lacona can also perform actions like copy, move, and rename on files in the Finder and activate system events like Empty Trash and Shutdown, it can create reminders and make calls, quit, activate and relaunch apps, and so much more, all by typing in its text bar. The app can even hook into third-party services, like IFTTT, so you can control those just by typing as well.

Create custom gestures with BetterTouchTool

Apple’s built-in gestures for the Trackpad and Magic Mouse are great, as far as they go. With BetterTouchTool (BTT) though you can take them much much further. The app allows you to create completely custom gestures and assign them to actions, which can be either global or application specific.

In addition, BetterTouchTool allows you to create custom keyboard sequences to trigger actions, and has its own built-in clipboard manager and screenshot tool. So you could, for example, set up a gesture to take a screenshot and then edit it right in BetterTouchTool instead of saving it to the Desktop.

Save multiple text snippets with Paste

Paste is a clipboard manager that allows you to store multiple items for pasting later. It then categorizes each copied item and places it in its own section of the clipboard, which you can easily change. Moreover, Paste syncs your clipboard in iCloud, meaning you can access its pinboard on multiple devices.

To paste an item you’ve copied into a document, just use Paste’s keyboard shortcut to view the pinboard, find the snippet of text, image, URL, or whatever else you’ve copied, copy it and then paste it into your file.

As you can see, your Mac’s keyboard can be customized in different ways. By creating shortcuts for function keys as well as combinations of other keys, you can start working much more quickly and save time. And using the apps listed above, all of which are available to download for free on Setapp, you can take your productivity to another level altogether.

The Shortcuts app, first introduced as an official Apple app with iOS 12, got a big boost with the release of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. Now a built-in part of the system, Shortcuts offers powerful tools for connecting first- and third-party apps with both each other and system features to help you get things done without a lot of hassle. In many cases, you just tap a button, a complicated series of actions take place, and you go about your day.

But Shortcuts can be intimidating to get into. There are so many options, it's hard to know where to begin (hint: it's the gallery). Even building a basic shortcut with one step can seem like an undertaking. But it's actually easier to get into than you might imagine (seriously, use the gallery).

Intro to Shortcuts

Shortcuts allows you to perform one or more tasks using both first- and third-party apps. Control HomeKit accessories, set up specialized, unique workflows with multiple apps, have Siri read out results of a particular action, and more. With iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, Shortcuts is becoming exponentially more powerful thanks to its integration directly into the system, rather than existing as a standalone app in the App Store.

Shortcuts can be simple and complicated. They can involve easy steps or a lot of variables and even some math. You can press the button for a shortcut to activate, or activate it using Siri.

Shortcuts and Siri

Siri can be an integral part of your Shortcuts experience. While you used to need to set a specific phrase for your shortcut manually, now, your shortcuts are able to be used with Siri without you creating an activation phrase on your own.

For example: I have a shortcut called End of Day. All I have to do is say 'End of Day' to Siri for that shortcut to run. I didn't have to record the name of the shortcut beforehand, it just became a part of the system.

With iOS 13.1, you can now take advantage of conversational interactions with Siri. These are multipart conversations that third-party developers can take advantage of for, among other things, multistep shortcut creation. So you can tell Siri to create a to-do in your task manager of choice, for instance, and if that app's shortcuts support it, Siri can follow up with different questions about things like title, due date, and list to use.

Shortcuts Basics

The great thing about shortcuts is that they can adapt to fit what you need. Do you need something simple? You can create easy one- and two-step actions. You can also create something more complicated with multiple conditional parameters, but that's for a different time.

For instance, maybe you want to take advantage of the updated Shortcuts integration in Things to create a really simple button that allows you to just start creating a new to-do. You just go into Shortcuts, tap the + button in the corner, then start adding and customizing actions.

If you're completely new to shortcuts and feeling a little intimidated, I'd recommend that you start off in the gallery, the tab on the right side of the Shortcuts app. It's filled with a library of shortcuts and shortcut suggestions that will really help you get started, and each shortcut can be easily modified to work into your specific needs.

Anatomy of a shortcut

After creating an initial shortcut or adding one from the gallery, you might find that, as it is, it doesn't do exactly what you're looking for. Maybe you want your to-do shortcut to always add an item to a specific list, or you want your 'Play music' action to shuffle a particular playlist.

Well, Shortcuts allows you to customize different parts of several of your available actions, all depending on what action you're looking to modify. Anything in blue text in Shortcuts is a parameter, and a parameter can be changed, either to a pre-defined option or a customized option you enter yourself.

To give you an example of the kind of customization you might see in a particular shortcut action, let's take a look at this shortcut for adding a new to-do item to Things.

This shortcut may seem simple on at first, and it is, to a certain extent, as it only consists of one shortcut action. But that action has been heavily modified to meet my particular specifications. This starts with the primary focus of the action, adding a task. By default, this particular action says 'Add to-do,' which I have changed by tapping the blue 'to-do' text and substitution with the 'Ask Each Time' option, resulting in what you see here.

Many actions have that same Show More button, which is your key to fine-tuning just what an action does.

As you can see, there are a number of parameters, such as on which list you want your to-do, when you want it, and its deadline, and when you should be reminded, and more. Tap each piece of blue text (and this applies to any part of any shortcut) to edit it, either with any offered pre-made options or your own custom parameter.

So, instead of asking for a list each time, this shortcut could automatically place new tasks into my Shopping list in the Things app, or Road Trip list. The same goes for things like a deadline and when you should be reminded about it.

These sorts of parameters can be found in actions across the Shortcuts app. The number will vary depending on which particular actions you choose.


Automations are shortcuts with a specific trigger. This could be the time of day, a travel circumstance such as leaving a location or arriving at one, it could be tied to something external, such as connecting to a particular pair of Bluetooth headphones or tapping on a specific NFC sticker or tag. It could also be something in the settings, such as activating low-power mode when you open a certain app.

Automations are great if you have repeated tasks each day, or just often. My favorite automation trigger is NFC, because you just wave your iPhone in front of the right NFC tag and it sets off a specific automation. For instance, as I work from home, I have two NFC tags set up for the beginning and end of my workday, one in my bedroom, one in my office.

When I'm ready to start working, I tap my iPhone to the tag in my room. This triggers my automation that not only turns off the lights in my room, but turns on the desk light in my office, as well as the Apple TV I have in there.

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One thing to be aware of when it comes to automations in Shortcuts is that they're not truly automations in the strictest sense of the word. They don't work on their own, and all need some kind of trigger. This is great for automations that run when you connect an accessory or tap an NFC tag, where you wouldn't expect them to run until you did something, but for things like time or location-based automations, it can be a frustrating experience.

Certain automations, those with what we'll call an 'active trigger,' (those that require you to do something, like tap a tag or connect to CarPlay), will offer you a switch called 'Ask Before Running.' If you have that switched flipped to the green 'on' position, you'll need to give explicit permission in the notification for the automation to run when its trigger is activated. If that switch is off, then your automation will just run when the trigger is tripped.

Automations with a 'passive trigger' like the time of day, entering or leaving a location, etc. don't have this option. All of these require your permission to run. A notification will pop up when the automation is triggered, and you can press and hold on the notification, then press the 'Run' button that pops up. This will cause your shortcut to run.

Hopefully, Apple will one day give us the option to have any automation start, well, automatically, regardless of whether we've done anything to start it, but for now, this is still a solid first step.


If you're completely new to shortcuts, this is where you should start.

The gallery is where you can find new, pre-made shortcuts. While many of us who delve into this app share shortcuts on Twitter, Reddit, and other forums, Shortcuts has its own built-in gallery that can be very useful both to new and veteran users alike

The gallery has a carousel at the top that changes periodically and showcases collections of shortcuts that work great with different features of iOS. There could be a collection that works great with Siri, or one with shortcuts that are great to have in the app's widget, or the share sheet. There's also a set of suggested automations, the tapping of which will run you through the setup process for a particular automation.

In the gallery, you'll also find personalized suggestions that pull in shortcuts from apps that you use all of the time. Tapping the + button next to the suggestion will let you just enter a name and set up the shortcut in a matter of seconds.

You'll also find a number of sections towards the bottom of the gallery. These sections have ready-to-add shortcuts that you can put in your library and modify to meet your specific desires. These could be essential shortcuts such as one for setting your iPhone's audio output, or quick shortcuts like opening a particular app on your Apple TV.

How to create a basic shortcut

The great thing about shortcuts is that they can adapt to fit what you need. Do you need something simple? You can create easy one- and two-step actions. You can also create something more complicated with multiple conditional parameters, but that's for a different time.

Now that you've learned about shortcuts, and maybe played around with a few from the gallery, here's how to make a shortcut of your own.

  1. Open Shortcuts on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap the + button in the upper-right corner.
  3. Tap Add Action. You'll be presented with a variety of options for your shortcut action.

  4. Tap one of the options presented to you.
    • Apps: This section features apps that work with Shortcuts. Tap it and tap an app if you have a specific one in mind for your shortcut.
    • Favorites: If you have any actions that you've marked as favorite, they'll appear under here.
    • Scripting: The actions under Scripting include commands to open particular apps, control over device functions, control flow, interacting with dictionaries, and a whole lot more.
    • Media: Actions for recording audio, using the camera, get app details from the App Store, and playing music and videos, and other media-related activities.
    • Location: Location-based actions that can start or be added to your shortcut.
    • Documents: Actions for working with files, from appending to a file, creating folders, marking up documents, working with the Notes app, and text editing.
    • Sharing: Sharing actions like interacting with your device's clipboard, sending a message through email or Messages, AirDrop, social app actions, and more.
    • Web: Get and expand URLs, perform a GIPHY search, get items from RSS feeds, add something to your Reading List, and more.
    • Suggestions: Shortcuts will offer suggestions based on frequent actions, as well as options for modifying repeated actions to fit a specific parameter. Suggestions come from both Apple and third-party apps.
  5. Tap the action you want to take from your available options. In this case, we'll use the Things app's new Shortcuts functionality to view a particular list.
  6. Tap on a blue parameter to change it.

  7. Tap an option for your parameter.
  8. Tap Show More if it's available.
  9. Tap any blue parameters to change them.

  10. Tap the + button if you want to continue adding actions to your shortcut.
  11. Tap the button in the top-right of the screen.
  12. Tap Shortcut Name to name your shortcut.

  13. Tap Done when you've enter your shortcut's name
  14. Tap Done when you're finished editing your shortcut.

I know this might seem like a lot, and it can be intimidating, but a shortcut can actually come together a lot faster than you might think.


These shortcuts vary in complexity, but you can take each of them and modify them to fit your use cases.

In order to add these shortcuts, you may need to turn on the Allow Untrusted Shortcuts option in the Shortcuts section of the Settings app. Run any shortcut in the Shortcuts app (such as one of those available in the gallery), then follow these steps.

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap Shortcuts.
  3. Tap the switch next to Allow Untrusted Shortcuts.

Now you should be able to add and use these examples easily.

New Thing - This shortcut works for the Things task manager app for iPhone, and is a simple one that just lets you add a new to-do to Things. As currently set up, this shortcut will ask for every important detail when I run it, so it works well with Siri's new conversational capabilities.

Seasonal Tunes - Part of working out shortcuts is learning, and this shortcut is a bit of an experiment for me, personally. A little more advanced than the last shortcut, this one will play different Apple Music playlists depending on whether or not it's the Christmas season. Most of the year, if I activate this shortcut, it will play my Apple Music Chill Mix. But between December 1 and December 25, it should play Apple's Essential Christmas playlist instead.

Apple TV On - This shortcut is fairly straightforward. It wakes up your Apple TV and opens one of its apps. By default, the shortcut will open the TV app, but you can change which app opens by tapping the TV parameter and switching selecting one of the other available options.

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Audio note - Apple's Voice Memo's is great for a quick recording, while the Notes app is great for taking down a quick thought or two. This shortcut essentially combines the two. Upon activation of the shortcut, your iPhone will start recording. When you're done, the recording will automatically be added to its own new note in the notes app. Save the note, and you're good to go.

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Let us know if you have any questions about getting started in Shortcuts in the comments.


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