I want to start an application, e.g. the Google Chrome browser, via a keyboard shortcut. How do I assign a keyboard shortcut to an application?

Additional information

I know there are other ways to launch an application such as

  • opening Spotlight via Cmd+Space and typing "Chrome" followed by the enter key or
  • installing Quicksilver and use it as the application launcher.

Both are cool ways, but I want it even faster -- just a keyboard shortcut, accessible no matter what application has currently the focus.

What's the easiest way to accomplish that? I tried to fiddle in Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse under Keyboard Shortcuts, but failed.

I found a couple of resources on the web suggesting to create an Apple Script. But I don't know how that would work and I can't imagine that it would be so complicated to achieve such a simple goal.


If you do have QuickSilver loaded, you can create a keyboard trigger that will work anywhere. Create the command in the Trigger panel of the QuickSilver preference screen, then double click the line under the "Trigger" column to set the hotkey.

Note, if you are using Snow Leopard, you'll need the forked version in order to get it to work.

  • +1. Had forgotten that QuickSilver had keyboard triggers. Thanks!
    – Lernkurve
    Jun 22 '10 at 17:55

Fastest, easiest, cheapest method:

Open Script editor, Applescript:

tell application "Google Chrome"
end tell

Save. Use Fastscripts to assign a shortcut. (Fastscripts is free for up to 10 shortcuts)

There are other methods not requiring Fastscripts. On Snow Leopard, you can make a service that runs the applescript, and Services can be assigned keyboard shortcuts in the System Preferences…

You could also use an application like Keyboard Maestro.

Dragthing has been around for years and also can assign keyboard shortcuts to applications, I believe.

  • And reopen before activate also makes a new window if there are no open windows. And then, there's recently been a lot of new apps for assigning shortcuts directly, like Apptivate and NuKit.
    – Lri
    Mar 7 '11 at 14:44

I find Spotlight, Quicksilver, or Alfred to be very quick (and Alfred learns from your habits, so Chrome should pop to the top when you hit "c").

If you're typically using your mac in one location regularly (e.g. an office), you can get an external keyboard with lots of extra fancy keys. I have a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse plugged into my MacBook Pro. Using the drivers provided by Microsoft, I have the web browser button mapped to Chrome and I can get to it quickly with that one button push.

  • +1. Thanks for the hint about only typing "c"! Can't believe I kept typing more letters that necessary.
    – Lernkurve
    Jun 22 '10 at 17:57

There is a nice clean open source app for this called Thor. It enabled you to assign global shortcuts to applications.

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Download the binary from the App Store here https://itunes.apple.com/app/thor/id1120999687?ls=1&mt=12. The project page is here https://github.com/gbammc/Thor.

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