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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Creating Keyboard Shortcuts on the Mac is a Spark

Spark is a powerful, and easy to use shortcuts manager. You can use it to set “hot keys” to open applications and documents, execute AppleScripts, control iTunes, trigger menu items, and more.

Here are the steps to set up some basic shortcut keys of your own. Once you understand the basics it’s not difficult at all.

  • When you first launch Spark you’ll get the intro screen.
  • Check the two boxes marked “Activate Spark at Login” and “Activate Spark immediately”. This will make sure Spark will always launch and your shortcut keys will continue to work after you reboot the computer.
  • Now you’ll see the main screen. The table is blank at the moment but once you set some shortcut keys it will display them.
  • Ignore this screen for now and open the File menu, select “New HotKey” and you’ll see a sub-menu with the different types of hotkeys you can set with Spark.
  • You can test each type for yourself later, for now choose the “Application” sub-menu to set up a hotkey that opens an application for you.
  • You’ll need to set all four of the options showing in the pane:
    • Shortcut: the keystroke that will make the hotkey’s action happen, in this case it’s launching an application.
    • Name: just to help you remember what your shortcut does.
    • Action: there’s some options here, for an application “Launch” is probably the one you want as it will also bring the application to the front if it’s already running.
    • Application: click the “Choose…” button and select the application from the file chooser.
  • Lastly click on the “Create” button to create the shortcut. That’s all you need to do - press the key you selected and your application will launch!

If you select the other types of shortcuts, document or iTunes for example, the options are different but most of them are self explanatory. For those that aren’t obvious you can always try using them then press the shortcut key to test what they do. If you don’t like the action, come back to Spark and double-click on your action in the table to edit it.

Click this link to create keyboard shortcuts with Spark: http://www.shadowlab.org/Software/software.php?sign=Sprk.

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