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I will begin by mentioning that I am a SQL/ASP.NET programmer and I work in Windows environments. However, I am in a very small department that has a mishmash of Macs and PCs, and to most of the people here I'm "Generic IT Person," so occasionally I'm asked to troubleshoot Macs. I don't know squat about Macs, but since it usually involves clearing a printer jams, this hasn't been an issue. Until now.

In this case, one of our staff has recently started transcribing on her Mac using VLC media player and Word. She wants to be able to control audio playback from the keyboard while typing. We have figured out how to assign keyboard shortcuts in VLC, and these work fine, but only if VLC is the active window. We figured out that the F7-F9 keys will move backward, forward, play and pause (the icons were a big tipoff here) while she was typing, but she needs to do very short backward jumps. If she holds down the F7, it will skip back 10 secs or so at a time, but timing when to let go takes some real finesse.

I figured these function keys must work because they are globally assigned. I found the Keyboard Shortcut interface in the System Preferences/Keyboard & Mouse panel, and I tried assigning F6 to VLC's menu item named "Skip Backward" (or something like that; I don't have it right in front of me). This works, but again, only when VLC Player is the active window.

SO, the long and short of it is, is there a simple way to assign a very short backward skip function to a hotkey combination that will work on VLC player while Word is the active window? Or do I need to admit defeat?

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You could do this with AppleScripts which you would assign to keystrokes using an app such as Butler or KeyMaestro or QuicKeys. VLC is scriptable; it has the "step backward" and "step forward" commands in its dictionary. And AppleScript allows you to direct control to any app. –  Ze'ev Mar 31 '12 at 19:10
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2 Answers

The function keys work because they are system-wide "media player control keys". Keystrokes always go to the system, which usually passes them exclusively to the active application, but some have special handling. There's a chance that you could reconfigure VLC so that the system-wide media key that means "rewind" does skip back instead. Check that out.

Otherwise you're going to need some kind of additional keyboard shortcut app like QuicKeys. (See also these suggestions). Don't give up yet! You almost certainly can cobble together a solution.

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Admittedly these only work when VLC is an active menu, but they are useful. On a Mac, try this:

command + arrows (left and right) -- skip tracks

command + shift + arrows -- skip 1 minute

command + option + arrows -- skip 10 seconds

command + control + arrows -- skip 3 seconds

You can customize these shortcuts in the "preferences" panel under the main "VLC" menu (press command comma). The sixth tab is called "hotkeys." Have fun!

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