In Preview on the Mac, how can the default Selection be changed from 'Text Selection' to 'Rectangular Selection'

I am opening PDFs and want it to default to 'Rectangular Selection'

Currently I need to go into the menu bar -> Tools -> Rectangular Selection.

How to change default?

I am using Yosemite.

  • Would that be more of a permanent set up or switchable on a moment?
    – Ruskes
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 19:40
  • I'd be fine with a permanent set up. I was thinking it would be a terminal command or ???
    – sfmitch
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 20:36

1 Answer 1


This is not a "permanent" change, but it speeds up the inconvenience of needing to use the "Tools" menu, by adding a keyboard shortcut:

Here is the first option for something you can do:


  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click "Keyboard"
  3. Open the tab titled "Shortcuts"
  4. Scroll down to the last item on the left-hand frame's list: "App Shortcuts"
  5. Click on the "plus sign" [+]; a smaller window will pop-up, asking for three lines of information:

— Select "Preview" for the application

– For "Menu Title", you must type EXACTLY what appears in the "Tools" menu of Preview: for OS El Capitan (Mac OS 10.11), this is currently "Rectangular Selection" (don't include quotation marks)

— For "Keyboard Shortcut", use whatever combination you want, so long as it does not conflict with any other pre-existing or currently used shortcuts. As an arbitrary example, I use "Command+Shift+R". Invent whatever alternative you might like.

  1. Just a SIDE-NOTE: if you repeatedly press your keyboard shortcut [which you define in step 5], I have found that Preview will switch back to the "Text Selection" tool [when it is available], which might be occasionally [rarely!] convenient... since, (like you), I too wish that Rectangular Selection were the default... (especially for cropping, etc.)

Here is a second option, involving a "built-in" keyboard shortcut, combined along with one mouse-click [instead of the two required if using the "Tools" menu]:

  1. Press "Command+Shift+A" to make the sub-toolbar, "Markup Toolbar" appear or disappear; [note: this toolbar has the rectangular selection option on the left].

  2. With sub-toolbar available [see step 1], click the 2nd item in from the left, to enable rectangular selection.

Hope that helps!...

Note that, for some reason, I have not always had success with the 1st Option [programming an app-specific shortcut using System Preferences] in certain versions of Mac OS or with particular apps -- even though the menu item might be spelled precisely and correctly as it appears. It was thus pleasantly surprising to find that this custom keyboard-shortcut option indeed works under El Capitan [OS 10.11], as of the time of writing this here.

Hope this helps others!

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