Okay, so I have:

  1. One external display connected to my Mac
  2. Twenty Spaces (i.e., Mission Control), with ten Spaces on each display
  3. My keyboard shortcuts are [Ctrl + X] for the left-hand display, and [Ctrl + Alt + X] for the right-hand.
  4. My Mission Control settings are Displays have separate Spaces = ON

Fine and good. However, the keyboard shortcuts only go up to "Switch to Desktop 16." (i.e., System Preferences >> Keyboard >> Shortcuts >> Mission Control)

I have twenty desktops, but the keyboard shortcuts only go up to sixteen. How can I fix this?

  • So I have desktops that go up to [Desktop 20], but I am unable to set keyboard shortcuts past [Desktop 16].
    – Vzzdak
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 18:13
  • I can confirm that this is an ongoing issue through OSX 10.10.4
    – Vzzdak
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 14:53
  • The issue still persists in 2024. Trying to find a solution too. 4 monitors 32 desktops, trying to make a keyboard shortcut for each. BetterTouchTool can make shortcuts but it too seems limited to the 16 desktop limit.
    – ussher
    Commented Jul 5 at 1:01

2 Answers 2


Here's something I tried (on 10.9.5). Unfortunately, it didn't work, but I'll note it here in case it inspires someone.

  • I noticed that enabling System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Switch to Desktop 16 caused ~/Library/com.apple.symbolichotkeys.plist to update.
  • I found some information (1) (2) about that plist.
  • According to that second link, "Switch to Desktop 1" is action 118.
  • I tested enabling / disabling Switch to Desktop 16 in that System Preference pane whilst looking at the plist file, using /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Print :AppleSymbolicHotKeys" ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.symbolichotkeys.plist and, as I expected, the "enabled" value for action 133 (=118+15) changed.
  • I added a value for action 134 based on action 133, which I hoped would cause ctrl-alt-6 to switch to Desktop 17: defaults write com.apple.symbolichotkeys AppleSymbolicHotKeys -dict-add 134 "{enabled = true; value = { parameters = (65535, 22, 786432); type = 'standard'; }; }" Unfortunately this doesn't seem to have any effect on my system.
  • So: I think that the symbolichotkeys plist file contains a mapping from key presses to actions. The actions include Switch to Desktop 1 through to Switch to Desktop 16, but there are no corresponding actions for desktops with higher numbers. Sorry!
  • 1
    Good thinking to try that. Some preferences are cached though, so they may require a restart - did you try that? And double check that the changes persisted after the reboot too, just to be sure.
    – mjturner
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:59
  • 1
    Thanks @mjturner - good point! I've just rebooted and retested. The changes have persisted, but sadly ctrl-alt-6 still does nothing.
    – Ashley
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:00

If you cannot set your keyboard shortcuts past 16, then it is a limitation of the OS and nothing we do here is going to fix that. However, you may wish to try out a utility called Karabiner.

It allows you to remap and assign hot keys to pretty much anything so in theory, you should be able to map the remaining keys to your spaces.

It's free software but they do take donations. I encourage you to give it a shot and if it works I also encourage you to make a donation - whatever you feel the software is worth. This allows you to try it out without a heavy commitment.

  • No, I installed Karabiner and reviewed the documentation. The product is a tool for either remapping your keyboard layout, or mapping individual keys to an alternative function. Just to confirm that I wasn't overlooking a solution, I queried the developer, but they say that Mission Control is not designed to handle so many Spaces.
    – Vzzdak
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 16:05
  • Just to be clear, one can certainly have more than 16 spaces, but there's a lack of functionality to have corresponding keyboard shortcuts. This appears to be a holdover from before Mission Control had separate Spaces for displays. For example, three years ago, I would have up to [Desktop 10], which would be ten Spaces for each display. As such, it was previously unnecessary to have even [Desktop 16] (i.e., the old limit), since this would be equivalent to 32 Spaces (i.e., hard to keep organized).
    – Vzzdak
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 16:11

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