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Can I create a shortcut to open a specific application on OS X?

On all my other machines, I can type CtrlAltW to launch a web browser, CtrlAltE for an email client, etc. I have looked but haven't been able to find how to set this up on my mac. Can this be configured on a mac? Preferably without external software.


This can be achieved by using an Automator service and assigning it a shortcut in the Keyboard System Preference pane:

  1. Launch Automator and select “Service” as the type of new workflow to create.
  2. Set the workflow to take “no input” in “all applications”.
  3. Drag a “Run program“ action from the “Utilities” category into the workflow, set it to the app you want to start via a keyboard shortcut.
  4. Save the service under a memorable name.
  5. Go to Keyboard Preferences → Shortcuts (in System Preferences, or chooses “Configure Services” from the “Services” submenu in the Apple menu).
  6. Select the “Services” category, locate your newly created service and assign it a shortcut (make sure it is checked to be active).

Voilà – you have a global keyboard shortcut to start your application. Rinse and repeat as needed. Note Automator services are pretty laggy when first started during a session, but reasonably responsive after that.

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