How can I create keyboard shortcuts in Mail.app that do not require modifiers? For example, I'd like j/k to scroll the message pane. Maybe n/p to navigate between messages. Maybe N/P to navigate to unread messages. Maybe a to archve a message.

The key point here is that the shortcuts should not require modifiers: No Command, no Ctrl, no Option.

The gmail shortcuts are different, but similar in that they don't require modifiers.

  • I doubt this is possible. – user479 Jun 10 '12 at 3:01
  • Man, I want this too... – Alex Wayne Jul 25 '12 at 23:10
  • I wonder if there is something like AutoHotKey for OSX. There is an AutoHotKey script that adds Gmail shortcuts to MS Outlook. Since all the actions are already available from the keyboard, just remapping the keys would do nicely. No, KeyRemap4MacBook doesn't do it (as far as I know), because it doesn't know which widget is in focus in Mail. (And I do want to be able to enter j and k into the Search field, say.) – hibbelig Jan 10 '13 at 0:53

Try GMailinator. It's free and doesn't require configuration or start any extra process. GMailinator may not as flexible as keyboard macro software while if you're looking for exactly gmail shortcuts, it's a good fit.

BTW, if you don't have Xcode to build from source code, the compiled binary could be found at release tab.

  • 1
    Can you please tell us why it is good and not just provide a link – Mark Sep 4 '14 at 10:56
  • This is fantastic. Exactly what I was looking for. – David Hollman Oct 21 '14 at 17:24
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    GMailinator sadly hasn't been updated since 2014 and no longer works with Apple Mail – terrace Feb 11 '16 at 4:05

I've accomplished this with Keyboard Maestro. I've setup the navigation keys, then activate and deactivate them with Escape.

Setup a group scoped to Apple Mail that is activated via Escape:

Apple Mail group

Delete Gmail style:

Delete Gmail style

Move down:

Move down

Move up:

enter image description here

Create a shortcut for archiving. You could use e when Escape is activated to simulate Gmail's shortcut, but I prefer this as it doesn't matter what mode I am in:

Archive shortcut

You will need to bind a key to Archive in System Preferences:

Bind key to <code>Archive</code> in System Preferences

Confirm in Apple Mail:

Confirm keyboard shortcut

Use your imagination!

  • 1
    Could you maybe add a screenshot or a walkthrough on how to do this? This would greatly improve your answer. – Saaru Lindestøkke Dec 8 '13 at 13:15
  • @BartArondson, I have improved my answer. Thank you for the prompt. – lipsum123483 May 29 '14 at 17:50
  • @lipsum123483 Thanks just came across this as I'm experimenting returning to Mail.app from Mailmate. This still works great. One variant: you don't need to create a keyboard shortcut for Archive (actually there's now one out of the box), but KM can just execute the action "select a menu item". – Kai von Fintel Jun 30 '17 at 17:52

The link provided above has stopped updating. this guy has forked and updated for the newest Mail.app (comes with El Capitan) ankushg/GMailinator. You need to build from source code, unfortunately, but if you are geeky enough to use Gmail shortcuts, I believe this is easy.

  • Can confirm this works, but you do need to build from source (the included bundle does not work with Mail 9.2) – terrace Feb 11 '16 at 4:12

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