How can I directly access apps with single hot-keys?

Possible solutions which I don't get to work:

(1) Having often used applications constantly kept in the dock, it would be useful to have hotkeys like Apple-1, Apple-2, Apple-3, etc to access the first, second or third icon in the dock. I am aware of Crtl-F3, but it requires left and rights to get to the wanted icon.

(2) I tried to define 'workflows' that launch apps and assign the corresponding services hotkeys, but that didn't work in all applications.

I know Apple-Tab. However, depending on the other opened programs the keys to press to get to a specific application is always different.

Any solutions?

  • Inspired by the given answer I search for simpler alternatives to Alfred.app and KeyboardMaestro.app and found in one of the answers of apple.stackexchange.com/questions/24063/… a long list of similar tools. – Stefan Aug 2 '12 at 18:41
  • I tried Apptivate which is simple and cheap. It works great for switching/starting between the main apps. I assigned Crtl-Alt-Cmd-1 to 0 to the first 10 apps kept permanently in the dock. That works quite well so far. – Stefan Aug 2 '12 at 18:45

There are more than a few options out there, but I would recommend Keyboard Maestro. It's a pretty powerful program that allows you do do all sorts of different scripting and macro tasks, as well as configure hot keys. I use it to make more advanced hot keys configurations than System Preferences can do, as well as run scripts, handle my extra mouse buttons (I can configure them on a per-app basis without extra drivers).

I suggest you download the trial and test it out. It will certainly do what you need, but you may find it useful for many other things.

One thing I do suggest when you try it out is to disable all the default macros, as they can be a bit confusing and override default system behaviour. Then take some time to figure out what it can do and what will be useful.

  • Thanks a lot for your answer. Yes, KeyboardMaestro would solve my problem. However, for my needs possibly too powerful (and expensive). – Stefan Aug 2 '12 at 18:26

There is Free app in the App Store, so far so good:


It even has a super convenient Toggle visibility of application option


I would highly recommend Alfred. It is the best app launcher/spotlight replacement I have ever used.

It allows you to use GLOBAL HOTKEYS that can be programmed to do anything you could ever want, launch scripts, open apps, run apple/bash scripts, etc. These hotkeys work in most every application you are in because they will take precedence over other apps, just be sure not to assign a hotkey that everyone uses like Command + S.

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Using the box above, you can set Command + Option + Control + S to open/toggle to Safari. And when you press it, its super fast and responsive, so you're not waiting for a workflow to execute and finally finish for anything to happen.

It is free to try out and only 25 buck to activate all the super advance features and it is highly customizable, you can even sync your launchers and scripts and hot-key preferences between computers using Dropbox. That is what I do.

There are other pieces of software out there that do similar things and just hot-key stuff, but this package has it all and works really well in Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion. It also has plenty of plug-ins and scripts that you can download that other people have made. Worth checking out since its free to download from their websites to try.

I hope that this helps you out.

  • Thanks a lot as well. However, the free version does not include the global hotkeys and I do not want to replace spotlight. – Stefan Aug 2 '12 at 18:27

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