Where can I access OS X keyboard shortcuts, say for Dropbox sync?

4 Answers 4


The shortcuts that can be set in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts are stored in ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist and the property lists of applications (like ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iTunes.plist or ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.chess/Data/Library/Preferences/com.apple.chess.plist).

The shortcuts for services are stored in ~/Library/Preferences/pbs.plist.

  • I wonder if I'm the only person this didn't work for. These files also don't seem to be the XML files that I'd expect - they seem to have some binary or something...
    – Ben Creasy
    Nov 27, 2016 at 19:17
  • 6
    This appeared as binary for me as well. But then use the command plutil -convert xml1 .GlobalPreferences.plist to convert it to XML, and plutil -convert binary1 .GlobalPreferences.plist to convert it back. Source: discussions.apple.com/thread/1768480?tstart=0
    – Jay
    Jan 16, 2017 at 21:05
  • 2
    Also, TextWrangler can open binary plist files.
    – Jay
    Sep 18, 2017 at 18:17
  • 4
    Also you can use sudo opensnoop | grep '.plist' while editing shortcuts to see what .plist files have been modified.
    – aubreypwd
    Oct 14, 2020 at 16:46
  • 2
    I found out that as of Catalina an app section in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts has to be created first. Otherwise, the system doesn't see the shortcuts defined in .plist (e.g. copied over from elsewhere). Once you create a section e.g. with a dummy shortcut, the .plist can be copied over and it takes effect fine. May 19, 2021 at 22:50

As described in the accepted answer, you can determine an app's shortcuts by converting the plist to xml and then parsing the xml. You can also (tested on macOS Sierra 10.12.6) get the values directly with the defaults read command.

To write out the user key commands that apply in all applications run defaults read NSGlobalDomain NSUserKeyEquivalents:

$ defaults read NSGlobalDomain NSUserKeyEquivalents
    "Enter Full Screen" = "@^f";
    "Exit Full Screen" = "@^f";
    "Merge All Windows" = "@$m";

To write out the user keyboard shortcuts for a particular app, use defaults read <app-plist-name> NSUserKeyEquivalents. For example, to get the user keyboard shortcuts for Safari run (in this example, the user hasn't set any custom keyboard shortcuts for Safari)

$ defaults read com.apple.safari NSUserKeyEquivalents
The domain/default pair of (com.apple.safari, NSUserKeyEquivalents) does not exist

Key mappings I have discovered in this string syntax:

  • command = @
  • control = ^
  • option = ~
  • shift = $
  • For global shortcuts, you can also use defaults read -g NSUserKeyEquivalents
    – henry
    Mar 14, 2018 at 20:58
  • is there a defaults write command to similarly set keyboard shortcuts?
    – pkamb
    Mar 18, 2019 at 20:52
  • 1
    My experiment told me that it should be @ for command and $ for shift.
    – aafulei
    Jul 31, 2020 at 7:41

This command will print the keyboard shortcuts along with the prefix required to set them:

printf "defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSUserKeyEquivalents '$(defaults read NSGlobalDomain NSUserKeyEquivalents)'"

For an app like Safari, run:

printf "defaults write -app Safari NSUserKeyEquivalents '$(defaults read -app Safari NSUserKeyEquivalents)'"

Those commands will output something like: defaults write [...] NSUserKeyEquivalents '{...}', which can then be used in a shell script


I don't know about later OS versions but on macOS 10.13 High Sierra (and recognised from earlier versions), apart from what the accepted answer says and likely needed after neovr's answer, there's also the ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.universalaccess.plist key com.apple.custommenu.apps used by System Preferences's user interface to show applications with set shortcuts.

I had an application that had modified shortcuts but it wasn't showing in System Preferences's user interface (because I had copied the app plist from a backup into ~/Library/Preferences), so I did following.
Type any command line code on your keyboard or copy and paste it after starting bash in Terminal (actually I'm using iTerm). Hit the return or enter key on your keyboard after any ; (semicolon).

  1. Quit System Preferences

  2. Store a CFBundleIdentifier

    • If you know the CFBundleIdentifier you can type it in or paste it after CFBundleIdentifier= and hit enter or return on your keyboard.
    • Otherwise:
      1. Store a pathToTheApplication.

        You can type the filesystem path after pathToTheApplication=/ using your keyboard, optionally completing partial paths with one or two hits on the tab key,
        or by other means:

        1. pathToTheApplication= - don't type return or enter on your keyboard yet.
        2. Drag and drop the application from the Finder into the Terminal.
        3. Type return or enter on your keyboard.
      2. CFBundleIdentifier=$(defaults read "$pathToTheApplication"/Contents/Info CFBundleIdentifier);

  3. /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "add :com.apple.custommenu.apps: string \"$CFBundleIdentifier\"" ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.universalaccess.plist; - I made a backup copy of the plist first cause I haven't got a working TimeMachine.

  4. killall cfprefsd; - this will restart a background daemon, updating any changed preferences plists from the filesystem.

  5. Open System Preferences

Other useful command lines:

  • To see the current list of applications used in the System Preferences's user interface:
    defaults read com.apple.universalaccess com.apple.custommenu.apps
  • To find other apps having keyboard shortcuts set:
    defaults find NSUserKeyEquivalents

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .