Mac Tip: Open Files with Keyboard Shortcut (Automator Guide)

There are numerous for the Apple Mac and its operating system macOS Apps and tools to make it easier to use. Some offer z. For example, the ability to set a keyboard shortcut to open specific files. However, Apple has already implemented a tool for this itself: the Automator. You have to get used to using this tool first, but it's not that difficult. If you want to open any file or multiple files on the Mac with a keyboard shortcut, simply follow the steps in the following Automator instructions. In this way, you can call up the files you need again and again much faster in the future.

Automator app instructions: Open files on Mac with keyboard shortcut

If you have files on your Mac that you need again and again, then it is more convenient to call them up with a keyboard shortcut than to search for them from the respective folder and double-click them every time. In addition, you can open not just one, but several files from different locations at once. So if you need a specific Word document, PDF, presentation, Excel spreadsheet, or TextEdit file with blocks of text that you need to copy somewhere every day, use the following shortcut.

The first thing you do is call up the Automator app, which is installed by default on the Apple Mac. You can find it on the Macintosh HD (the built-in hard drive) in the Applications folder. So the path is Macintosh HD -> Program -> Automator.app.

In the Automator app that is now open, click on the "New Document" button in the bottom left to create a new automation. Don't worry, while the following windows show many options and features, I'll walk you through them step-by-step.

After selecting a new document from the overview of possible commands, choose that Gear icon with the description "Quick Action". Because it is important to define a quick action for the automatic opening of files with a key combination on the Mac.

First, let's focus on the workspace on the right side of the app window. There we select the option "no input" next to "Workflow receives current(s)". In addition, we select the item "in every program" in the "in" drop-down menu.

Now, on the left, with the "Actions" tab activated, in the search bar we type "Specified Finder-query objects” (without quotes) and drag the search result into the workspace on the right. Alternatively, you can also select the action from the list of all options, but this may take longer.

In the module added in this way, click on the "Add..." button. This will open a window where you can find the files you need. After adding one or more files, you can add more to the list by pressing the "Add..." button again. (As an example, I chose the two project files I need each week to create the graphics for the Sir Apfelot newsreel to create.)

Once all regularly required files have been added to the list, another action must be selected from the actions list on the left. To do this, enter "open Finder items" (without the quotation marks) in the search bar and drag the found action into the workspace. In the module added in this way, select the menu item "Default program" next to "Open with" or specify a program you prefer for the files.

The necessary steps in the Automator have now been completed. The key combination is then defined in the system settings. However, the quick action you just created must first be saved. To do this, click on "File" in the menu bar and then on "Save..." in this drop-down menu (or use the key combination ⌘S). Then give the quick action a recognizable name and save it.

Set the shortcut for the Automator quick action: Here's how!

You can now close the Automator app. You define the key combination for opening the files from the list of quick actions in the macOS system settings. Depending on the version of the operating system you are using, you can get there in different ways:

  • Up to macOS 12 Monterey: Use the  icon in the menu bar to open the System Settings, then select the point Keyboard out, and in then shortcuts. There you choose again serviceslist so that you can find the quick action you created under "General".
  • From macOS 13 Ventura: Use the  symbol in the menu bar to open the System Settings, click in the left list of setting panes Keyboard, and then click the "Keyboard Shortcuts..." button on the right. In the window that opens, choose left services and opens the "General" overview on the right.

Now to add the keyboard shortcut to open the specified files, double click on the little "none" to the right of the quick action name. The display then switches to an input field. Enter a keyboard shortcut there that is not used by another program or by macOS. So no cmd+C or cmd+S or anything like that. I just used option + shift + command + - (⌥⇧⌘-) and it worked. Note: Do not enter the key names, but press the keys in the combination that you want to set.

Finally, click on the blue "Done" button. Then you can try the assigned key combination. The selected files should now be opened in the programs required for them. I've successfully tested the ⌥⇧⌘- hotkey set for my quick action. After saving the service shortcut, I pressed it and Affinity Photo 2 opened straight away with the two project files.

Do you have any questions or tips on the subject? Then please leave a comment! Even if you use a third-party solution to automatically open multiple files with a keyboard shortcut on the Mac. For there are over from HotKey BetterTouchTool towards Alfred certainly easier methods. The one featured here is for anyone looking for a quick setup without an additional app download.

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