As developers, we have many power-user like applications installed on our machines. Each application is fighting for our love, attention, and shortcut supremacy. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what shortcuts the apps want to register, because most operating systems register universal shortcuts that trump any app’s shortcuts. In this short post, we’ll see how we can disable macOS’ universal shortcuts in favor of any application’s shortcut keys, and hopefully we’ll get some of our productivity back.

Turning Off Universal Shortcuts

macOS comes configured with a set of universal shortcuts. The most frustrating ones launch terminal windows, change our focus, and interrupt our development workflows. To first see what universal shortcuts are registered, follow these steps.

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click Keyboard
  3. Click Shortcuts pill (third one from the left)

Here is the system preferences pane, look for the icon that looks like an Apple Magic Keyboard.

system preferences pane keyboard

Click the Shortcuts pill at the top of the Keyboard pane.

system preferences pane keyboard shortcuts

We’re ready to turn off some universal shortcuts.

Notable Annoying Shortcuts

These are a few of the more notably annoying shortcuts we may want to disable for our sanity.


If we want to use a third-party screenshot tool, we want to turn off macOS’ default screenshot shortcuts. We can do this by selecting Screenshots in the left-hand pane.

Some more powerful screenshot app options:

system preferences pane screenshots

In Terminal

As developers, we use some strange combination shortcuts that include the Command (), Shift (), and Options () keys. That is why this next one is particularly frustrating, as it conflicts with many IDEs. Under Services, we can turn off the following two shortcuts: Open man Page in Terminal (⇧⌘M) and Search man Page Index in Terminal (⇧⌘A). Nobody wants a random terminal opening up.

system preferences pane services in terminal


If we’re using an alternative to Spotlight, something like Alfred, we may want to use the recognized shortcut of ⌘Space as a trigger still. We can turn off Spotlight to give our new launcher a chance to launch our applications.

system preferences pane spotlight


F5 is critical to many .NET developers workflows. That’s why it can be unpleasant and confusing to have our operating system, seemingly random, begin to name everything on the screen. That particular feature is macOS’ VoiceOver, and can users can toggle the function via the ⌘F5 shortcut. Under Accessibility, we can disable this shortcut key to keep our .NET development flows free of disembodied voices.

system preferences pane voiceover


As developers, We have to use many applications with shortcut keys that increase our productivity. We also love macOS. Luckily macOS can play nice with many of our day-to-day tools, and we just need to know where to look. If we need the shortcuts back, we can follow the steps backwards to enable them. I hope you found this post helpful, and let me know if you have any other annoying shortcuts that get in the way of your daily software development.