remapping keyboard shortcuts

I’m a lifelong PC user, been on my first Mac (which I bought primarily as a Scrivener device) for maybe a month now. I’ve changed a few of the Mac keybindings to match my PC text-editing keyboard shortcuts. All is well, but I’m stymied by one or two things.

-I understand the process of remapping keyboard shortcuts for apps from within Mac’s System Preferences. I’ve used that successfully on one or two mappings. But others I’ve tried will not work. For instance, in Scrivener, View > Enter Composition Mode is default-mapped to option+command+f. I would like to change that to option+f. Out of the box, option+f seems to be bound to putting out an italic-looking f from some alternate font set. In fact option+[many other keys] seems to be all about outputting a variety of symbols and other things that I will never use. When I try, in system preferences, to bind option+f to Enter Composition Mode, the Mac takes that new assignment with no complaints, but when I try it out in Scrivener, all I get is that jaunty little f – i.e., no entry to composition mode.

So it seems that Mac has certain keybindings that it will not let go of, even though there’s no indication of that in system prefs when I assign the rebinding. Is there a step I’m missing–e.g., first disabling that default Mac binding somewhere? (I’m comfortable messing with DefaultKeyBinding.dict in my user library if that’s where the answer lies–just need a little direction.)

Any thoughts appreciated.


The ALT (OPTION) key on a Mac is mainly used in isolation to provide quick access to special characters.

For info about ƒ see…

If you use the Apple Keyboard Viewer and then press the ALT key (try OPT, CMD, shift, etc as well), you’ll see all the different mappings available…

[attachment=0]ALT Key .png[/attachment]

There are some suggestions “out there” for changing these settings, but I haven’t ever wanted to try any of them given that the mapping is so deeply ingrained in OS X… … n-mac-os-x … -character … characters

Hope this helps.


Briar Kit

Echoing what Briar Kit has said, the Option/alt key on a Mac brings up alternative keyboard text mappings, both alone and in combination with Shift. Those are hard baked into the system and will always take precedence over any Opt+key set in System Preferences. I’m afraid it’s something that you’ll have to get used to; for those of us who need letters with diacritics, it’s far easier in my experience than achieving the same thing in Windows … but then I’ve been a Mac person since about 1990, and try to avoid Windows whenever possible.

Two thoughts:

(1) The Ctrl key is very rarely used on the Mac, since the Cmd key is used for those functions instead, so it provides a good way of creating shortcuts; I have mapped my presets to Ctrl-key shortcuts.

(2) As well as the official list of Scrivener key-bindings, some time ago, I compiled a list ordered by the last cipher in the combination, so all the shortcuts using, say, F, are listed together. You can find it at
That may help you find useful, unused combinations.


Mr X

Thanks for the info, folks. I can see the utility of those alternate keyboard text mappings for those who need them, but it’s a shame they’re baked in so thoroughly. That alt/option key would certainly be of more use to me if the mappings were more easily altered.

Briar Kit, I’ll explore your links and see what I can learn.

Xiamanese, I appreciate the note about subbing in the ctrl key. I just did that and it works fine. And I’m sure I’ll get good use from your key-binding list. Thanks for the link.

As it stands, I’ve pretty much remapped my text-editing keys to match my windows system, as I still do all of my paying work on the PC and I’ve got decades of muscle memory invested in the swift operation of those keys. I’m mostly up to speed on the Mac with those same combos now.

Thanks again for the help.


I did /that/… switched from Windows and spent an age setting my Mac up to (try to) ape Windows.

For me, that was a major mistake that led direct to the hinterland of gawd-awful compromise.

Only when I ditched the Windows way of thinking did the light really shine. I touch on that journey in this Srivener -v- Word article…


Briar Kit

Hi Briar Kit,

Thanks for the note and the link. It didn’t take long to get my most-used keyboard shortcuts remapped and in place. (And keep in mind, I’m using a Windows-based keyboard; part of the sales pitch for buying the Mac Mini as one’s first Mac is that you can use the peripherals you already have on hand. Plus, I still use my Windows machine every day–the two computers share one monitor, through a KVM switch.)

On the remappings: I flipped Command (the “Windows” key on my keyboard) and Control, to straighten out cutting & pasting, and I made Home and End (and Ctrl+Home and Ctrl+End) act as God intended. After that, it took me a while to figure out how to make Ctrl-Del delete the word to the right of the cursor, but once that piece was in place, I was for the most part fully functional with navigating text the way I like to navigate it.

It’s a handful of changes that allow me to do my work–writing and editing–with the same fluency and comfort in both my working environments. I guess time will tell if my meddling with “the Apple way” eventually wreaks havoc, but I bought the Mac primarily as a Scrivener machine, and I’m shaping it to the way I like to work. (FYI, I’ve used Scrivener on the PC for four years or so.)

I enjoyed reading your linked piece. I don’t share your opinions about Word–it’s been a reasonably reliable fixture in my professional life (nearly 30 years in technical/reference/nonfiction book publishing as an editor, senior editor, executive editor) and now in my freelance career (working with book publishers, writers, tech companies, ad agencies, and my own creative writing)–but it was a fun diatribe. :slight_smile:

When it comes to options for writers, the more the merrier if you ask me. I’m sure most of the books I’ve loved as a reader over the years were either written by hand or clacked out on a noisy Olivetti or Smith-Corona. Choosing a writing tool is a piece of cake compared to getting the words right. :wink:


Absolutely agree. The words, the words, the words.

Hope everything works out well for you. I know a lot of switchers who dual-booted, ran VMs, and/or pimped their Macs to work like Windows when the Intel Macs came along and made such dubious delights possible.

Just paused to think if I know anyone who still runs a dual-booting or pimped Mac, but I don’t think I do. We’ve all opted to work in Apple-only worlds; though I appreciate that there are people out there who are happy working in a hybrid environment. Good that we’re not all the same. :smiley:

I still have Word on an old Mac. Had two jobs last year where the client wanted me to work in Word and was happy to pay the triple-rate surcharge I levy to offset the pain inflicted.

I’ll have to find out what a noisy Olivetti and a Smith-Corona are. :stuck_out_tongue:

Happy writing.


Briar Kit

I was never tempted by the dual-boot machines. But my little KVM-switching scheme is working like a charm, and I’ve got far too much work going on in the PC realm to abandon it. Plus there’s this: I find something appealing about reserving the Mac mostly for my creative writing projects–i.e., keeping it unsullied by my day-to-day toils with clients, etc. :slight_smile:

On the subject of the Olivetti, I’ve never been a typewriter fetishist, but I remember enjoying this little story about a “famous” one from a few years back: … at-machine

Take care, Briar Kit.