Understanding the “Could Not Find Specified Shortcut” Error on Mac

Many Mac users have encountered the confusing “errordomain=nscocoaerrordomain&errormessage=could not find the specified shortcut.&errorcode=4. This error pops up whenever you try to create or modify a keyboard shortcut but macOS is unable to find the specified action. While it can be annoying to see, understanding what causes it and how to resolve it is important. Here we break down everything you need to know about this error and ways to resolve it.

What Does the Error Message Mean?

At its core, this error simply means that macOS failed to find the specified action, menu item, or application that you assigned to a keyboard shortcut. When you try to create or modify a shortcut, macOS needs to map that shortcut to a specific command or function. If it cannot identify or locate the target of the shortcut, it will throw this “could not find specified shortcut” error.

There are a few key reasons why macOS might not be able to find the specified target:

  • The menu item, application, or action no longer exists on your Mac. It may have been deleted or uninstalled.
  • The application is not currently open so macOS cannot access the target command.
  • You made a typo when entering the target details like the application or menu item name.
  • The target application has updated or changed in a way that breaks the keyboard shortcut mapping.
  • There is a problem with the application or macOS that is preventing it from identifying targets correctly.

So in summary, whenever you see this error it means the keyboard shortcut you created cannot be mapped to its intended target due to macOS being unable to locate or reference that target.

Common Causes and Solutions

Now that we understand the basics, here are some of the most common causes of the “could not find specified shortcut” error and their solutions:

  1. Application is Not Open
  • Make sure the application containing the intended target is running and open before creating or modifying the shortcut. macOS needs it available to map properly.
  1. Invalid Target Name
  • Double check you typed the exact menu title, action name, or application name correctly without typos. Try re-entering it.
  1. Uninstalled or Removed Application
  • If the application is no longer on your Mac, the targets it contained will no longer exist. You’ll need to remove any shortcuts pointing to it.
  1. Application or Menu Item Renamed
  • Over time, applications may change menu structures or rename items. This can break existing keyboard mappings. Update shortcuts with correct new names.
  1. Corrupted Preference Files
  • In some cases, corrupt preference files for an application can cause this error. Try resetting the application’s preferences.
  1. Outdated macOS or Application
  • Ensure both your macOS and the application containing the target are up to date. Old versions may not work properly together.
  1. Third Party App interference
  • See if the problem persists when all other non-Apple applications are quit. A conflicting third party program could be the cause.

To troubleshoot, try these potential solutions:

  1. Open the target application before creating shortcut if possible.
  2. Double check the target name for typos.
  3. Remove any shortcuts pointing to uninstalled apps.
  4. Update macOS, the problematic app, or both to newer versions.
  5. Reset the app’s preference files if issues persist.
  6. Isolate the problem by testing with only Apple apps running.

In many cases, one of the above solutions should resolve the “could not find specified shortcut” error. But contact the app developer if problems continue even after troubleshooting steps.

Creating Effective Shortcuts

Now that common causes are addressed, let’s look at how to properly create shortcuts to avoid this error:

  • Choose intuitive shortcut combinations that are unlikely to conflict with other uses
  • Use only alphanumeric keyboard keys, not special keys which may have other dedicated functions
  • Test each shortcut immediately after creating to ensure it works correctly
  • Limit shortcuts to applications/commands you use regularly to keep mappings relevant
  • Organize related shortcuts together in a theme, like all Photoshop shortcuts within one section
  • Consider alternative input methods like text replacements or hotkeys if shortcut keeps failing
  • Document all keyboard mappings in case you need to recreate or share with others

Taking time to choose shortcuts thoughtfully and test them can help significantly reduce times this error occurs. It also makes the mappings more streamlined and usable over the long run.

Sample Troubleshooting Workflow

To summarize the troubleshooting process, here is a sample step-by-step workflow:

  1. Note the exact error message details like application/command name.
  2. Open relevant application and ensure it’s the latest version.
  3. Try accessing target menu item/action directly to ensure it still exists.
  4. Reset application preferences incase of corruption.
  5. Remove any shortcuts pointing to uninstalled software.
  6. Recreate shortcut, double checking target name for typos.
  7. Test shortcut immediately after creation.
  8. Restart computer if issue persists to clear caches.
  9. Try troubleshooting steps with only Apple apps open.
  10. Contact developersupport if problems continue.

By methodically working through potential causes, you can usually narrow down what is preventing macOS from finding the specified shortcut target. With patience and process of elimination, the issue can often be resolved.

Avoiding Frustration

While it may seem annoying in the moment, try not to let the “could not find specified shortcut” error frustrate you. Keyboard shortcuts have the potential to greatly improve efficiency, but their mappings can sometimes break over time through no fault of the user.

The troubleshooting process gives an opportunity to audit existing shortcuts and tighten up any loose ends. You may also discover alternatives like text replacements that avoid mapping issues entirely.

Most importantly, have patience – macOS is complex software interacting with many variables. With methodical testing and troubleshooting, the cause of the error usually becomes clear. Don’t lose heart and feel empowered to get keyboard customization working smoothly once again.


In summary, the “could not find specified shortcut” error occurs when macOS fails to locate the intended target of a keyboard shortcut mapping. Common causes include invalid target names, uninstalled applications, outdated software versions and more.

The good news is with process of elimination testing and attention to detail when creating mappings, the issue can often be resolved. By gaining a deeper understanding of what causes this error and how macOS handles shortcuts, users can minimize frustrations and keep their customizations working as intended.

With persistence and an organized troubleshooting approach, you now have the knowledge to decipher why “could not find specified shortcut” occurs and resolve it. Custom keyboard shortcuts remain a powerful way to optimize your Mac workflow when implemented properly.

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