With the ubiquity of window manager applications in macOS, it is surprisingly easy to run out of good, unique keyboard shortcuts that do not interfere with other applications. A common solution for this problem is to remap a key (often caps lock) to the “hyper key”: a combination of shift, control, option, and command. Since this modifier key combination is very unlikely to be taken by shortcuts in any application, it collectively becomes an extra modifier key. My take on this solution is a single purpose app called Hyperkey.

Remapping caps lock to the hyper key is actually quite easy set up in Karabiner-Elements, which is free and open source. Hence an obvious question: why bother creating a paid, closed source app that does the same thing without all the other key remapping stuff? Let’s take a look at it.

Mainly, I just prefer something lighter weight and I don’t actually want anything else that Karabiner-Elements has. That’s why Hyperkey’s UI is just checkboxes with a couple dropdowns where necessary.

Remapping a key is just a checkbox & dropdown away. I actually prefer remapping right option to the hyper key.

Also, I really like using the trackpad to execute modifier keypresses in the implementation I created specifically for Hyperkey. It’s a little different and can take initial memorization to remember to use it, but the more I’ve used it the more natural it feels. I use it with my thumb on the internal trackpad of my MacBook Pro, and with my index finger on external trackpads. It does require only one touch to work, so a resting palm must be removed. The main drawback to using any trackpad gesture is that there is a slight bump in the system resources that are consumed by the app.

You might have noticed the checkbox for swapping option & command for non-Apple keyboards. This is actually the one other item that I have desired out of a key remapper, since the built-in macOS functionality is frustratingly laggy on one of my Microsoft external keyboards every time my mac wakes. I couldn’t help but add this in.

My goal with Hyperkey is to maximize a human performance gain while minimizing configuration and OS impact. Despite pre-existing solutions to this problem, I still can’t help but gravitate toward Hyperkey and this goal. This app has also been an initial testing ground for two ideas: Swiping one touch from the trackpad edge as a key press, and finding the simplest ways to remap keys. Expect more to come!

I like to make mac apps. https://ryanhanson.dev

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