Hyper Key and Shortcuts

When I researched the whole keyboard topic, I quickly stumbled over Karabiner Elements: A tool to customize the keyboard handling in macOS. I put it to use to remap the right ctrl key to option to fix that Keychron K2 flaw. But looking a bit more into it, quickly led me to the idea of a Hyper Key: Effectively this means mapping caps_lock (or any other key you don’t need) to simulate the hold of essentially all modifiers (ctrl, option, command and shift). Then you can use this key in all sorts of other tools to define easy to reach keyboard shortcuts without having to be a finger acrobat.

In my current setup I use it to move windows around, to use ijkl as arrow keys, to launch all kind of tools and programs. This is a summary of my current system and the most important configurations in Karabiner Elements. You can add most of these snippets to your ~/.config/karabiner/karabiner.json under $.profiles.complex_modifications.rules.

Caps Lock as Hyper Key

I have been using caps_lock as esc ever since I got a MacBook Pro with a touchbar. First step for me was to undo this in the Keyboard settings of macOS, to have a sane default state.

To start off I added the default Change caps_lock to command+control+option+shift modifications. Additionally, I added a rule to use caps_lock as esc when it’s pressed alone:

{
    "description": "Change caps_lock to command+control+option+shift.",
    "manipulators": [
        {
            "from": {
                "key_code": "caps_lock",
                "modifiers": {
                    "optional": [
                        "any"
                    ]
                }
            },
            "to": [
                {
                    "key_code": "left_shift",
                    "modifiers": [
                        "left_command",
                        "left_control",
                        "left_option"
                    ]
                }
            ],
            "to_if_alone": [
                {
                    "key_code": "escape"
                }
            ],
            "type": "basic"
        }
    ]
}

Use i,j,k,l as Arrow Keys

Moving my hand from the home row down to the arrow keys is probably a movement I do way to often. Now I can use the

  • hyper + i as up
  • hyper + j as left
  • hyper + k as down
  • huper + l as right
{
    "description": "Change hyper+jikl to arrow keys",
    "manipulators": [
        {
            "from": {
                "key_code": "j",
                "modifiers": {
                    "mandatory": [
                        "left_command",
                        "left_control",
                        "left_option",
                        "left_shift"
                    ],
                    "optional": [
                        "any"
                    ]
                }
            },
            "to": [
                {
                    "key_code": "left_arrow"
                }
            ],
            "type": "basic"
        },
        {
            "from": {
                "key_code": "k",
                "modifiers": {
                    "mandatory": [
                        "left_command",
                        "left_control",
                        "left_option",
                        "left_shift"
                    ],
                    "optional": [
                        "any"
                    ]
                }
            },
            "to": [
                {
                    "key_code": "down_arrow"
                }
            ],
            "type": "basic"
        },
        {
            "from": {
                "key_code": "i",
                "modifiers": {
                    "mandatory": [
                        "left_command",
                        "left_control",
                        "left_option",
                        "left_shift"
                    ],
                    "optional": [
                        "any"
                    ]
                }
            },
            "to": [
                {
                    "key_code": "up_arrow"
                }
            ],
            "type": "basic"
        },
        {
            "from": {
                "key_code": "l",
                "modifiers": {
                    "mandatory": [
                        "left_command",
                        "left_control",
                        "left_option",
                        "left_shift"
                    ],
                    "optional": [
                        "any"
                    ]
                }
            },
            "to": [
                {
                    "key_code": "right_arrow"
                }
            ],
            "type": "basic"
        }
    ]
}

Remapping my Existing Shortcuts

While I have built a lot of muscle memories in the past to control all this stuff with various modifiers, the Hyper Key removes a lot of the conflicts with other programs.

My current config (set in the particular programs):

  • hyper + up / down / left / right : Moving windows to the left / right halves of my screen, and to maximize and restore the windows using BetterTouchTool.
  • hyper + t : Toggling the iTerm hotkey window
  • hyper + m : Toggling mute with Mutify
  • hyper + . : Open the Things Quick Entry window
  • hyper + c : Open the Clipboard History in Alfred
  • hyper + p : Open 1Password
  • hyper + a : Connect the Airpods with Toothfairy

Update: I was running into issues with the hyper + . shortcut. Turns out this combination is already taken by the sysdiag of macOS. I added a post on how to remap those.