Set a Keyboard Shortcut for “Save as PDF” in Mac OS X

Aug 19, 2014 - 22 Comments

Save as PDF Keyboard Shortcut in Mac OS X Saving a file or document as a PDF is easily done from almost anywhere in Mac OS X by using the print to PDF feature, which is part of the Mac Printer service, but to trigger it you have to go to the Print menu and then specifically select to ‘print’ the file as a PDF document. But what if you want a faster method of quickly saving something as a PDF, like a keyboard shortcut? That’s what we’re going to show you how to do with a really nifty keystroke trick.


This walkthrough is going to demonstrate enabling a ‘Save as PDF’ keyboard function as a secondary feature of the traditional printing keyboard shortcut. It’s going to look and sound like a conflict with the normal OS X print shortcut of Command+P, but as the originator of this old trick at MacSparky says, “trust me”, because it works.

Make a “Save as PDF” Keyboard Shortcut in OS X

  1. Head to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”, then go to the “Keyboard” control panel
  2. Choose the “Shortcuts” tab
  3. Select ‘App Shortcuts’ from the left side menu, then click the [+] plus button to add a new shortcut
  4. Add a new shortcut for Saving as PDF in Mac OS X

  5. In “Menu Title”, type in “Save as PDF…” exactly (yes, with three periods on the end)
  6. Click into “Keyboard Shortcut” and now hit Command+P (yes, that’s the standard printer shortcut, wait and see how this works)
  7. Now choose “Add”
  8. Save as PDF keyboard shortcut in Mac OS X

  9. Close out of System Preferences, you’re ready to test the new PDF saving keystroke which is going to be Command+P+P (yes, holding down command and hitting P twice)

Open just about any file or webpage to test out your new keyboard shortcut to save the file as a PDF. Just open the document and hit Command+P+P to jump past the standard print dialog box and immediately to the “Save As PDF” portion of the Print dialog.

Here’s an example of using this keyboard shortcut from Safari to save everyones favorite OSXDaily.com:

Saving as PDF from a keystroke in Mac OS X

Now just save the PDF as usual, filling in the title, author, and subject if desired, or choosing to password lock the PDF by going through the Security Options. The saved file is your average PDF file, no different than any other generated from the Mac printer tool, you can quickly check it within Preview or Quick Look:

reviewing an Exported PDF file from a keystroke in Mac OS X

Once you have this keyboard shortcut setup, you can even activate by selecting a file on the desktop and using the Print from Desktop trick, just remember to hit the P key twice.

This has been tested and confirmed to work in OS X Yosemite and Mavericks, and the post on MacSparky demonstrates this trick working in Snow Leopard, which suggests this should work in just about every version of Mac OS X out there.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

22 Comments

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  1. Gabriel Sanchez says:

    Great tip thanks, I use the printing PDF service frequently for generating reports this will definitely speed things up.

    On another note, does anyone else think OS X Yosemite with High Contrast enabled as shown in these screenshots basically looks like Mac OS System 7? What a weird looking interface, Yosemite is going to be a tough pitch for Apple. I bet Mavericks will be their Windows 7, and Yosemite will be their Windows 8.

  2. Grey says:

    Note that, for whatever reason, Chrome will usurp this keyboard shortcut and invoke its own print dialog. Not that I give a hoot, as Chrome’s only value, to me, is Flash playback without having to install the POS Flash plugin.

    • James says:

      glad to know I’m not the only person who keeps chrome installed just for this reason.

    • Grey says:

      I did not say ‘hoot’. Nobody says ‘hoot’. I said ‘sheet’. You’re now censoring the word ‘sheet’? Even the likes of Rupert Murdoch doesn’t stop Eric Cartman from saying ‘sheet’…which he does, in almost every episode, and in prime time. Are you guys Mormons over there, or what’s your problem?

      • Paul says:

        Hi Grey,

        Correct, curse words are banned by automatic strict antispam filters, which are necessary, so any comment that has one is not allowed to post. There’s a very colorful list of words that aren’t allowed by the filters, but if we see a legitimate comment that uses any of the words, they have to be replaced so that the comment will pass the filter and appear on the site. Hope that makes sense, sorry about the confusion!

  3. Ian M says:

    Brilliant! Now how can I perform this trick in iOS?

  4. Stephen C says:

    Thanks for the tip. Really helpful.

  5. Thir says:

    It doesn’t work on Mac Os 10.7.5

  6. Ilan says:

    Did as instructed and the second ‘P’ simply sends the file to the printer.

    • diane says:

      @Ilan — It’s a timing thing. With my MacBook Air I need to pause about a half-second between the first ‘P’ and the second ‘P.’ If you’re too quick you’ll get another print dialog, as you’ve found out.

      Experiment a little to see what works best for your setup.

  7. Stephan says:

    Hi, seems to work only with OS X and English as system language. Tested in german OS X, does not work..

  8. BT says:

    THANK YOU!

    This will save me a lot of time.

    Also, if I’m already in the print dialog, pressing ‘Command+P’ will bring you to the PDF dialog.

    Very helpful!

  9. MC says:

    I was disappointed this didn’t work for me, since I save to pdfs all the time. I went back over the instructions to be certain I did it correctly, and changed my “Save as pdf” to “Save as PDF…” and it works! Can’t for the life of my understand why you have to name it exactly that.

  10. jea says:

    Assigning the same keyboard shortcut to ‘Save as PDF…’ as to ‘Print…’ (⌘P) may have side-effects in applications where ‘Save as PDF…’ is also a menu item. This is the case with Nisus Writer Pro, where ‘Save as PDF…’ can be found in the File menu alongside with ‘Print…’. As a system-wide keyboard shortcut for ‘Save as PDF…’ I chose ^⌘P to avoid the conflict.

  11. Rich says:

    Thanks. I didn’t know you could assign a custom keyboard shortcut to a nested menu item.

    The nice thing is that you can take your time hitting the second ⌘P, since it’s activating the “PDF” submenu within the print dialog, and it works as long as that print dialog is open. This is nice if you’re using Safari, since you can still review the small print preview image, which also lets you review the number of pages in your pdf. I wish Firefox did this without having to “Open PDF in Preview”.

  12. It does not work for me in 10.9.4
    But anyway, the print PDF ain’t that hard

  13. Joe says:

    As a german mac user i first had problems activating the shown macro:
    Here is what you need to do, when running Max OS X on a different language:
    1) Simply hit CMD-P first and press down the Dialog box, remember name and exact spelling.
    2) Replace this guides “Save as PDF …” with your language dialogue e.g. “Als PDF sichern …”, don’t forget space before the three dots. Should work with any localization. Enjoy!
    Done!

  14. David D. says:

    Great tip — thanks! Worked for me on OS 10.6.8. (Yeah, you can have Snow Leopard when you pry it from my cold, dead hands… or replace it with something better.)

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