Matthew Price

How to Create a Hotkey That Selects the Current Word (OS X)

One of my favorite features in Sublime Text is the Cmd+D keyboard shortcut that selects the word nearest to your text cursor. Multiple presses select other instances of the word allowing you to edit them simultaneously, but I mostly use it to select the word I just typed.1 A similarly helpful feature has come to the iPad and iPhone 6S in iOS 9.2

Since most of my day is spent in Sublime Text, pressing Cmd+D quickly made its way into my muscle memory, and I started attempting to use it in other programs to no avail. A little bit of searching led me to the discovery that OS X has a similar feature built-in, but it’s not easily assigned to a hotkey.

You’ll need to create ~/Library/Keybindings/DefaultKeyBinding.dict and add the following lines to it, then restart any open applications you want to use the hotkey in:

  // ^ for Control, ~ for Option, $ for Shift, @ for Command
  "^w" = (selectWord:);

The example above uses Ctrl+W, but you can customize it to your liking. For instance, swapping ^w for @d would match Sublime Text’s key combination.3

Any application that uses native text fields will now allow you to quickly select the current word. Have fun editing!

  1. If you’re interested in editing every instance of the current word, there’s a better way: Cmd+Ctrl+G

  2. iPad: Tap the keyboard with two fingers.
    iPhone 6S: Press down hard on the keyboard. 

  3. Be careful. Unfortunately Cmd+D is set to other actions in a lot of applications, and this won’t override it. For instance, Safari uses it to create a bookmark. You might want to pick something else.