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


While using your Mac, you may occasionally come across an error message stating “errordomain=nscocoaerrordomain&errormessage=could not find the specified shortcut.&errorcode=4“. This error indicates that macOS failed to locate a shortcut you specified. But why does this happen and how can you resolve it? In this article, we will understand what causes this error and explore some troubleshooting steps to fix it.

What Does This Error Mean?

At its core, this error means that macOS was unable to find or access a specific shortcut you specified. Shortcuts in macOS allow creating easy-to-access links to files, folders, apps or actions. When you set a shortcut, macOS links the specified target item to the shortcut.

However, if the target item cannot be found later, you will see this “Could Not Find Specified Shortcut” error. Some common reasons why macOS may not find the target include:

  1. The target item was moved, renamed or deleted after creating the shortcut.
  2. permissions on the target item changed and macOS no longer has access to it.
  3. The shortcut file itself was corrupted or deleted.
  4. The target is located on a network share that is currently unavailable.

So in summary, this error implies that the target specified in the shortcut definition is missing or inaccessible for some reason.

Potential Causes And Troubleshooting Steps

Now that we understand the root cause, let’s discuss some common situations that can result in this error:

  1. Target item was renamed or moved:

Check if the target item still exists at the same location as defined in the shortcut. If not, modify the shortcut target path.

  1. Incorrect shortcut definition:

Open the shortcut file in a text editor to check if the target path is defined correctly.

  1. Broken shortcut file:

Delete the corrupt shortcut file and recreate it.

  1. Network target inaccessible:

Check network connection and access permissions to the target shared location.

  1. Third party apps overriding shortcuts:

Check for any apps modifying or stealing global keyboard shortcuts.

Let’s look at some targeted steps to resolve this issue:

Trouble shooting Steps:

  1. Right-click the problematic shortcut and select “Show in Finder”. This will reveal where it is located.
  2. Open the shortcut file in a text editor like TextEdit. The file will be a simple text document containing the target path.
  3. Verify the target path is correct and the item still exists at that location. If not, update the path.
  4. Check file/folder permissions on the target. Grant access to the account encountering the error.
  5. Delete the corrupt shortcut file. Recreate it by dragging the target onto the Applications folder.
  6. Check for any apps like Keyboard Maestro or Shortcut Designer modifying shortcuts. Disable related settings.
  7. Toggle the network connection and access shares containing the targets again.
  8. As a last resort, delete corrupted preference files related to shortcuts via Terminal.

Following these steps should resolve the “could not find specified shortcut” error in most cases. The key is properly identifying what the actual target is and ensuring macOS can access it.

Some Additional Scenarios

There are a few other specific scenarios that can lead to this error:

  1. Login Items corrupted:

Login items allow designating apps to automatically open at login. If these are corrupted, it can cause shortcut errors. Try removing all login items and adding ones needed.

  1. Third party desktop files:

Some tools create .desktop files for app shortcuts. Check the contents of any non-Apple desktop files for errors.

  1. Old icon caches:

Icon cache files store app icons to load quickly. Old caches can cause issues. Try deleting cached icon files and let them rebuild.

  1. Borked launchd database:

Launchd is the MacOS process management system. If its internal database gets corrupted, it may not properly parse shortcuts. Consider resetting relatedprefs as a last step.

  1. Time Machine restoration errors:

Restoring an older Time Machine backup can erroneously clobber system files. Try repairing disk permissions after restoring.

In Conclusion

To summarize, the “Could Not Find Specified Shortcut” error occurs when macOS is unable to locate the target item defined in a shortcut. This can happen for various reasons like the target being moved/deleted or permission issues preventing access.

The key troubleshooting steps involve properly identifying the actual target of the problematic shortcut, ensuring its location is correct, and resolving any factors blocking macOS from reaching it. Following the outlined methods should help troubleshoot and resolve instances of this error. With proper diagnosis and tackling its underlying cause, the problem can be eliminated.

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