Disable global shortcut to open devonthink

I have installed the trial version of devonthink and I am seeing an unexpected behaviour. Is there a global keyboard shortcut to open devonthink that I can disable. I have explained below:

I am a programmer and use vim within intelij IDE. One of the frequent keyboard shortcut to save a file is “Escape”, ": ", “w”, “enter”. The comma means these are in sequence not all together. Somehow, devonthink is starting automatically when this happens and it is very annoying. I couldn’t reproduce this so it might have to do with some other keys mis-pressed when doing the above sequence.

I am not exactly sure what is exactly triggering this, but it happens sometimes but not when I try to do it intentionally. Please help me disable any and all global shortcut that might open devonthink.

When this happens, devonthink is completely quit, so it is not one of the documented keyboard shortcut. I have read the help doc on shortcuts and all of them are related to when devonthink is already open.

mac version: 11.3.1
devonthink version: 3.7.2

Welcome, @bytesandbots!

As a temporary, interim solution, you might want to try KeyCue to see definitively which shortcuts are assigned to which actions across the OS.

It might be better to try Shortcut Detective in this instance.

Also worth checking services to see if any of those is the culprit.


I found other shortcuts which were doing the same thing, and I was able to reproduce the issue.

  1. Select any text in Safari or TextEdit and press ⌘ + ⇧ + 9 or ⌘ + ⇧ + 2 . This will also open Devonthink doing something with the selected text.
  2. Select any text in TextEdit and press ⌘ + / . This will also open devonthink with a dialog asking permission to control TextEdit. After giving this permission, it will paste the selected text into the search box and start searching.

These things are called “Services”. Devonthink developers think that generic shortcuts to these services is a good idea without giving any option to disable those shortcuts in preferences. A page hidden in the manual asks to disable these from the System preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services.

I think I am done with Devonthink. I have spent way too much time investigating this. It is easier to learn vim and edit my notes in terminal :slight_smile:

Previous discussions:

Services can be a pain in the neck. I disable almost all of them. I have yet to find much use for most of them – in any application. I prefer to use Keyboard Maestro for “extra functionality”.

Services are not a DEVONtech invention. Services are from Apple and used by many applications.


Since Services are part of Apple’s macOS, it would be more logical to actually give up on (or learn about) macOS, instead of directing your frustration towards DT.


We all know that. Everything is part of macOS. It is about how you program it. DT decided to program generic shortcuts for their services without telling the user at any point. It is upto a new user to discover them accidentally. Designing a good software involves making UX choices that do not require the user to read the entire manual before using it.

I really don’t get this logic. Services are not generated by macOS AI; it’s shortcuts are not assigned by Apple. The software decided to assign shortcuts.

I just looked through my list of services and many apps have added their services. I love them, I use them, but none of them have generic shortcuts. In fact, most of them leave it without shortcuts, so that user can add it themselves. They realise that services are going to be called from other applications. Being good citizen of the ecosystem means not putting generic global shortcuts.

DT is a great software. Its software developers have done a 10/10 job. What it lacks is some product design and UX. I just decided that it is not for me. I am just sharing my honest feedback. No one needs to be defensive about it.


JFTR: I checked my services settings, and although there’s a bunch of DT entries, none of them expose the shortcuts you’re explaining about here. Also, ⌘ + ⇧ + 9 doesn’t do anything for me in Safari or TextEdit (except emit a beep).
And I’m sure that I never use DT services, nor did I change the keybindings for them.

That obviously depends on which apps you use. In my case, a lot of apps have shortcuts in that services list. Some of which I changed or disabled to my liking.

But still, assigning keyboard shortcuts to services is something Apple actually encourages in their Human Interface Guidelines for developers. You might disagree with the usefulness of that, but that doesn’t make an app a bad citizen of the ecosystem, at least not according to Apple’s own guidelines.

Cmd-Sh-9 is effectively Cmd-( which should activate the Take Plain Note service. But I suppose it might depend on your keyboard.

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How lovely. I tend to forget about these subtleties. Pressing Cmd-( here (in Firefox) just took me to the 8th open tab (german keyboard where “(” is on the 8-key). I’m usually fighting with a Cmd-[ or Cmd-] shortcut, because those brackets are on Option-5/6 here and they never work as expected.

Below are the shortcuts that come by default and shown when selecting text in Safari. This might be something recently added if you don’t have these by default.

  1. cmd+@: Append Rich Note
  2. cmd+$: Summarize
  3. cmd+( : Take Plain Note
  4. cmd+) : Take Rich Note
  5. cmd-%: Capture Web Archive

DT services are way off the mark from [Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines about Services]. This is what is says:

  1. Assign a keyboard shortcut to a service if it’s something people will use regularly. Don’t use standard keyboard shortcuts that the system and standard menu items already define. Note that if the keyboard shortcut you choose conflicts with a keyboard shortcut used by the current app, the app’s shortcut is always used.

DT has set cmd-shift-5 (cmd-%) to “Create a web archive” when it is macOS screenshot shortcut.
DT has set cmd-shift-4 (cmd-$) to “Summarize” when it is also a macOS screenshot shortcut.

Safari has cmd-slash for toggling status bar. This is mentioned right on the [HIG keyboard shortcuts] page, but DT wants Cmd-slash for “Lookup”

macOS very sensibly overwrites these to ensure that the default shortcuts are in effect. But it is clear that zero thought was put into these shortcuts during development.

Below is an example of how a good software uses Service hotkey. It ensures that it is clear in preferences and a dialog to explain to anyone who has not used them.

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In general, I think you are making a perfectly reasonable argument that the services should be accessible from the preferences. It’s probably equally possible to argue the contrary, but seeing as I can’t remember shortcuts for the life of me, I’m not going to try.

Thing is, things like


get my back up. It’s exceptionally unlikely that DEVONtech put zero thought into anything they did with DEVONthink. They may not have come to the conclusion you wanted, but in my dealings with them over the past 2 years I have not ever had cause to assume the team don’t put significant thought, time and effort into their product. As for “a page hidden in the manual” - well it’s kind of page 76 (of the current version of the manual), which was placed between 75 and 77. The section is headed “Services” and it directs the user to exactly the location in macOS where I would expect to find shortcuts for services.

What I’m saying is: please just make a suggestion to DT support; they’re good that way, and have added many features requested by users. Lashing out (“good software”, “hidden”, “zero thought”) weakens your argument in my eyes. And that’s a shame. Anyway, if you’ve tried and found DEVONthink unsuitable for your needs, then nobody will have any hard feelings. Just use something else. All the best :slight_smile:


Thank you for your feedback. It was not my intention and I apologise if anyone felt that way. I will try to be more mindful of my words.

Here is what I thought of this discourse. I gave the solution to my problem and an honest criticism of the software hoping that it might help someone else getting into this problem. A community moderator dismissed my review with a useless remark. Another user replied with a passive aggressive retort. Both of them entirely pointless, yet have likes on them. (Thanks mbbntu and mksBelper, you have been very helpful and I don’t mean this against the community in general)

You can read the previous discussions that I linked to. They have the same broken keyboard shortcuts for years. How can I have any hope that they listen to user feedback!

If a shortcut has never worked because it is the same as a system macOS shortcut (specifically asked by Apple HIG not to use), I think it is fair to say that it is broken. If that is too harsh, then please excuse my english.


Thanks for your feedback :slight_smile:

I use Devonthink constantly and vim quite often. I’ve never had DT open from vim key sequence commands, and I’ve never taken any steps to prevent it.

Keyboard Maestro will recognize key sequences as triggers for a macro. Do you have anything like that loaded that is opening DT?

It was the comment/uncomment shortcut in the IntelliJ IDE (⌘+/) which was also triggering the “Lookup” Service. It took 2 seconds for DT to start in the background during which I used to save the file. That is why I initially incorrectly thought it was the save sequence, when it was the comment shortcut.

Cmd-Slash is also “Show/Hide Status Bar” in Finder – which is why I disabled that DT service. As I said, I disable almost all services immediately as they are often a rich source of mystery and confusion. Keyboard Maestro is more my thing.