Keyboard Cowboy Review and Giveaway

If there’s one thing we all strive for, be it in design or other areas of our life, it’s being as productive as possible. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail miserably, or at least sometimes I fail miserably.

Thankfully there are dozens upon dozens of applications whose sole purpose is to make us more productive. Not long ago I was introduced to Keyboard Cowboy by developer Christoffer Winterkvist.


Keyboard Cowboy is a hotkey shortcut manager to summarize it in a sentence. Never being a user of hotkeys, when I started reviewing Keyboard Cowboy I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how much more productive it can make tasks. Launching applications, switching between apps, and opening a file are just some of the more basic tasks achieved with it; and it does all of them with some nice features Winterkvist implemented.


Scopes is the name given to the feature which allows you to specify what shortcuts will work within a specific application. If you want “Command-Tab” to open up a predefined template only within Photoshop, just add a scope to the specific hotkey selection and you’re good to go.

While I’m just getting into programming of any sort (Intro to Computer Programming for Uni) I can see a great deal of value in the Scopes feature by allowing you to have certain hotkey combinations for related functions across your workflow. By binding each combination to an application, you turn what would otherwise be an otherwise unnecessarily repetitive task into a process you can get done without your fingers ever leaving the keyboard.


One of the best uses I’ve gotten out of Keyboard Cowboy so far is using it to switch between apps in the most fluent way possible. When an app is assigned to a hotkey, there are two ways in which it will respond. If the app is already open, it will take you to it, now making it the focus of your work. If it is not open, it will launch and then become the focus of your work.

Winterkvist laid out an application workflow solution he came up with to save time, ergo increase his productivity.

Having given Coda 2, my main source code editor, the global hotkey of ctrl+cmd+e and bound Xcode to ctrl+alt+u, I can switch back and forward when building and debugging. When developing websites, Keyboard Cowboy helps me switch between Photoshop (design), Coda 2 (code) and Safari (result).

Files, Folders, and URLs

When using Keyboard Cowboy to open various files or URLs, there is one thing needed to be taken into account, which is knowing the default application the file or URL will be opened with upon making your keyboard-centric demand. Once you work through this issue, it’s smooth sailing.

Is there a specific template in Photoshop you use over and over again? Bind a hotkey to the file and gone are the days of creating a new document and selecting a preset. While the options are essentially endless, this is just one very simple solution available with the kelp of Keyboard Cowboy. I could go on forever with various setups, but reading me telling you certain setups isn’t going to save you any time.

Closing remarks

To summarize my experience with Keyboard Cowboy thus far, it’s an incredibly handy tool for anyone whose daily workflow consists of staring at a display. Productivity is something we’ve talked about before here at The Industry and is something we will continue to talk about as workflows are honed and new tools are brought to life. From designer to developer, Keyboard Cowboy can assist you in simplifying and streamlining your workflow.

Instead of leaving those (two) of you waiting with bated breath as to how I used it; my iMac is structured with five “spaces,” each fitting a different aspect of my daily computer use: browsing/media, photography, writing, design, and a spare for any left-over apps. To initially give Keyboard Cowboy a run-through, I was curious as to how much more productive I could make my writing workflow. After spending five minutes setting up a few hotkeys, I can now write my article via Markdown in iA Writer, convert it into HTML via Dingus, and a draft is ready to go in WordPress without my hands ever leaving my keyboard. The initial five minutes of setup time will save me tenfold the time (and carpal tunnel) in the future.

Keyboard Cowboy is available in the Mac App Store for $7.99. While sounding like a pretty-penny to drop on such a simple utility with plenty of free alternatives, the execution of the application is what sets it apart. When you take into account the following numbers given as an example by Winterkvist, it’s more than easy to justify the initial cost for the long-term benefits.

“Do the math, lets say that Keyboard Cowboy saves you about 5 minutes each day, you use it 5 days a week, 50 weeks per year. That adds up to 5x5x50 = 1250 minutes = 21 hours.”


To coincide with this article, we have three copies of Keyboard Cowboy up for grabs. To enter, do the following:

• Comment below, sharing three tools you use to improve your productivity

• Tweet this article

Once you’ve done that, we’ll select three at random and shoot you a code to redeem your copy!

Jumpstarting a Design Community

Understand Your Compensation

Designer Monoculture

The State of Design Leadership

The Science of Product Design

Interview with Michael Flarup: Co-Founder and Lead Designer at Robocat

The Importance of Design Conventions