Karabiner + LaunchBar

I’ve been digging into Karabiner over the past couple of days. It’s been bending my mind a little bit. One thing I wanted to do was assign a key-for-key remap, but only when LaunchBar has focus. This was problematic because LAUNCHBAR never became the active app as far as Karabiner was concerned.1 So any <item> that you create that contains <only>LAUNCHBAR</only> will never fire because Karabiner never knows that LaunchBar is active. Then I stumbled across the built-in options for LaunchBar in Karabiner’s Change Key pane. If you check the Open LaunchBar by command-space option, Karabiner will recognize when LaunchBar is active so you can write remaps that work only with LaunchBar.2 Sweet. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.3 The trick seems to be explicitly opening LaunchBar with KeyCode::VK_OPEN_URL_APP_Launchbar.


As an added note, there’s a built in rule you can turn on that’ll remap hitting F and J together to invoke LaunchBar. Or, more specifically, it just remaps a simultaneous press of the F and J keys to ⌘-SPACE. But this will invoke LaunchBar without Karabiner knowing that it’s active. So here’s a rule you can add to your custom.xml that’ll activate LaunchBar and work with Karabiner remaps that target LaunchBar.

  <name>Press F+J Together to Invoke LaunchBar</name>
  <appendix>Invoke LaunchBar and make it the active app</appendix>
  <appendix>so that Karabiner remaps that target LB work</appendix>
    KeyCode::F, KeyCode::J,


  1. You can observe this by opening the Karabiner EventViewer from the menubar item and switching to the App tab. 
  2. By the way, choosing the option to map the semicolon key to return when LaunchBar is active might be something that I can really get used to. 
  3. Okay, maybe this isn’t exactly what I want. I’ve noticed that with this option enabled, it takes an extra tap of the space bar to activate LaunchBar’s app switcher. Normally, you could invoke LaunchBar, hit space, and you’d be at the previously used app. It’s pretty quick. But now you need to invoke LaunchBar and hit the space bar TWO times to get back to the previous app. Kind of a pain in the ass, but it’s really one of my own creation since I’ve temporarily disabled the built-in ⌘-Tab app switcher