Enable key repeats on Mac

One thing I’ve always liked about Macs is their secondary keys, where holding down a letter key will display variations of that letter, like holding down “u” to get “ü.” This comes in handy when spelling non-English words, but if that’s not something you ever do, Apple’s substitution of special characters for the traditional key repeats of Windows computers can be an unneeded – and perhaps unwanted – feature.

The good news is that there’s a simple way to take control and change the behavior of long key presses to accommodate your needs. This not only works with letters, but number keys as well.

Turn on key repeats on Mac

Step 1: Open Terminal. This can be done by searching for “Terminal.app” in Spotlight or by locating it in the Applications folder. Your version of Terminal may look different from mine, and that’s ok.


Step 2: Enter the following command into Terminal and press enter:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

Enable key repeats with Terminal

Step 3: Restart any open applications in which you want this setting to activate. You should now be able to hold down a key and have it repeat its character indefinitely.

enable key repeats on mac

Step 4 (optional): If you want to speed up the rate of key repeats or decrease the delay before a held key starts repeating, System Preferences has these options filed under the ‘Keyboard’ header. Simply adjust these sliders to suit your taste.

Adjust key repeat preferences

Reverting back: If you don’t like the results or want to get back the alternate characters for whatever reason, doing so is as simple as following the above steps but changing the latter part of the command from “false” to “true”. This simply means substituting the following command for the one in step 2:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true

That’s all it takes. Whether you like key repeats or simply dislike alternate characters, toggling between these settings is a breeze.