How to use Sticky and Slow Keys on Mac

5 min read

A wide range of accessibility options not only make a Mac more accessible for people with disabilities, they can also help you hone your typing flow, customize sound preferences, and more. In this article, we discuss Slow Keys and Sticky Keys: what they do, the most common use cases, and how to enable/disable these features on Mac. 

What is Slow Keys on Mac? 

Slow Keys is a gorgeous accessibility feature baked into macOS, which lets you change the duration for which you hold the button before the system registers the keypress. 

Great aid for people with limited dexterity and those who can’t do repeated keystrokes. Great for kids who start learning how to type. But also a smart tool to adjust your typing flow! For example, if your typing style is kind of hasty and you end up with many typos, you can use Slow Keys to teach yourself to slow down when you type. 

What Sticky Keys do on Mac? 

Sticky Keys on MacBook help take the stress out of pressing multiple keys simultaneously. With this accessibility feature enabled, you can press keys one by one to trigger an action, instead of doing splits with your fingers to press four or five keys at the same time. 

You can enable Sticky Keys in System Settings. We’ll give you detailed instructions in a sec. 

How to enable Slow Keys on Mac 

But let’s start with the Slow Keys steps. There are a few methods to turn on Slow Keys, System Settings being the most common one: 

  1. Open System Settings or System Preferences (macOS Monterey or earlier) 
  2. Go to Accessibility > Keyboard 
  3. Toggle on Slow Keys. 

slow keys toggle

Alternatively, you can use the Accessibility Shortcuts feature to enable/disable Slow Keys: 

  1. Press the Touch ID button three times 
  2. Once the Accessibility Shortcuts window pops up, select or deselect Slow Keys under Motor. 

accessibility shortcuts

Accessibility Shortcuts menu can also be invoked with the command Option + Command + F5. 

Now, a few words about how you can take it to the pro level. 

BetterTouchTool can help you assign custom key sequences to actions, with custom min/max pause between keystrokes. Why use it? Let’s say you want to trigger window resize or screenshot feature with your custom shortcut. BetterTouchTool lets you set up any action with a custom trigger in no time. 

Here’s how to trigger actions with key sequences: 

  1. Open BetterTouchTool and set Key Sequences / Typed Words as input device in the toolbar 
  2. Click the plus button to record a key sequence 
  3. Type the keys and adjust min pause before first keystroke and max pause between keystrokes
  4. Click Save
  5. Assign the action to the trigger by clicking the plus button in the second tab. 

record key sequence with Bettertouchtool

Adjust Mac keyboard response speed 

If you’re not ready to go pro with BetterTouchTool just yet, stick to Slow Keys for now. Here’s how you can choose the most comfortable keyboard response speed: 

  1. With Slow Keys enabled, open System Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard
  2. Click “i” or Options next to Slow Keys
  3. Move the slider to change acceptance delay. 

If you use it for some time and realize you need to decrease delay time, Slow Keys settings are easy to tweak, so you can come back anytime and customize the delay, or disable Slow Keys on Mac. 

change slow keys acceptance delay

Tip: If you’re here to advance your typing skills, try Setapp helpers such as the apps KeyKey Typing Tutor and Rocket Typist. KeyKey is a typing coach that nudges you to take a few simple typing lessons every day. Pinky promise: you’ll double your typing speed over a month. Rocket Typist is another useful instrument you can use to create text snippets that can be invoked with simple short abbreviations. 

start keykey typing lesson

How to turn off Slow Keys on Mac

Unless you use it as an accessibility tool, slow key response can become annoying over time. 

If you decide to disable Slow Keys on Mac, you can accomplish it by reverting the steps you took to enable Slow Keys. Specifically, go to System Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard and toggle off Slow Keys. Alternatively, press Option + Command + F5 on the keyboard or press the Touch ID button three times and deselect Slow Keys under Motion. 

If you don’t remember enabling Slow Keys on your Mac but you notice keyboard lag, maybe it was enabled accidentally. Now you know how you can fix it. 

If, however, only some of the keys are lagging, it has nothing to do with Slow Keys. Try recommended troubleshooting techniques or contact an Apple-certified service to get it fixed. Until it’s fixed, you can use Lacona, an app that lets you trigger common actions using typed words. So for example, if you can’t use the Command key and therefore can’t press Command + Shift + 4 to take a screenshot, you can just type “screenshot” in Lacona. 

take screenshot with Lacona

How to turn on and off Sticky Keys 

Sticky Keys on MacBook simplify the task of pressing multiple keys at once to run a command or trigger an action. It means when Sticky Keys is on, you can press the keys one by one and the system will record them as part of the single command. 

Here’s how to turn on Sticky Keys on Mac: 

  1. Open System Settings / System Preferences
  2. Go to Accessibility > Keyboard 
  3. Toggle on Sticky Keys if your Mac runs Ventura or go to the Hardware tab and select “Enable Sticky Keys” on Monterey and older systems. 

enable sticky keys on Ventura

Note that you have a couple of options to customize Sticky Keys: 

  1. Click Options or the “i” button next to Sticky Keys
  2. Customize the following options: 
  • If you don’t want Sticky Keys to be on all the time, enable “Press the Shift key five times to toggle Sticky Keys”
  • Make your Mac “beep when a modifier key is set” 
  • Choose whether you want to display the keys you press on the screen and where exactly you want them displayed. 

display keystrokes with sticky keys

Next, we have to learn how to turn off Sticky Keys. Essentially, you should just go to the Accessibility section in your System Settings once again and disable Sticky Keys. If you don’t want to fully disable this feature, go to Sticky Keys Options / “i” and enable the option to press Shift five times to toggle Sticky Keys. 

Pair Slow Keys and Sticky Keys with Setapp 

You can get the most out of keyboard accessibility features if you use them alongside useful Mac apps that can help improve your typing speed and customize the shortcuts you use. Among such apps are KeyKey Typing Tutor, Rocket Typist, BetterTouchTool, and Lacona — top-rated software, free to try for 7 days if you sign up for Setapp

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