Fixing broken keyboard shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator

September 14, 2012 Jonathan Berger

Keyboard commands are essential to using Adobe applications like Illustrator or Photoshop. Unfortunately, some of the most important, cross-application commands occasionally break —the ones that are the most ingrained, because they work the same way in Photoshop, Illustrator, and other apps. I’m looking at you, hold-the-space-bar-to-get-the-Hand-tool, and you command-and-space-to-Zoom-in, and yes you, command-option-space-to-Zoom-Out. They break randomly, with no explanation and no warning, and it’s as if someone pried the ‘e’ key off your typewriter: sure, you can write a novel), but it’s pretty inconvenient.

Every time these keyboard commands break I curse for a bit and then google around to try to find the solution. Support boards show similar complaints, but no definitive solutions. Wishful, cargo-culty suggestions abound including “reset your preferences”, “restart”, “quit Chrome”, “no—quite FireFox!”, some of which work occasionally, but none of which work for everyone.

I think I found the answer.

It’s not the app that’s broken; it’s the document. Try creating a new document. (You may need to restart Illustrator or your whole machine).

I believe the keybindings break because the .ai file is corrupted. When I noticed that keyboard shortcuts were working on one file but not another, I junked the broken file (try reverting from a backup or copy-and-pasting your work into a new file) and was able to use my keyboard shortcuts again. I’m not sure how the file gets corrupted, but this is a start.

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