Apps using global hotkeys will remain welcome in the Mac App Store

Despite reports earlier Thursday suggesting that Apple would disallow Mac App Store apps from employing systemwide keyboard “hotkey” shortcuts, sources close to the matter confirm to Macworld that such apps remain welcome in the cozy confines of Apple’s software store.

Come June 1, apps submitted to the Mac App Store will need to implement Apple’s sandboxing requirements. Sandboxing refers to limiting what data and functionality a given app can access for the user’s security and protection. TUAW cited sources suggesting that, as part of the Mac App Store’s June 1 sandboxing implementation deadline, Apple would stop accepting new apps with global hotkeys, too.

Such hotkeys are common in OS X. Apple provides numerous such key combinations of its own, like Command-Shift-3 for taking a screenshot. And many apps in the Mac App Store (and elsewhere) implement global hotkeys of their own: iTunes menubar controllers might let you pause or rate music; Twitter apps can offer a command to bring your timeline to the foreground or start composing a new tweet; and launching applications let you bring up their interfaces with a global keystroke, too.

TUAW’s post understandably kicked off a panic: If accurate, it meant that numerous apps offering useful functionality via hotkeys—including those apps whose core functionality stems from their use of hotkeys—would no longer be allowed to introduce significant updates to their apps in the Mac App Store.

But again, Macworld can confirm that no such hotkey ban is coming to the Mac App Store. In fact, Apple offers developers several public APIs that make simple work of creating global keyboard shortcuts, and those APIs aren’t going away.

There are other API calls or backend technologies that developers could use to power global hotkeys, and which developers could also use, in theory, to capture and record a user’s every keystroke—whether for nefarious reasons, or for perfectly valid ones (like typing utilities that can expand shortcuts into longer text). But that sort of systemwide keylogging would be explicitly prohibited for sandboxed apps, since they aren’t generally permitted to access or record your keystrokes in other apps.

Thus, so long as developers use Apple’s officially supported APIs to register systemwide global hotkeys, their apps will remain eligible for inclusion in the Mac App Store. But developers and their users can rest easy—that functionality isn’t going anywhere, and the Mac App Store won’t reject apps that implement it properly.

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