2

I'd like to do something like this

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c t") (kbd "M-! /usr/bin/open -a Terminal . RET"))

... in order to open a (real, the) terminal from the current working directory in macOS with GNU Emacs 26.1. Although /usr/bin/open -a Terminal . opens a new terminal from within macOS, the above key binding doesn't work (nothing happens). Why? The buffer *Messages* shows /bin/bash: /usr/bin/open-aTerminal.: No such file or directory, so spaces seem to be ignored.

3

You're missing some SPCs there. You can save a macro with F3/F4 and then dump it with M-x kmacro-edit-macro (C-c C-k RET) to inspect the output. For example:

M-!         ;; shell-command
xfce4-terminal      ;; self-insert-command * 14
SPC         ;; self-insert-command
-e          ;; self-insert-command * 2
SPC         ;; self-insert-command
bash            ;; self-insert-command * 4
RET         ;; newline

Nevertheless, there is no need to use that "macro like" binding. It's better to just call shell-command. Even if Terminal didn't support passing a working directory you can exploit the fact that shell-command is running a full-fledged shell for you and simply cd before launching the terminal emulator:

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c t")
                (lambda () (interactive)
                           (shell-command "cd .; xfce4-terminal")))

Btw, there is no point in starting the terminal in the current working directory. It's where any new process will be by default.

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