In helm, when you press TAB, you have access to the actions corresponding to the current entry. By default, they are bound to [F1],[F2]... But I don't like these shortcuts for several reasons:

  1. the F{n} keys are not easy to access on a keyboard
  2. if you have more than 12 entries, then you don't have any keybinding for them
  3. it's hard to associate any mnemonic with F{n} keys

So here is my question: how could I change the shortcuts of an helm action? I'm interested both when I wrote my own code, but also if possible to change them globally.

Here is a MWE:

(helm :sources (helm-build-sync-source "Animal"
                 :candidates '("Duck" "Elephant" "Lion")
                 :action '(("Say hello!" . (lambda (req)
                                             (message (concat "Hello" req))))
                           ("Say bye!" . (lambda (req)
                                           (message (concat "Bye " req))))
                           ("Eat" . (lambda (req)
                                      (message (concat "No, we don't eat " req "!")))))
                 :fuzzy-match t)
      :buffer "*helm test*")

1 Answer 1


I'm interested both when I wrote my own code

You can assign any key you want, though the UI (the modeline and the action menu) assumes F1 to F12.

change them globally.

As usual, use C-h k to learn the key binding: 1) which command it runs 2) which keymap it's attached to. Then use define-key to change it.

For example, run your code snippet to enter a helm session, C-h k <f1>

(translated from ) runs the command (lambda nil (interactive) (helm-select-nth-action 0)) (found in helm-map), which is an interactive Lisp function.

It is bound to .


Not documented.

Let's make C-c C-c to do the same as <f1>

(defun foo ()
  (helm-select-nth-action 0))

(define-key helm-map (kbd "C-c C-c") #'foo)
  • Thanks a lot! And is it possible to also modify the UI to display the new key instead of F1? And for a local change only for my specific code, I can just define the map only locally I guess?
    – tobiasBora
    Apr 11, 2020 at 11:32
  • @tobiasBora No, it's hard-coded github.com/emacs-helm/helm/blob/…
    – xuchunyang
    Apr 11, 2020 at 11:36
  • Ok, thanks for your help!
    – tobiasBora
    Apr 11, 2020 at 12:40

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