Cockpit: The Command Center for Your Mac

Have you ever wanted a fully featured command center for your Mac, allowing you to create a iCal event, control your iTunes library, or anything else? How about an application that lets you map all those commands to keyboard shortcuts, giving you access to them with only a few keystrokes?

Cockpit for Mac is all that and more. Cockpit is the perfect way to control all your applications and increase your productivity. Easily manage and add new commands with the built-in Actions builder, which uses Apple’s Automator style drag and drop to make both simple and complex actions.

Getting Started

Installing Cockpit is as simple as drag and dropping it into your Applications folder. It runs in your menu bar using a tiny amount of your CPU and only about 70MB of RAM. Click on the little Cockpit symbol in your menubar to bring up the control menu. Use the drop-down menu to change from application to application, even control system commands like opening System Preferences, shutting down the machine, or bringing up the Force Quit menu.

Cockpit’s real functionality comes into play with the ability to add more applications and actions. Using the Actions builder, you can build something as simple as launching a new application, or as complex as batch resizing and renaming an entire folder of pictures.

Control Has Never Been So Easy

Cockpit comes preloaded with support for iTunes, Safari, iCal, Mail, iPhoto, Keynote and system settings. While this might be enough for some, the developers included the ability to add all kinds of new controls into the application.

Three Cockpit Controls

Three Cockpit Controls

Creating a new set of controls is really easy. Opening Cockpit and clicking the gray gear will show a drop-down menu of options. Select Manage Control and you will brought to a menu for customizing the pre-set controls that come with the application:

Safari Controls Menu

Safari Controls Menu

Creating Your Own Controls

Clicking the plus sign at the bottom creates a new set of controls. Start by clicking Actions and the app will launch it’s Actions builders.

Cockpit uses the same action interface as Automator, allowing you to select the commands you want and drag them onto the main builder window. You can customize options for each action and use multiple actions to make a complex workflow.

Creating a New Control

Creating a New Control

Drag the Get Specified Servers and Connect to Server actions to make a script that will connect to specified servers and prompt you to login.

Once you have your finished actions, you can try testing it or just click OK to return to the previous screen. While using Cockpit, I was able to build several actions for connecting to servers, creating and exporting a screen recording, and batch resizing a collection of photos.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand how to create new actions in Cockpit. The developers have an online gallery of several useful pre-made sets of Controls. Here are a few of my favorite Cockpit Controls from their online library:

  • Capture Control by Steffen Romberg
  • Clean Up Control by Steffen Romberg
  • Adium Control by Raj Shah
Controls Library

Controls Library

Keyboard Shortcuts

Cockpit has full support for keyboard shortcuts, allowing you to easily map certain actions like setting your computer to sleep, creating a new event in iCal, or pausing iTunes. Even custom-created workflows can have keyboard shortcuts set, which will increase your productivity no end!

Capture Control - 3rd Party Control

Capture Control - 3rd Party Control

Setting these shortcuts entails opening Cockpit, clicking the gray gear, and clicking Manage Controls. The Manage Control menu allows you to customise the pre-made and self-made controls. Select an application from the sidebar and scroll down until you find the command you wish to map to a keyboard shortcut.

From there, you can record any shortcut for wish (as long as it isn’t already used by something else). I tend to map my main actions like creating a new event in iCal, opening a new mail message, or adding another Safari window, to the command key and the number keys.

Whatever your shortcut may be, map it to something that you’ll remember, or else all this will have been for nothing! You can always go back to this menu to remember which key you set for each action.


Cockpit is great for power users who want the ability to control several different applications with keyboard shortcuts or a quick click of a single menu.

Photographers can use the Controls creator feature to create a workflow that would automatically crop, resize, and rename any new pictures in a certain folder, and be able to launch that workflow by pressing only two keys. Office workers can create a workflow actions allowing them to connect to a group of servers and open work related applications when they push a button in Cockpit.

I loved the Automator-style action builder, which made it simple to build complex actions. The user interface is stunning, giving it a futuristic look and feel. The only thing I feel needs minor improvement would be icon picker for new controls. It only supports image files and when you try to add an application, it doesn’t grab the default icon file which is inside every application. Adding this feature would make it easier for users to add controls for non-included applications.


Cockpit is a really flexible multi application controller and automation center. You can control apps and your system, launch software, and run tasks/scripts all using custom keyboard shortcuts. It's wrapped up in a beautiful interface.