Eight Hidden macOS Features You Can Access With the Option Key

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Nov 2, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The Option (?) key - or Alt key, depending on your keyboard layout - can be used to unlock all kinds of features hidden in your Mac's operating system.

    Try holding it down next time you access an app's menu bar options, for instance, and you'll often see several tweaked actions available to you.

    Additional Finder File actions revealed via the Option key

    In the Finder File menu shown above, Open becomes Open and Close Window (if you have a file selected in Finder, selecting this opens the file and also closes the Finder window), Close Window becomes Close All, and Move to Trash becomes Delete Immediately, amongst other options.

    Below are just some of our favorite uses for the Option key in macOS. Feel free to share any other Option key actions you frequently use in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

    Finder View Actions

    In Finder's List view, hold Option and click the triangle next to a folder to expand it, and the contents of any subfolders nested inside will also be revealed.


    In Column view, you can also resize all columns in a window by Option-clicking on the column selector.

    Menu Bar System Icons

    Holding the Option key when you click menu bar system icons often reveals hidden actions. Option-click the Wi-Fi icon for example and you'll see extensive information on the currently connected network.


    Do the same for the volume icon and you'll be able to change not only the audio output device but the input device, too. Elsewhere, Option-clicking the Time Machine icon will let you Browse Other Backup Disks, and you can also Option-click the Notifications Bar icon to turn it on and off.

    Safari Browser

    To clear all history including cached website data and cookies, you would select Safari -> Clear History... from the Safari menu bar. If you hold the Option key though, Clear History... becomes Clear History and Keep Website Data.


    Hold down the Option key when you click a tab's close button, and all other tabs will close except for that one. In Safari's File menu, the Close Tabs option also becomes Close Other Tabs with Option held down.

    Preview File Formats

    When you come to save or export a file in Preview, Option-click the Format dropdown to get access to several more available file types.


    Open Preference Panes

    If your Mac's keyboard has icons printed on some of the functions keys, you can press them to perform special features. For example, pressing the F11/12 keys with speaker icons adjusts the volume.


    If you hold down Option when you press one of these keys, this will open the System Preference pane associated with the feature. Option-F11/12 opens the Sound pane, for instance.

    Scrollbar Behavior

    In the General preference pane, you can select between two forms of scrollbar behavior: Jump to the next page and Jump to the spot that's clicked.


    You can actually switch between the two behaviors on the fly: simply Option-click anywhere in a window's scrollbar to jump to that location in the open document or webpage.

    Force Quit Apps

    If an application is acting up, hold down Option and right-click its icon in the Dock to reveal a Force Quit action in the popup menu.


    You can also Option-click an app icon to bring its window to the forefront and simultaneously hide another app's active window.

    Resize Windows

    When you drag your mouse from one side or corner of a window to resize it, you can hold the Option key to resize the dimensions of the window from its center point instead.

    Adjusting from one corner affects all corners with the Option key held
    If you're a fan of modifier functions in macOS apps and you'd like to learn more, check out the free CheatSheet app by Media Atelier.

    Article Link: Eight Hidden macOS Features You Can Access With the Option Key
  2. AgentAnonymous macrumors regular


    May 6, 2016
    Now try doing this on a tablet, “the iPad is totally a computer” people.
  3. LessO2 macrumors regular

    May 20, 2012
    What’s a computer?
  4. Analog Kid macrumors 601

    Analog Kid

    Mar 4, 2003
    Option: the ultimate cheat code

    I've got mixed feelings about this approach to UI-- on the one hand it hides unnecessary parts of the interface while making more available to "power users". On the other, it seems to go against the principle that available interactions should be obvious.

    I'm always forgetting to try option in most places, and there's other places where I probably never would. The file type box in Preview? Do people find stuff like this by just spending a weekend option clicking everywhere or does Apple reference it deep in their docs somewhere?
  5. StellarVixen macrumors 68000


    Mar 1, 2018
    That's why it's called "option key", probably, because it gives you more options.
  6. MadDawg2020 macrumors regular

    Jun 20, 2012
    Just tell them to use the Any Key.
  7. Futurix macrumors 6502


    Nov 22, 2011
    Oh my Lord! The last one is a life changer!!
    I always wanted this functionality since the day 1 of owning a Mac!
  8. historyteacher macrumors member

    May 23, 2010
    Great post!

    I often use the “option + click” in the display settings to get more resolution options. This helps a lot when connecting to random projectors and displays.
  9. Folbo macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2008
    I use it with two full screens displayed as a split screen, side by side.

    Alt click on the round green icon and the window will return to being a single full screen app instead of a windowed app.
  10. jasonefmonk macrumors regular

    May 5, 2011
    A quality little rundown, thanks. I didn’t know about the Force Quit from the dock shortcut.
  11. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    Hold down option while selecting WiFi to see a lot more information....
  12. pdaholic macrumors 65816


    Jun 22, 2011
    Fan-fing-tastic article. Thanks for the tips.
  13. nathansz macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2017
    I enjoy these types of posts. there is always more to learn. the window resizing one I never would have discovered and is very handy already!
  14. kingjames1970 macrumors regular


    Mar 18, 2008
    Hampshire, UK
    Ha ha, that’s probably the only one I didn’t know and can’t believe it’s been hidden from me for so long!!!
  15. joesegh macrumors 6502

    Jun 17, 2009
    New Jersey, USA
    The iPad Pro has keyboard shortcuts and an option key and a totally different interaction paradigm so, yeah, you can see people doing some of these things.
  16. Madonepro Suspended


    Mar 16, 2011
    The Safari tip is a game changer for me, since apple removed the option ( or it appeared it did) and I'd searched the web for a solution, and here it is. Option click clear history.
    I like to keep my web history clear, but with all the logins one has on websites, it'll be so nice not have to re log in every time. Thanks MR
  17. Gudd macrumors member


    May 23, 2018
    SW UK
    Safari - Option Click to "Quit and Keep Windows"

    I never knew that was there until just now and every single time I re-open Safari I go to "History - Reopen All Windows from Last Session" so that's a time saver !

    Of course I should probably just learn some other way to go back to stuff and not keep tabs open for weeks on end that doesn't end in my just parking them and forgetting about them like with the reading pane.
  18. mkrizan4 macrumors regular


    Dec 3, 2016
    Thanks for this! Why is Apple not telling us this? There should be a dedicated site or an article about every little secret.
  19. twistedpixel8 macrumors regular


    Jun 9, 2017
    You don’t even have to do that - there’s an option in Safari’s preferences to “reopen all windows from last session” on launch. It’s amazing. Unless, like me, you have 20 windows minimized with around 10 tabs each. I usually go make a coffee while Safari opens them all lol.
  20. ignatius345 macrumors 68020

    Aug 20, 2015
    I just know some of them by reflex (like the ⌥ + volume, etc one) and other times I will just option-click on a menu just to see what's up.

    In the olden days, option-clicking "About This Mac" would bring up an Easter egg of (I think) rolling credits of the people who had written the OS. That same option-click now brings up the system profiler which is more useful but arguably a little less fun.
    --- Post Merged, Nov 2, 2018 ---
    I just learned that one myself and now use it all the time.
    Turns out shift+resize on corners and edges constrains the window in different ways. Option+resize also works in different ways depending on whether you're dragging a corner or a side edge.
  21. VictorTango777, Nov 2, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018

    VictorTango777 macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2017
    While gamers and people named "L33t Hax0r" may think it's fun to go Easter egg hunting, or that it makes them feel superior for knowing some secret, is hiding menu commands and dialog box buttons really appropriate for productivity applications?

    This "Only power users need it" mentality is pretentious. What one person considers "unnecessary" and wants to sweep under the rug, another person may consider essential and not want it hidden.

    This hidden Option key behavior may not be limited to Apple. What happens when other developers start doing the same thing in their own applications? "Well, Apple did it, why can't we?" Apple needs to set a good example for all other Mac developers.

    This is the same issue with 3D Touch on the iPhone. How are people supposed to know where it can be used? How are Mac users supposed to know which menus have hidden commands and which dialog boxes have hidden buttons? The most obvious solution is to not hide them at all. But if Apple or other developers insist on hiding a command, then Apple needs to establish clear user interface guidelines to show the user when a menu has hidden commands or a dialog box has hidden buttons. And those guidelines must be followed every time. Expecting users to hold down Option key in random places to see if something happens is not an acceptable solution.
  22. jchap macrumors member


    Sep 25, 2009
    Change text size in Safari: Option-Command-+. Wish I had known about this earlier.
  23. szw-mapple fan macrumors 65816

    szw-mapple fan

    Jul 28, 2012
    I get the feeling the option + features aren't supposed to be easily discovered. It's for power users who already know that they want a feature and actively goes searching for it on google to see if it's doable.
  24. Pafoofnik macrumors member


    Apr 14, 2014
    In Mojave, clicking the twirl-down triangle without the Option key does the same thing as with it (unless I am missing something).
  25. pepp5 macrumors newbie

    Dec 11, 2006
    This article showing various keyboard shortcuts using Option key and others dates back to Dec 2014, and I am sure there was a previous version that goes back further.


    Also, Help menu / search on "keyboard shortcuts" has usually returned help pages for keyboard shortcuts in most Mac apps. Also in various third-party apps.

    Apple and third party developers have been doing this for a long time, this is nothing new. They have been using option + <some action or key> since System 6 in 1989 or before, and making them appear in the menubar by just holding down the Option key (or other keys) since System 7 in 1990.

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