secrets of the option key

option key

The option key can be used to access some hidden menus in Apple programs as well as accomplish some common tasks more quickly.

There are two ways the option key can be employed, depending on the app and the menu you’re dealing with. Try holding down the option key and clicking on the volume icon at the top of your screen. Notice how it gives you a menu instead of the volume slider? Having problems with your wifi connection and need some technical information? Try opt and click on the Wi-fi (formerly known as’Airport’) icon. See all that greyed out data about your signal that wasn’t there before?

This will only work if you depress the option key before you click the icon. However, in some Apple menus you can click the menu first, and then pressing or releasing the opt key will change some of the available commands. Many of them are subtle, and the best thing to do is play around and explore for yourself, but let’s just take a look at a couple here.

Start with the Finder menu, and compare the two shots below. The one on the left is the ordinary menu. Notice the ellipsis (the ‘…’ ) in the ‘Empty Trash…’ command?

An ellipsis after a command tells you that clicking on it will not execute the command but take you to another menu or dialogue box. In the case of Trash, as we know, that’s just the confirmation box. Thing is, how many times do you ever click ‘Empty Trash…’ with the intention of saying ‘No’. Well, for me, that’s never, so why waste time having to deal with an unnecessary dialogue box?

Now look at the menu on the right. This is what appears if you hold down the option key either before or after clicking the menu. Notice the ellipsis has gone. That means that clicking ‘Empty Trash’ will execute the command immediately, skipping the confirmation dialogue completely.

OK, now you’ve got the idea, go through all the Finder menus (File, Edit, Window, etc). Alternately press and release the opt key and see how the menus change. You can explore the secrets of the opt key in other Apple apps too, including Safari. One I like there is [Safari] File > Close Tab changes to ‘Close Other Tabs’ with the opt key.

Finally, I posted earlier on how to disable Resume permanently. Remember, you can also use the option key to force the App to forget what you were doing. In any Apple app, just hold down the option key when you click Quit from the App menu, or use the hotkey combination ‘Opt + Cmd + Q‘.


Got any other secret opt-key menus you like? Let us know in the comments!

About philastokes

Freelance Writer, Developer and Technical Communicator. Explaining the unexplainable with images, video and text. Scripting anything imaginable in Applescript, Bash, C, Objective C, Cocoa, Python and Xcode.

Posted on July 24, 2011, in OS X Lion, Snow Leopard and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on secrets of the option key.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: