Eight Hidden macOS Features You Can Access With the Option Key

by

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.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

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.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
23 months ago
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?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Now try doing this on a tablet, “the iPad is totally a computer” people.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
That's why it's called "option key", probably, because it gives you more options.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago

Thanks for this! Why is Apple not telling us this? There should be a dedicated site or an article about every little secret.

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.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236

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.

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.

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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
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.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago

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.

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.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Kuo: Global iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up to 30% If Apple Forced to Remove WeChat From App Store [Updated x2]

Sunday August 9, 2020 10:17 pm PDT by
In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual global iPhone shipments could decline by 25–30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out...

Google Maps Debuts New Apple Watch App and CarPlay Features

Monday August 10, 2020 9:16 am PDT by
Google today announced the launch of several features for Google Maps on Apple products, including new CarPlay functionality and a new Google Maps app that works on Apple Watch. The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch works similarly to the iOS app, allowing Apple Watch owners to get directions for a car, bike, public transit, or on foot. The app supports estimated arrival times and...

Foxconn Reportedly Begins Seasonal Hiring Spree for iPhone 12 Production

Monday August 10, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
Apple's largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has begun its seasonal hiring spree to assist with iPhone 12 production, offering employees who recruit qualified applicants up to a 9,000 yuan bonus, according to Chinese media reports. As usual, Foxconn needs as many hands on deck as possible at its factory in Zhengzhou, China to assist with mass production of the upcoming iPhones. Apple is...

Apple May Release 4G-Only iPhone 12 in Early 2021

Tuesday August 11, 2020 5:28 am PDT by
In a research note shared by Business Insider, Wedbush Securities analysts said that Apple may release a cheaper iPhone 12 in early 2021 with no 5G connectivity. Wedbush initially believed Apple would launch a mix of 4G and 5G iPhone 12 models this fall. Following re-examination of Asian supply chains, analysts Daniel Ives, Strecker Backe, and Ahmad Khalil revised the predictions,...

2020 iMac Teardown Reveals Internal Changes and Similarities

Saturday August 8, 2020 12:44 pm PDT by
A teardown video, shared by OWC, reveals the internal changes in the new 2020 27-inch iMac. The 2020 27-inch iMac was announced earlier this week with 10th-generation Intel Core processors, AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage, a 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, higher fidelity speakers, and...

Apple Believes This German Cycling Path Logo Infringes on Its Own Logo

Wednesday May 1, 2019 9:51 am PDT by
Apple recently objected to the logo of a new German cycling path in an appeal filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office, according to German outlets General-Anzeiger Bonn and Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Apple reportedly takes issue with the logo's green leaf and supposed "bitten" right side, attributes the company believes are too similar to its own logo. The logo, registered with the ...

Apple Seeds First Public Beta of watchOS 7 to Public Beta Testers

Monday August 10, 2020 10:33 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public beta of an upcoming watchOS 7 update to public beta testers, one week after seeding the fourth beta to developers and a month and a half after the Worldwide Developers Conference. The update can be downloaded after installing the proper profile from Apple's Public Beta website. watchOS 7 should not be installed on a primary device as it is still an early...

Apple Watch Likely to Adopt MicroLED Display Technology in 3-4 Years

Monday August 10, 2020 2:55 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to feature an OLED screen like previous models, but a future model is likely to be the first Apple product to adopt MicroLED display technology, albeit not for another three to four years. That's the main takeaway reading between the lines of comments made by the chairman of Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, which is reportedly working on a...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...