The Ultimate Guide for switching from a PC to a Mac
(Part 2 - coming soon)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Navigating through dialog boxes!

I received an email with a question on how to navigate dialog boxes with the keyboard! I realized I never actually checked that out myself and that I was really missing out on something. So here is how to do it. When a dialog box appear, there is usually one choice highlighted and pressing "Enter" will do that default choice automatically. I didn't have any luck in using the arrows and a combination of other keys to choose the other options. I finally found what was missing in the System Preferences. From there, you have to choose "Keyboard & Mouse". You then click on the "Keyboard Shortcuts" tab. There are two choices at the bottom: "Text boxes and lists only" or "All controls". The first choice is what is there by default and it is what let you navigate through forms on the internet by simply using "Tab". If you change that to "All controls", you will be able to use the "Tab" anywhere. This is where you enable it:

This is before it is enabled:

This is after:

You can easily change around which one the blue outline is with "Tab". "Enter" will continue to be to choose the default highlighted choice. "Space Bar" will let you choose the one with the blue outline around it.


Blogger Jesse Prudhomme said...

Excellent, thank you!

August 21, 2007 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger wxl said...

wow, nice! i would have never known..

August 21, 2007 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Awesome! I was just wondering how to do this!

August 21, 2007 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger XXL National Publisher said...

This is one of those "simple things" that I have NEVER been able to figure out!

Thank you MUCHO!

August 21, 2007 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

One solution I found that works in Firefox (you might want to try it elsewhere) is when a dialogue pops up, pressing Control and the first letter of the option you want to select. So to remember a password for a website when prompted, I'd press Control-R. Must be a hang over from being a Windows convert!

August 21, 2007 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't have that option switched on and I've always been able to use tab and the arrow keys to navigate. Another good key combo to use is the Apple key with the arrows. Apple-down arrow opens any file. Apple-up will move you upwards in the directory structure.

August 21, 2007 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger Oliver said...

As well as apple [ or apple ] will move you back and forth in finder windows/safari pages. (So if you go from home to Network, then when you hit Cmd-[ you will go back to Network. While if you hit Cmd-UpArrow you will go to the Users folder.

My Mac-Tipping Blog

August 22, 2007 at 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have done this ("Full keyboard access": "all controls"), but tab still doesn't work for me. Neither do arrow, cmd-arrow, cntl-first letter. Nothing. Return does execute the default though. Any thoughts??

August 22, 2007 at 12:14 AM  
Blogger שפי said...

May the force be with you

August 22, 2007 at 2:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brilliant! i've been looking for this forever! thanks!

August 22, 2007 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger DKwan said...

Oh wow, this will definitely save time. Thanks!

August 22, 2007 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Rob MacDougall said...

this great!! I was wondering about this yesterday!!!!

August 22, 2007 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Addie said...

Thank you. A thousand times, thank you.
This is the ONLY thing I missed about my old PC laptop. And now it's on my Mac.
Great tip!

August 22, 2007 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Ben Leivian said...

WOW! This is great, i've always wished for a way to do this. Thanks!

August 22, 2007 at 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems it doesn't work in all the dialogue boxes for me for some reason... don't know why.
In the one you give as an example (the shut down confirm window) it doesn't work... :(

August 22, 2007 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You may press Option key for 3 sec and you will see each shortcut on every button of the dialog box. A good way too, to be ba faster.

August 22, 2007 at 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got it to work, for those who care. The problem was that this tip wasn't complete. You *also* need System Preferences -> Universal Access -> check Enable access for assistive devices checkbox. That was intuitive, wasn't it?

August 23, 2007 at 2:13 AM  
Blogger SpacePup said...

Fantastic! This has bugged me since I got my mac - thank you!

August 23, 2007 at 2:36 AM  
Blogger AR said...

Aaah...I am smiling.
Much thanks to you :-)

August 23, 2007 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is a good tip. However, I still miss my "hot-keys" (like ALT+"a letter") in Mac world!

For instance, to reset Safari, I need to use mouse, click on Safari on the Menu, then scroll down to select "Reset Safari". It would have been much more productive to ALT+S (for selecting Safari) and then another "hot-key" to select "Reset Safari".

Of course, if I have set "Full keyboard" in System Preferences, I can use Control+F2 to select the menu. But this also means, 1 Right Arrow Key and 6 Down Arrow Keys! 9 Key strokes instead of two keystrokes!

Is there anyway I can get this "Hot Keys" behaviour in Mac OS?

August 28, 2007 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger johan_lunds said...

Thank u! Very helpful tip!

August 30, 2007 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger DL said...

I was so happy to find this but it doesn't seem to work, at least in some apps. I have Word and if I change a document and then try to close it without saving, a dialog box prompts me to "do not save changes", "cancel", or "save"". The "save" choice is darker/flickering. I can now tab thru the choices, with a highlighted outline moving along, but the "save" stays darker, and no matter what I highlight, when I hit enter, it saves the changes. Is it a fluke of Word, or did I miss something? Thanks!

April 14, 2008 at 7:40 PM  

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