Access menus via the keyboard in OS X

Access menus via the keyboard in OS X

OS X does not support a quick-access button for its contextual menu, but there is a workaround that might work for you.

Even though contextual menus are largely useful when using a mouse or
trackpad, sometimes they can be convenient to activate when navigating
or managing your computer with the keyboard. For some operating systems
like Microsoft Windows, you can press a contextual menu keyboard button
to activate the system’s contextual menu on a selection of items and
copy them, send them via e-mail, or otherwise manipulate them.

Unfortunately, OS X does not support an option to activate the
contextual menu without using the pointer. The menu in this operating
system is linked directly to pointer’s location, so even if you were to
simulate a control-click input (that which activates the right-click
input), then you would see the menu appear under the mouse pointer and
not on the current selection.

This lack of a key-activated contextual menu option in OS X may be
frustrating for some users, especially those who have used Windows and
wish for a similar feature. However, there is a workaround that may

Keyboard hot keys for menu access in OS X
Check this option and assign a
 custom hot key to it, and you can then
quickly access the system
menus from any application.

While the contextual activation is lacking, in OS X you can activate
and access the top menu bar using the keyboard, which will give you
access to all of the commands in the contextual menu, and more.

Apple’s default option for accessing the menus is to press
Control-F2. However, this may sometimes not work, especially if you have
the function hot keys used for other features like the Dashboard,
Launch Pad, and other system controls and services. Therefore, if you
reassign the menu access to another hot key, you can not only ensure it
works more reliably, but also make it more relevant to keyboard access.

To do this, open the Keyboard system preferences, and in the Keyboard
Shortcuts section, select the Keyboard category. Then locate the option
called “Move focus to the menu bar” and ensure it is checked. Then
click the “^F2” hot key text so it highlights, then press the hot key of
choice. Since you will likely be using arrow keys to navigate with the
keyboard, I recommend using an arrow-based hot key, such as
Control-Option-Down Arrow (this one in particular is not used for other

With this hot key assigned, you can now press it at any point and you
will see the Apple menu become highlighted. Navigating with the arrows
will allow you to select a menu and a command in it, then pressing Enter
will activate that command. If you wish to close the menu then you can
press the hot key again a couple of times.

Unlike a true contextual menu, this does require you look to the
top-left for the commands you seek, but may still suffice to bring you
the functionality you are looking for.


Add a Comment