Navigate through the dock, menu bar, and open windows with your keyboard

January 22, 2006

Control and Function Key Commands
Using the control key, and several different function keys (F2, F3, F4, F8), you can navigate through many key parts of Mac OS X with your keyboard alone.
Holding down the control key with:

  • the F2 key enables you to navigate with the left side of the menu bar.
  • the F3 key enables you to navigate the dock, using the left and right arrow keys to move between icons and the up and down arrow keys to view the navigate thought the contextual menu.
  • the F4 key enables you to cycle through all of the open windows.
  • the F8 key enables you to navigate through the right side of the menu bar. (Only works with some menu bar icons.)

Note that on laptops you must also hold down the FN key.

I have no idea how come I didn’t know about these shortcuts earlier. These are really going to come in handy, hope it helps you as well.

17 Responses

  1. Andy Merrett says:

    No I didn’t know that either. Very useful when you are primarily typing and don’t want to use the trackpad or mouse. Just need to remember to use them!

    January 22nd, 2006 at 12:04 pm

  2. DiscoMusic.com says:

    Thank you very much for those tips that I never knew about. The F2 and F4 in particular should come in very handy.

    January 22nd, 2006 at 1:21 pm

  3. Eddy Walet says:

    If you play with it, things get even more interesting, just what you could expect from Apple.

    E.g. control-F4 cycles in one order, but control-shift-F4 cycles back. Funny.

    What I liked was: control-F2 activates the menu. Then typing the first letter of a menu selects it. Arrow down drops the menu. Typing a letter again selectes a menu item. Very intuitive … once you know how to activate this thing. Which I didn’t before.

    January 22nd, 2006 at 4:54 pm

  4. Yvan256 says:

    There’s also the Windows-like Command+Alt (not sure it’s the right key, I’m using Windows+Alt on my IBM keyboard).

    January 22nd, 2006 at 4:58 pm

  5. Woody Sabran says:

    Try Control F3, and then hold the alt button. Now press the left or right arrow, you can reposition icons in the dock!

    January 22nd, 2006 at 6:47 pm

  6. Appleologist says:

    Great tip Woody! Thanks!

    January 22nd, 2006 at 6:52 pm

  7. rich ruminations » Useful Mac OS X function key tricks says:

    [...] From Appleology.com, here are some useful function key tricks: Navigate through the dock, menu bar, and open windows with your keyboard. [...]

    January 23rd, 2006 at 11:58 am

  8. xSmurf says:

    Neat, I’ve always wonder why there wasn’t a way to access the right side of the menu bar. Too bad it only works with “MenuEnabled” apps :/

    January 23rd, 2006 at 12:13 pm

  9. Will Clark says:

    These are great… being able to cycle through all open windows is nice. Thanks!

    January 23rd, 2006 at 12:23 pm

  10. Beakid says:

    Won’t work with my PowerBook Titanium though :( Using my function-key + ctrl + F1 decreases the “screen light”.

    January 23rd, 2006 at 3:58 pm

  11. MacNoticias » Archivo del Blog » Cuatro interesantes atajos de teclado says:

    [...] A través de Appleology, descubrimos cuatro interesantes atajos de teclado: – Control + F2 permite navegar desde el lado izquierdo de la barra de menú. – Control + F3 permite navegar por el dock utilizando las teclas de dirección derecha e izquierda para moverse entre los iconos y las de teclas de arriba y abajo para navegar por el menú contextual. – Control + F4 permite rotar por todas las ventanas abiertas. – Control + F8 permtie navegar por el lado derecho de la barra de menú, aunque sólo funciona con algunos de los iconos. [...]

    January 23rd, 2006 at 5:41 pm

  12. M@ says:

    I was having the same problem with my AlBook, Beakid, then I figured out what the problem was. You have to press “ctrl” first, and then “fn” and the corresponding function key. It’s pretty easy once you get a hold of it. I usually just roll my left thumb over the “ctrl” and “fn” keys, in that order, with my right hand going for the function key.

    January 23rd, 2006 at 5:41 pm

  13. Atajos de teclado escondidos « JuniHH Blog says:

    [...] Aqui se los dejo, por si les interesa. [...]

    October 28th, 2006 at 7:59 pm

  14. Anonymous says:

    Cycling through all open windows doesn’t work for me when I have iCal open. It gets to iCal and refuses to keep going.

    December 13th, 2006 at 12:39 pm

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  17. Träsel says:

    The CTRL+F3 shortcut won’t work with my Intel MacBook white. :/

    The Dock does get highlighted, but I can’t navigate the icons using the arrows.

    December 19th, 2010 at 11:19 am

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