How to use the Option key on Mac

February 26, 2021

Although Mac and Windows keyboard appears quite similar looks-wise they are subtly different in function. While the standard PC or Windows keyboard has Alt and Ctrl keys adjacent to the Space bar, new converts to Apple computers will notice the Command and Option keys in the former's place. Read further to find what’s this Option key on Mac and how to use it.

Option Key MacBook Keyboard

What is the Option key on Mac?

By pressing certain key combinations on your computer, you can do things or complete tasks that normally require a mouse, trackpad, or another input device. The option key on Mac has a similar utility.

Option Key on Mac
Option Key on Mac

The Option (⌥ ) key on a Mac keyboard is the equivalent of the Alt key on a PC-keyboard. It helps you generate characters that don’t appear on the keyboards (the symbols and accent marks such as å, ß, ∂ and µ). Apart from this primary use i.e, the addition of the characters for the alphanumeric keys, the Option key works as a modifier for menus. For example, a lot of the time combining Option (⌥) with the Command key (⌘) will enhance the standard option. Modifier keys when used in combination with the regular alpha-numeric keys provide alternate functionality to keyboard shortcuts.

How do you use the Option key on a Mac?

The option key is usually labeled with the letters Alt & the ⌥ symbol and found on either side Space bar. When used in combination with other keys as a shortcut or a modifier, it unlocks all kinds of hidden features.

  1. Option-Command-D(⌥-⌘-D) - Displays or hides the Dock.
  2. Option-Command-S(⌥-⌘-S) - hides or shows the Sidebar in Finder windows.
  3. Option-Command-N(⌥-⌘-N) - Enables you to create a new Smart Folder.
  4. Option-Command-Esc(⌥-⌘-Esc) - Force quits an app.
  5. Option–Command–Power button(⌥-⌘-Power) or Option–Command–MediaEject(⌥-⌘-⏏️) - Forces your Mac to go into sleep mode.
  6. Option-Command-Y(⌥-⌘-Y) - Throws a Quick Look slideshow of the selected files.
  7. Control–Option–Command–Power button(ctrl-⌥-⌘-Power) or Control–Option–Command–Media Eject(ctrl-⌥-⌘-⏏️) - This action forces Mac to quit all its opened apps and then, shut down. However, if you have any changes unsaved, the command will prompt you to save them.
  8. Option-Shift-Command-Q(⌥-⇧-⌘-Q) - logs out immediately.
  9. Option-Shift-Command-Delete(⌥-⇧-⌘-Delete) - Empties the 'Trash' instantly. We recommend you use this option sparingly as it clears the items in the Trash without confirmation dialog.
  10. Option–Shift–Up Arrow(⌥-⇧-↑)- Extends text selection to the start of the current paragraph, then to the start of the following paragraph when pressed again.
  11. Option–Shift–Down Arrow(⌥-⇧-↓) - Extends text selection to the end of the current paragraph, then to the end of the following paragraph when pressed again.
  12. Option–Shift-Left Arrow(⌥-⇧-←) Extends text selection to the beginning of the current word, then to the beginning of the following word when pressed again.
  13. Option–Shift–Right Arrow(⌥-⇧-→) - Extends text selection to the end of the current word, then to the end of the following word when pressed again.

All Mac keyboard shortcuts are shown on the right side of each open menu, just as in Windows but with some goofy symbols, hard to decipher. Their true key names are not displayed. So, you’re your convenience purpose, we have displayed both, Symbols and true key names.

You can find more shortcuts, here.

Hope that makes sense!


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Hemant Saxena
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