Alex Kaloostian

Apple Certified Master Trainer | Systems Integrator | Video Editor | Motion Graphics Artist

Ten Things To Do With The Option Key


If you use a Mac, the Command key is your go-to key. Your star. It does it all: Command-spacebar will open the Spotlight search box, Command-Q will quit Warcraft when the boss comes around the corner, and Command-P will print copies of your resumé if you need to find a new job because you didn’t hit Command-Q quick enough.

But today I want to send some love to the humble Option key, the little brother, forever sitting in Command’s shadow. Maybe you are cheap thrifty and use a PC keyboard on your Mac, and you call it the ALT key. If you use a Das Keyboard, then you just call it the ”   ” key. But if you use one of those bad boys, you’re way too bad-ass to be reading my blog, anyway.

Here are ten cool and little-known tricks you can perform with the Option key.


1. Hide an app.

If you hold down the option key while switching to an app, it will hide the current app you are in. This works whether you are using the Application Switcher (command-option-tab instead of just command-tab) or option-clicking an app in the dock. Or simply option-clicking an open window in an already-running application Also, if you hold down option when double-clicking an app in the Applications window, the window will close when the app launches.

2. Change audio inputs.

Clicking the speaker icon in the menu bar will allow you to change the volume of your speakers, but option-clicking will reveal a hidden menu where you can switch inputs and outputs without having to stop what you’re doing and go to the Sound System Preference.

3. View detailed info about your wifi network.

Option-click the wifi icon in the menu bar to view detailed information about your wifi network, like channel, band, and security method.

4. Select multiple items.

This one isn’t universal, but you can often option-click an item in a list to select or deselect every item. Works in places like the Sharing System Preference, the Layers panel in Photoshop and tracks in Final Cut.

5. Copy or move.

If you drag a file or a folder from one place to another on the same disk, it will move the item, but drag a file or folder to another disk and it will make a copy. Hold down the option key when you drag to do the opposite. In fact, option-drag will make a copy of an item in a whole variety of places, from tracks in iTunes to layers in Photoshop to slides in Powerpoint.

6. The Inspector.

Command-I, or the Get Info command will open up a window listing the metadata and permissions for a selected file or folder. But if you want to get info on multiple items, you must open a separate window for each. Until now! Think of the Inspector like an interactive Get Info window: hold down option while choosing Get Info, or hit Command-Option-I, and the inspector will open. It looks just like an ordinary Get Info window, but if you look very closely, the title bar is slightly different. The inspector is interactive: instead of opening a new one every time, just select a different item and the Inspector will automatically refresh. Once you see it, you’ll get it.

7. Instant download.

Option-click a link in most any web browser, and that link will be downloaded to your hard disk. No more clicking through and accepting a dozen confirmations, selecting “are you sure” and choosing a destination folder.

8. Close a dashboard widget or a space.

Hold down the option key in Dashboard, Mission Control or Launchpad, and a small “X” will appear on the top-left of any widget, space (after the first) or application (Only apps which were installed by the App Store). Clicking the X will hide the widget, close the space or uninstall the app.

9. Delete a stubborn file.

If you get a warning that you have locked or in-use items when trying to empty the trash, holding the option key will often override the lock and force the trash to empty anyway.

10. Unmount all.

Have multiple volumes on a disk? Tired of the “Do you want to eject all items” dialog when you try to eject? Hold down option when you eject to automatically eject all mounted volumes for that drive.

Special bonus Lion-only content! (you lucky people!)

11. Show the Library.

As you may or may not have noticed by now, Apple decided to make the user Library folder invisible, so people wouldn’t accidentally wander in and cause havoc. Nice thinking, but I know what I’m doing, and I need to go in there all the time! Instead of fussing with the Go To Folder command, just hold down option when clicking the Finder’s Go menu, and there it is!

12. Quit and close all windows.


Lion has a nifty new feature called Resume, which will automatically re-open any windows you were working on when you re-launch an application or even reboot your whole machine. Which is a great time saver, until that one time you launch an app to get some work done, and you have to wait for 55 windows to re-spawn. or worse, when you are giving a presentation in front of colleagues and some embarrassing files pop up on screen. You can disable this feature permanently in the General System Preference, but if you like the feature, except for certain times, you can quickly close all windows when quitting an app, and they won’t respawn. Just hold option when clicking the application menu, or hit Command-Option-Q


Author: alexkaloostian

I'm a video editor, motion graphics designer and Mac IT consultant in the Boston area.

2 thoughts on “Ten Things To Do With The Option Key

  1. Wicked helpful info – thanks!

  2. Pingback: Changing screen resolution in Mountain Lion | Alex Kaloostian

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