We have all been using our Macs at one point or another and wondered what the Option key can do. For a beginning Mac user, understanding where and when to use the Option key can not only be confusing but seeing this ⌥ symbol may leave them with no idea as to which key that belongs to. While the new MacBooks have the ⌥ key labeled on their keyboards, the older MacBooks only have the word “Option” on them which doesn’t give the user much clarification. We're going solve the mystery of the Option key and talk about how it can be used to perform various functions with our Mac. Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks, my favorite functions to use with the Option key, and how to remap it to another key.
Option key - tips and tricks for its effective usage
While you may not know it, the Option key can be quite useful when you’re using your Mac. There are also a variety of keys that can be used with the Option key to make working easier and give you advantages when it comes to working with text and doing other system operations.
Combinations with the Option key
Holding Option and pressing either ← or → when managing text will allow us to jump forward or backward a word
Holding Option and pressing either ↑ or ↓ when managing text will allow you to navigate to the head/end of the current paragraph
Option-Shift-Command-Delete: allows you to empty your trash without having to answer a prompt. This is useful if you want to empty your trash and want to do so quickly
Option-brightness up or down keys: this allows you to open your Displays preferences
Option-Volume up: allows you to open your sound preferences
Holding the Option key while dragging an item: allows you to make a copy of the item that you’re dragging. You will notice that when you use this one that the pointer changes
Option-Shift-Volume Up/Down: being one of my favorites, this allows you to increment the volume up or down in some increments to get it just right :)
Use of Option key in different apps and system setting
While the Option key can be used to improve workflow, it's also very useful for system problem solving as well. For example:
Holding Command-Option-R during the startup will boot your Mac into OS X Recovery mode which can help you fix your Mac if its experiencing issues.
Holding Option-D during startup allows you to boot your Mac into either Apple Hardware Test or Apple diagnostic mode.
Keyboard shortcuts on Mac in native apps
Option + Arrow ↑ or ↓: Allows you to navigate within Safari by skipping down or up an entire viewable page with a little bit of space left so that there is overlap.
Holding Option + Clicking on a downloadable file: this will download the selected file right to your downloads folder.
Holding Option + Command + using either the → or ← arrow keys will allow you to fast forward or rewind the current song that you’re listening to.
Option+Command+U: Shows you the Up Next List
Option+Command-E: Opens up the Equalizer
Option-Command-Down Arrow: Mute (and unmute) the sound (song keeps playing)
While in other apps if you expand the “File Menu” and hold the Option key it will give you access to more Options allowing you to bend an app to your needs more efficiently.
How to remap the Option key
The bottom row of our keyboard is something that I like to call the “Command Center”. Not only do we have the Command buttons, but we also have the Option, Control, fn, and arrow keys which give us a lot of power when using our Mac.
However, what if you don’t want the Option key to act as an Option key? No problem! We can remap it to something more convenient for you and it's actually quite easy to do.
To remap the Option key all that we have to do are these steps:
First, we need to click the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner of our screen
Once the menu drops down, we can then click on “System Preferences”
From there, we need to select “Keyboard”
Once we are in the “Keyboard” settings, we will need to select “Modifier Keys” so that we can remap the Option button.
Now we’re where the magic happens. If we click the drop-down menu for which the “Option” key is assigned too. We will then be able to change it to one of the following:
Or we can even have it do nothing at all if we wish to do that.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we could also remap any of the other “Command Center” keys to become another Option key if we wanted to have 3 per say.
Knowing how to use the Option key not only improves your workflow, but it also allows you to have access to more Options throughout your Mac that you might not have known where there in the first place. By utilizing the Option key you can make your life easier and feel tech-savvy while doing it.