Access the Menu Bar With the Keyboard

If you'd rather not take your hands off the keyboard to access the Mac menu bar, you can execute any menu command using a keyboard shortcut. You can then use the arrow keys to navigate through the menu items and Return to select one. You can do something similar with the Dock as well.

Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Access the Menu Bar With the Keyboard.

Say you're busy typing away on your Mac and you want to access a command that's in the Menu bar. You have to take your hands off the keyboard and go to your mouse or trackpad, move the cursor to the top and look through the menus to find what you want.

But say you don't want to be interrupted. You want to keep your fingers on the keyboard. You can actually use the menu items here at the top with only the keyboard. To do this you need to know the proper keyboard shortcut. So go into System Preferences and then Keyboard and under Shortcuts click on Keyboard here on the left. Then you can see a variety of ways that you can access different parts of the interface with a keyboard shortcut.

So the third one here is Move focus to the menu bar, Control F2. I can double click on it and then I can change it to whatever I want. I'm going to keep it a Control F2 and let's say now I'm in Pages and I want to insert a page break. So I could go up here to insert page break but maybe I can use this shortcut here but I don't remember the shortcut. You can see some of these things don't have keyboard shortcuts. So how can I do it without leaving the keyboard.

All you need to do is use that shortcut, Control F2, and notice the Apple menu at the top left now is highlighted. I can now use the arrow keys to move over and I can use the down arrow to go down and when I have what I want there highlighted I can hit Return and it's the same as selecting the menu item.

So basically you're going to use the arrow keys to get around. So I can go left and right. I can go down in a menu. If I'm in the wrong menu I can go to the right and it goes to the next menu. If I want to get out of here I can choose the Escape key on the keyboard and it closes it all down.

Also notice that you have ways to get to other things like the Dock for instance. So I can do Control F3 here to get to the Dock. So Control F3 and you see the Dock comes up and the highlight is over Finder. I can go to the right and hit Return to activate an app.

Note: If this doesn’t work for you, try adding the FN key as well. You can change this with the System Preferences, Keyboard, Keyboard, “Use F1, F2, etc” setting.

Comments: 5 Responses to “Access the Menu Bar With the Keyboard”

    2 years ago

    Why not use MenuMate?

    2 years ago

    Ron: This is built-in to macOS, free, and keyboard-only.

    2 years ago

    Gary, when I use the shortcuts nothing happens.

    2 years ago

    Ray: Try adding the fn key.

    2 years ago

    That worked. I had the same question.

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