Dr. Mac Presents: Smart Option Key Tricks

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #139


I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts. When I teach new Mac users, one of the first things I tell ‘em is to memorize the keyboard shortcuts for actions they perform regularly like Cut (Command + X), Copy (Command + C), Paste (Command + V), and Print (Command + P).

And don’t forget Move to Trash (Command + Delete), Switch to Next or Previous App (Command + Tab or Command + Shift + Tab respectively), Close Window (Command + W), Next or Previous Window (Command + ` or Command + Shift + ` respectively), and all the others I use dozens of times a day.

Using keyboard shortcuts saves you time and effort every time and if you’re not already using them, you’re missing out.

But shortcuts that use the Command key  (the one with the little pretzel-looking icon) aren’t the only game in town. A recent episode of Mac Geek Gab (one of my favorite podcasts) reminded me there are many shortcuts that also involve other modifier keys, and most of those involve the Option key. The example they discussed on the podcast was the Bluetooth menu, which ordinarily lets you: Turn Bluetooth on or off, connect to an available Bluetooth device, send or browse files on a Bluetooth device, or open the Bluetooth System Preferences pane. 

But, if you press the Option key before you click the Bluetooth menu, you’ll see all of the aforementioned options, but you’ll also see additional options that include: Create Diagnostic Report, Open Bluetooth Explorer, Open Bluetooth Diagnostic Utility, and several others, as well as the Bluetooth version number and hardware address. This may not mean much to you now, but if you ever have cause to troubleshoot a Bluetooth issue, it’s worth remembering.

But wait—there’s more! If you press Option before you click the Airport menu, in addition to seeing the available wireless networks, you’ll also see numerous useful details about your wireless connection including your IP address, router address, type of security, noise level, channel, transmission rate, plus options for Wireless Diagnostics and Wi-Fi Logging. Again, while this may not do much for you today, it could be invaluable the next time you’re having Wi-Fi wonkiness.

These first two shortcuts that use the Option key may be useful, but I realize they’re both a bit esoteric, so here’s one you can use every day: The keyboard shortcut for Close Window is Command + W, but if you add the Option key, it changes to Close All.

Pressing Option changes several File menu commands and shortcuts.

Notice that pressing Option (as shown above on the right) changes several other commands and their shortcuts (in addition to changing Close Window to Close All). So here’s another tip: There are dozens upon dozens of additional shortcuts that use the Option key; just press Option before you click the menu (or while the menu is open) and the new shortcuts will appear.

Another shortcut I use all the time changes the newfangled Duplicate File command into the good ol’ Save As command: Just press Option before clicking the File menu in apps that use Duplicate instead of Save As and watch as the Duplicate File command magically transmogrifies into the beloved Save As command.

One last thing: This very morning I received an email from a reader asking if there was a way to Cut (not Copy) and Paste files in the Finder. I didn’t think so, but I thought there might be some third-party apps that let you do it. My Google-Fu must have been strong; Although I didn’t find a third-party solution, instead I found something far better — a secret keyboard shortcut to Cut and Paste files and folders in OS X Yosemite.

Here’s the secret: Use Command + C to copy the file(s) or folder(s), but instead of pressing Command + V to paste the files/folders, press Command + Option + V instead. The files are pasted as usual, but they are also deleted from the previous location.

That’s cool and useful, too, and it proves (at least to me) that it’s never too late to learn a new trick. (This one, apparently, has been around since at least OS X 10.8, but was new to me.)

And that’s all he wrote…