Use the Tab Key to Switch Between Dialog Buttons in Mac OS X

Feb 26, 2010 - 15 Comments

Using a Keyboard option you can allow the Tab Key to switch between dialog buttons, fields, and anything else in a dialog box within Mac OS X. This can greatly enhance the speed at which you use your Mac, and I’m a bit surprised Apple has never chosen to enable the feature by default.

Enable Tab Key for Navigating Mac Dialog Boxes & Buttons
* Launch System Preferences
* Click “Keyboards”
* Select “Keyboard Shortcuts”
* Near the bottom look for “Full Keyboard Access” and click the radio button next to ‘All controls’
* Close System Preferences (if you are confused see below screenshot)

Now anytime you have a dialog window pop up you can quickly navigate to the alternate choices and options by simply hitting the Tab key, very useful!

mac tab key dialog navigation

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Posted by: David Mendez in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Tim says:

    indeed very useful — thanks for sharing this tip.

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  3. Nick says:

    Thank you so much!

  4. Adriaan says:

    Great! Thanks so much!

  5. Mike says:

    thanks for this great tip

  6. Gee says:

    I can’t get it to work properly. I can move the highlight but that’s only a sort of frame. So when I push return it still chooses save rather than don’t save when in a save dialog.

  7. ign says:


  8. myr0 says:

    you have to use your spacebar!!

  9. hannah says:

    thank you sooooo much for this – it was driving me insane & i couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they sold macs to the blind

  10. [...] can also manually enable Tab key navigation from the System [...]

  11. Chetan says:

    Thank you so much.. I look so stupid.. after using it for nearly 7 years, I happen to search this feature now and found your information easy to use.

    thank you for educating me. :)

  12. JpMacGuy says:

    Thanks so much. A very helpful tip! Exactly what I was searching for.

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