Navigate the Dock in Mac OS X with These 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

May 8, 2012 - 8 Comments

OS X Dock

For the power users out there who prefer to leave their hands on the keyboard as much as possible, you’ll be pleased to know that the Dock in Mac OS X can be used exclusively from the keyboard with full functionality.

With just the right keys pressed and keystroke combinations, you can navigate around Dock items and apps, access the right-click menu, launch apps, force quit apps, hide others, and more.

We’re going to highlight some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts for using the Mac Dock.

Mac Dock Navigation Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are eight must-know keystrokes for navigating the Mac Dock. Note you must first summon the Dock with the keyboard navigation enabled, which is the first tip. From then on, you can use the additional keyboard navigation tricks.

  • Control+Function+F3 (Function+F3 on older Macs) to summon the Dock with keyboard navigation enabled, works even if the Dock is hidden by default
  • Left & Right Arrow keys to move within the Dock items
  • Up Arrow key to pull open the Dock items menu, the same as right-click
  • Return key to launch the currently selected app
  • Use keyboard letters to jump to apps by first letter of the app name
  • Hold Option key while navigating to, then hit the Up Arrow key to access Force Quit
  • Command+Return to reveal the Dock item in the Finder
  • Command+Option+Return to hide all other apps and windows except for the selected Dock item

You must use the initial Function+F3 command to enable the keyboard navigation in the Dock each time you want to use the keyboard shortcuts, otherwise the remaining keyboard commands will not work as intended.

Navigate the Dock in Mac OS X with the Keyboard

To be even faster, these tips are great to combine with removing the Dock show and hide delay and having a speedier Dock animation.

Have any other handy keyboard shortcuts or navigation tricks for the Mac Dock? Share them with us in the comments below!


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Jake says:

    Holding the Option *while* navigating actually reorders the dock. To access “Force Quit”, hold Option after you have navigated to the correct item ..

    By the way, the “Hold Option”-method works for lots of other menus (the context menu for example), too.

  2. Nguyen says:

    This is good, I wish for more keyboard-only solutions. I am old school and not a gesture kind of guy :)

    • campyguy says:

      You should explore your Mac’s Keyboard Shortcuts section of System Preferences – I’ve set up or modified about 100-odd commands for years in Mac OS X.

      For instance, the bit above “You must use the initial Function+F3 command” doesn’t work for me, since I’ve changed the “Move Focus to the Dock” command to simply “Option-D” – no Keyboard Twister for me.

      Just about every application – including the Finder – can have application-specific shortcuts or global shortcuts. I press Command-P to get the Print dialog, then press the custom Command-Option-P I created that’s tagged to “Save as PDF” – saves me a bunch of mousing around!

      • Theo Vosse says:

        That’s indeed a good way to go, but only if you’ve got full control over all the accounts and machines you work with. If you regularly switch, this becomes problematic…

  3. michael says:

    Wtf, there is no function key

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