Make Incremental Brightness & Volume Adjustments in Mac OS and OS X

Jun 9, 2012 - 36 Comments

Incremental volume and brightness adjustments in Mac OS X

Do you remember how you could make small and precise 1/4 incremental changes to brightness and audio volume in Mac OS X Snow Leopard by holding down the Option key? Many thought this feature disappeared with OS X Lion, but it turns out you can still make those incremental adjustments in both OS X Lion, OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, and een Mac OS Sierra though the keyboard shortcuts to do so have been changed ever so slightly.

How to Make Incremental Precise Brightness & Volume Adjustments on Mac

The new keyboard modifier for precise adjustments of audio level and brightness level is the following:

  • Incremental Brightness Adjustments: Option+Shift and F1 or F2
  • Incremental Volume Adjustments: Option+Shift and F10 or F11

You’ll notice with Option+Shift held down the brightness and volume indicators now have four levels per segment, allowing for precise adjustments of either setting.

There may be some minor variation on which Function keys to use per Mac keyboard, you are looking for the F keys that control brightness and sound volume though obviously.

These are both fairly old tricks but since the shortcuts changed with the newest versions of Mac OS X they are worth mentioning again considering their prior popularity. Thanks for the tips Eduardo!


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


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  1. noblsht says:

    While hey yes I understood it is an old trick, but the real question is how do we enable this full-time that is what is necessary I don’t want to have to hold down function keys etc., thank you for your time

    • noblsht says:

      Or I guess I should say , make it the default setting, that would be a gem if there was a solution that didn’t require a lot of hoop jumping

  2. AF says:

    It works!
    FULL Keyboard – on iMac and Mountain Lion –
    F14 and F15 control Brightness.
    The modifier (alt/option+shift) works as advertised!

  3. Eduardo says:

    Same tips work on Mountain Lion 10.8
    -Keyboard Light

  4. Eduardo says:

    I just posted this on your Facebook page but I guess it makes more sense to post here:

    If you’re on a Macbook you can also do Option+Shift+F5 and Option+Shift+F6 to do incremental keyboard illumination adjustments.

    Enjoy :-)

  5. johnbigbootie says:

    While playing with this tip I noticed when pressing option+command+arrow key to the right it progresses the song five seconds forward. When pressing the left arrow key it takes the audio five seconds backwards on my BT keyboard.

  6. Murex says:

    Hey look, two days after this was posted … it shows up on OSX Hints with no credit given back to here.

    • David says:

      You’ll begin to notice a pattern that OSX Daily publishes something awesome and then a few days or weeks later other lane sites will republish it without credit. I see it all the time!

  7. MU says:

    Works in 10.6.8 with wired aluminium keyboard, although also have to use fn key, due to way my KB prefs are configured.

  8. ice says:

    Works, is their something similar for iOS?

  9. Lri says:

    Yeah, the shortcuts were removed in 10.7 but restored in 10.7.4. The modifier keys didn’t change: they were always option and shift.

  10. nile says:

    This is probably one of the most useful mac tips i have ever seen!! I had absolutely no idea that incremental changes like this were even possible! Thank you immensely for such an amazing tip!

  11. Dan says:

    Doesn’t work on my Late 2011 MBP. Is this 10.7.4 only? I haven’t updated yet pending driver updates.

  12. Alberto I says:

    This is the tip of the year for me!!

  13. Chuck says:

    I think 10.7.4 is required. Works on my MBA and MBP!

  14. adam says:

    This working from a long time,
    but Apple was removed in Fisrt Lion Build,
    I didn’t know it come back, thanks :)

  15. Gleth says:

    Thanks for this. Like all “old” tips, they’re only old once you know them, and I didn’t as I’m fairly new to OSX.

    This site is one of the best discoveries I made after getting my MacBook Air 2011

  16. Theo Vosse says:

    Doesn’t work for me on my MacBook Pro (intl english): instead, it opens the sound preferences! (I’ve tried both with and without the “use all F1… keys as standard function keys” settings).

    • Alberto I says:

      It should open the sound preferences if you don’t use the shift key

      • Theo Vosse says:

        I didn’t use the shift keys, but as noted above: it works like described when I *do* use the shift keys. It seems hard to predict what the shift key exactly does…

  17. k4mz1k says:

    Thanks a lot, it works on my MacBook Pro Late 2011…

  18. Cameron says:

    Also works for keyboard backlight brightness.

  19. John Fisher says:

    I got it working on my BT keyboard by using Option+Shift+Volume Up/Down buttons.

  20. emily says:

    you do need 10.7.4. if it’s not working for you, make sure you’re fully updated :)

  21. ij0nathan says:

    Hey guys tanks for the tip!!!

    Working here with a Genius Keyboard!!! Running OS X Lion


  22. Nick says:


  23. Nick says:

    Thanks :) working on a 2010 MBP

  24. Nick says:


  25. Broojo says:

    Awesome, thanks for this!

  26. Mike says:

    Working for me on a 2011 air

  27. 911 says:

    Hmm, I’m using a full osx keyboard (the big white one), but option+shift+volume/brightness buttons aren’t doing it.

  28. Drew says:

    Oh hallelujah this is such a small tip but I used to use it all the time with my giganto speakers. Thanks a million!

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