Access Hidden Options and Information With Your Mac’s Option Key

Apple hides a lot of additional information and useful options in your Mac’s menus. You can access these hidden options by holding down the Option key.

In some cases, you may have to hold the Option key before opening a menu. In others, you can press the Option key while the menu is open and see the menu items change.

Holding down the Shift key while holding down the Option key may reveal even more additional options in some menus.

View Network Connection Details

Want to see your current IP address, connection speed, router IP address, and other interface details? Just clicking the Wi-Fi menu on the top panel won’t do it. Instead, press and hold the Option key and then click the Wi-Fi menu to see these options.

Hold this key and you’ll also see an “Open Wireless Diagnostics” menu item. This tool can run various diagnostics and even help you find the least congested Wi-Fi channel you should choose on your router.

Check Your Battery’s Condition

Want to know how your Mac’s battery hardware is doing, and whether it should be replaced soon? Hold the Option key and click the battery menu icon. You’ll ideally see “Condition: Normal”, informing you that your battery is fine.

Click the Condition menu item to see a help page with a list of the different battery statuses and exactly what they mean.

Use “Move File Here” and Other Options in Finder

When you copy a file in your Mac’s Finder and go to Paste it, this will create a copy of the original file. There’s no way to “Cut” a file before pasting it to move it, as there is on Windows and Linux.

Isntead, when you want to move a file, copy it normally. Next, go to the folder you want to move it to, right-click (or Control-click), and hold Option when the context menu appears. The normal “Paste Item” menu item will become “Move Item Here.”

This works for many other menu items, too. “Get Info” becomes” Show Inspector.” “Arrange By” becomes “Sort By.” “Open in New Tab” becomes “Open in New Window.” “Quick Look” becomes “Slideshow.” “Open With” becomes “Always Open With.”

Merge Folders

Want to merge a folder on a Mac, combining the files from the two folders into one without entirely deleting the contents of one folder? This also requires holding the Option key, but this time while you drag-and-drop a folder into another folder. The hidden Merge button won’t appear unless you hold the Option key.

Use More Application Menu Options

Hold the Option key while clicking an application’s menus to find more options. For example, you can click an application’s menu on the top bar of the screen and hold Option to see “Quit [Application Name]” become “Quit and Keep Windows.” This closes the application, but your Mac will remember the windows it had open and re-open them.

For example, if you’re editing a text file in TextEdit, and then close it with Quit and Keep Windows, TextEdit will automatically open that text file the next time you open it.

You’ll also find more options under the Window menu. “Minimize” becomes “Minimize All,” “Zoom” becomes “Zoom All,” and “Bring All to Front” becomes “Arrange in Front.”

Depending on the application you’re using, you may see other options or just different options in its menus. Tap the Option key with a menu open to see if any menu items change.

Access System Information

Click the Apple menu and hold the Option key to see the “About This Mac” option become the “System Information” option. The System Information window offers much more in-depth information than the simplified About This Mac window.

View Bluetooth Details

Need to see the status of your Mac’s Bluetooth hardware? Hold the Option key while you click the Bluetooth icon on your menu bar. (If you don’t see this icon, you can enable it from the System Preferences window. Click the Bluetooth settings icon and enable the “Show Bluetooth in menu bar” checkbox.)

You’ll see information about the Mac’s Bluetooth hardware, including its Bluetooth device name and whether it’s currently discoverable or not.

Use More Time Machine Options

The Time Machine menu icon also offers some advanced options when you hold the Option key. Use “Verify Backups” to have your Mac check any Time Machine backups on connected drives and ensure they’re not damaged. Select “Browse Other Backup Disks” to choose another Time Machine backup disk connected to your computer and restore files from it.


This isn’t just a collection of individual things you can do. It’s the way your Mac’s interface works. If you’re ever looking for an option or additional piece of information, hold down the Option key while you click something.

The Option key even works while booting your Mac — hold down the Option key to choose a boot device, booting a Windows system installed with Boot Camp or booting from a USB drive or other removable media.

Image Credit: Wesley Fryer on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.