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Chapter 4. Keys & the Keyboard > Full Keyboard Access

Full Keyboard Access

Full Keyboard Access lets you do a lot of actions with your keyboard so you don’t have to pick up the mouse to click buttons, use menus, open applications and menus in the Dock, jump from tab to tab in dialog boxes, and more. This might be a convenience for you, or you might have trouble using a mouse and so it might be a great and necessary tool.

In the Dock, click once on this icon to open System Preferences.

Full Keyboard Access only works in applications that have been created specifically for Mac OS X—it does not work in Classic, nor does it work in applications that open in both OS 9 and OS X.

In the System Preferences pane, click once on this icon.

Open the Keyboard preferences, as explained to the right, and click the “Full Keyboard Access” tab, as shown below.

Check the box to turn on full keyboard access. As it says, you can press Control F1 at any time, whether this pane is open or not, to turn keyboard access on and off.

Once it is turned on, press the Control key plus one of the function keys noted above to focus on a certain part of your screen. For instance:

To use the menu bar with the keyboard instead of the mouse, press Control F2. The Apple menu will instantly drop down.

Once the menu bar is thus selected, use the RightArrow and LeftArrow keys to select menus; each menu will drop down as you get to it.

When a menu is visible, use the Up and DownArrow keys to highlight items, and the RightArrow to open a submenu.

When the menu command you want is highlighted, press the Spacebar.

To choose nothing, press the Escape key.

You can also use Tab to move to the right across the menu bar, and Shift Tab to the left, but who cares since the Arrow keys work just fine.

You can use the same technique to access the Dock and use the arrow keys to select each item in the Dock. To open an application, press the Spacebar. To pop up a Dock menu, press the UpArrow. To select an item in the Dock menu, press the Spacebar.

The Return or Enter key also works to choose highlighted items, but if there is a pulsing blue button, the Return or Enter key will activate the blue button instead of your selected item. So it’s a good idea to get in the habit of using the Spacebar.

If an application has a Toolbar, as in Mail or Address Book, you can select the Toolbar and its items. You can select palettes that a program might use.

If you choose to highlight “Any control,” you can select every button and edit box in the entire dialog box from the keyboard. That is, as you press the Tab key, each button, edit box, checkbox, or radio button is highlighted in turn, and then you can use the keyboard (as listed below) to act on the selected item.

If you use Keyboard Access regularly, you might discover that it is difficult to type some of the key combinations. For instance, Control F6 really takes two hands. So you can choose to use letter keys instead, such as “Control d” to focus on the Dock. Or choose the “Custom keys” option and select your own keys to use as shortcuts.

Once you focus on the item of your choice, use these keys listed below to highlight and select.

To highlight items:

Highlight the next item in a list, set of tabs, or in a menu: Arrow keys

Highlight the next control: Tab

Highlight the next control if an edit box is currently selected: Control Tab

Highlight the next window in the active application: Command ~ (Tilde key, upper-left)

Move sliders and spin buttons[*]: Arrow keys

[*] Spin buttons are the ones that cycle around, like when moving the hours, minutes, and seconds up and down in the Time pane.

Highlight a control attached to an edit box[**]: Control Arrow keys

[**] As in an edit box where you can type in a font size, and next to it is a menu with font size choices.

Reverse the order of selection: Add the Shift key to the Tab or arrow keys you were using

To choose highlighted items:

Select the highlighted item: Spacebar

Click the default button (pulsing blue) or perform the default action: Return or Enter

Cancel a dialog box or close a menu without choosing an item: Escape

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