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I know that there has been a similar question asked here very recently, but I was wondering if it was possible to tab between buttons on default Mac OS X dialog boxes?

I already have the "All Controls" option enabled in System Preferences->Keyboard and mouse->keyboard shortcuts, but no joy.

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It's not the answer to the question but I feel it's relevant. You can tab backwards through the controls and boxes using shift+tab. –  Teifion Aug 5 '08 at 14:43
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Sep 12 '12 at 8:31

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6 Answers

up vote 61 down vote accepted

If you enable Full Keyboard Access by setting it to all controls, you should be able to tab between options and select by hitting spacebar, at least for OS X 10.5:

Full Keyboard Access: All Controls (Control+F7)

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Thanks. At least in Lion, this setting can also be switched on or off quickly using Ctrl+F7. –  Chris Neuroth Sep 13 '11 at 12:46
    
(Also on m. lion) –  JacopKane Jul 29 '12 at 13:37
    
Not much use though is it, since the OS doesn't always focus the dialog... :/ –  Henrik Erlandsson Jan 17 at 11:00
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While @ruddzw's (chosen) answer works, it can slow you down in other areas simply from the sheer number of controls there are to tab through.

@NReilingh presents a different approach, and the semantics behind it:

The right way to go about keyboard shortcuts for alternate dialog buttons is not tab, but command key combos. For example, Command-period is almost universally "cancel." [...]
It's often not documented, but the command shortcut for different buttons that aren't the default button or cancel is usually the first letter of that button.

So in the example:

Save prompt

  • enter/return will Save,
  • +. or esc will Cancel, and
  • +D will map to Don't Save.
    As @Kevin Reid points out, +delete works here as well.
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In the new combined save/do-you-want-to-save dialog boxes, "Don't Save"'s shortcut is ⌘-Delete. –  Kevin Reid Feb 9 '13 at 23:06
    
Both ⌘+D and ⌘+delete seem to map to Don't Save. –  Marius Butuc Oct 2 '13 at 16:49
    
didn't work for me (brand new osx with latest os whatever it is), so enabled all controls, but thanks, I'd have preferred your answer if it had worked. I did test all the keys on the keyboard, with FN, CTRL, Option as well. –  PatrickT Nov 29 '13 at 11:12
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in key bord preferences under "Keybord Shortcuts"

Full Keyboard Access: select "All Controls" instead of "Text Boxes and lists Only"

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Is there a specific dialog you're having trouble with? With "All controls" enabled I can tab around every control of every Mac OS X dialog I've tested just now.

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When browsing with Safari, you can also tab between all HTML elements on the page using Option+Tab (otherwise Tab would only stop on the browser toolbar controls and quick bookmarks)

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This feature is both a blessing and a curse. It allows you to tab through dialogue boxes, but it also forces you to tab through all the buttons on all of your applications.

If you used to use tab in iTunes to go from the search to the playlists to the song field, for example, it now tabs through a lot of new fields you don't want.

I hope apple will separate this feature into two options. Seems like its everything or nothing right now.

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