In OSX, is it possible to navigate the menu bar without using the mouse (such as the arrow keys)? I'm looking for something similar to how Windows does this – pressing Alt allows the arrow keys to navigate the menu bar, pressing Enter invokes the menu item. This is more ergonomic as my hands don't have to leave the keyboard to invoke menu items. I'm aware of the various keyboard shortcuts, but unfortunately not all menu items have them.

Followup: I discovered Full Keyboard Access which solves half the problem. With Full Keyboard Access set to All Controls, is there a key that activates the menu bar?

3 Answers 3


From Mac OSX Keyboard Commands:

Full Keyboard Access (see Chapter 3)


    Toggle Full Keyboard Access on/off

  control+F2 (or control+M)

    Focus keyboard control on menu bar

  control+F3 (or control+D)

    Focus keyboard control on Dock

  control+F4 (or control+W)

    Focus keyboard control on active Window or cycle to next window

  control+F5 (or control+T)

    Focus keyboard control on toolbar

  control+F6 (or control+U)

    Focus keyboard control on palette (utility window)


    In windows and dialogs, switch focus to text boxes/lists/controls

  arrow keys

    Navigate active item

  return, enter, or spacebar

    Select highlighted item

  return or enter

    Select default dialog control (OK, Yes, No, Save, Open, etc.)


    Cancel action, menu, or dialog

control+F1 to enable Full Keyboard Access (only needed once), then

control+F2 (or control+M) is the command you are looking for.

  • Still inconvenient. Requires three keystrokes to get to see the menu contents - vs One keystroke on Windoze/Linux. ctl-f2 then 'F' (for File for example) then down arrow key ( to actually see the menu) Aug 20, 2015 at 0:44

Note that you can change the shortcut for this in: System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard & Text Input > "Move focus to the menu bar"

I highly recommend changing it, the default shortcut is very unfriendly due to the fact that you have to hold down the Fn key to access the "real" F2 key.

My shortcut is Control-Option-Command-RETURN.

  • 1
    Remember that you can change your function keys' requirement to hold Fn in the same preference pane.
    – Daniel Beck
    Mar 6, 2011 at 13:03

Have you tried ^+f2 (^ means ctrl)

it may need to combine with Fn + Ctrl + F1 because F2 key may have double functions. then you can navigate easily with arrows. Hope this helps.

  • My Mac keyboard does not have a Fn key. What should I do?
    – Mike L.
    Mar 6, 2011 at 16:11
  • @mklhmnn System Preferences ▸ Keyboard ▸ Keyboard Shortcuts ▸ Keyboard & Text Input ▸ Move Focus to the Menu Bar
    – Lri
    Mar 7, 2011 at 14:35

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