On my Mac, I use Microsoft's Remote Desktop app to connect to a Windows box. I can see in the preferences how to map the Command key to Alt, and the Option key to the Windows key, so that the Alt and Windows keys are in the same physical layout on my Mac RDP connection as they are on the actual Windows keyboard. That is, the Alt key (Command) is directly to the left of the space bar, and the Windows key (Option) is directly to the left of that.

But if I set it up that way, I can't use Alt-Tab on the Windows machine--the Mac intercepts it and treats it as a Command-Tab to switch away from the RDP app. I know some programs are able to prevent this--VirtualBox and VMWare, for instance, let you use Command-Tab as Alt-Tab inside a windows guest. (In fact, one solution to this I had was to use a Windows virtual machine on the mac, only to use that to RDP into another machine!)

Short of creating a windows virtual machine, is there any way I can get the Mac RDP app to send Command-Tab as Alt-Tab to the remote Windows machine?


Try using CoRD instead of Microsoft's RDP client.

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    Project appears to be deprecated/abandoned, last comment on the site is: 2013-10-23: CoRD don't seem to work on 10.9 Mavericks. Check back next week. :( – Adam Parkin Dec 8 '17 at 18:43

Is Option-Tab not working? In RDP from a Mac I have gotten used to using the Option key as my Windows Alt. Using this allows me to maintain the Command key for my Mac hot keys and have the actions for alt register in my RDP window.

  • Yes, if I map Option to Alt instead of Command, then Option-Tab works as Alt-Tab. But that drives me bonkers! I want the Alt key to be in the equivalent place on the keyboard whether I'm using the Windows box locally, or remotely from my Mac, and that means that Command should be the Alt key. And I want to use the Option key as the Windows key (which works fine--but I want my Alt-Tab!) – Micah Jul 28 '09 at 2:36
  • I am with you. If I could correct you just a bit - you want the key next to your space bar on your left thumb + tab to work. On my MacBook Pro, the option key actually has 'alt' written above it! – akf Jul 28 '09 at 3:25
  • That's right. My apple full-size keyboard that came with my Mac Pro also has "Alt" written above the option key, and if I plug that keyboard into a Windows box, the Option key becomes Alt and the Command key becomes the Windows key. But, as you say, my fingers want to use the key to the left of the spacebar as Alt. I'll edit the question for clarity... – Micah Jul 28 '09 at 4:08

Old post, but here's a great solution. Use the mac app Karabiner. https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/

It allows you to do several things with remote desktop.

Go to the Change Key tab and look under For Applications

  • 1
    please, do not link solutions. Rather write the important part here, since after the website disapears, it will not be helpful to anyone. – Jakuje Oct 30 '15 at 16:47
  • The link is to the mentioned app. – Dave M Oct 30 '15 at 17:16
  • Yup. Link is for convenience. – Chris Beshore Oct 31 '15 at 20:45

Native within OSX, you can remap existing menu items. If your application has a menu item for CMD+TAB, you are in luck.

For me, I needed to disable (or remap) CMD+W when using Microsoft Remote Desktop (muscle memory would press CMD+W to close a tab within a remote session and would accidentally close my remote session). I originally tried karabiner but it was way overkill for this.

How to remap a command for specific application:

  1. Check your application menus for the command you want. NOTE THE exact COMMAND NAME. RDP Menu options example
  2. Within System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts Tab -> App Shortcuts pane -> Click the + button to add new application specific command remap App shortcuts control panel
  3. Create a new remap for your application. Note: The Menu Title has to match exactly to the command you identified in step 1. Creating new App shortcut remap
  4. Enjoy your newly remap/"disabled" key shortcut (remap it to some crazy combo to effectively disable it): Close command remapped to new key combination

You could do this:

  1. Swap the Command key and Option key in Mac Keyboard Preferences.
  2. Set Alt to Option (default) in RDP Client Preferences and set Windows Start to Command.

This gives you the same layout as a Windows keyboard on Remote Desktop, though it does affect the remainder of your Mac applications. I find that it's not that big of a deal to get used to swapped option and command keys on the Mac. I spend a lot of time in an RDP session and I spend another 30% of my time on a PC, so it's just easier to use that layout for me.

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