I use a Mac Mini as Home Entertainment System (no keyboard or mouse connected).

To access the Mac Mini from my Windows 7 PC I use VNC (note the Windows 7 PC has a German keyboard).

My problem is that I can't get the Mac "Option-Key" to work. Googling the internet brought up the following tips (which did not olve the problem):

  • switching the keyboard to US
  • using KeyRemap 4 for Mac
  • Change the VNC Viewer (Ultra VNC, Tight VNC)

So I found the special keys configuration in the Mac system preferences > keyboard > special keys. Here I don't manage to make any settings since the remote keyboard (= VNC connection) is not recognised - the system state is "no keyboard connected".

  1. Does anyone know a virtual keyboard I could install?
  2. Do you know any alternatives on how I can get the options-key to work (using a VNC-viewer)?
  • You suggested changing it, but what VNC are you using now?
    – xdumaine
    Sep 29, 2010 at 21:16
  • I've got Ultra VNC 1.8.2 and Tight VNC installed. Ultra VNC doesn't work well with Snow Leopard so I can run the keyboard into a faulty state that keeps the option key activated from then on (so far the only way to work it).
    – iFloh
    Oct 1, 2010 at 4:38

5 Answers 5


In UltraVNC you can press the Scroll Lock key once. This allows you to press your Windows key and have it act like the Command key on OSX (it's in the same position too).

  • my keyboard does not have a Scroll Lock key.
    – Michael
    Dec 30, 2012 at 17:58

The answer is here: https://www.realvnc.com/products/vnc/documentation/5.0/misc/keyboard-mapping/

tl;dr Opt key is mapped to AltR on US-PC kb and AltGr on non-US PC kb

If anyone knows, in general, how to access remote mac's option key from any client (say, the iOS VNC.app client, or Andriod's VNC client), plz post as answer to OP's question, tia.


Yes there is a virtual keyboard built into OS X.

System Preferences > Keyboard > Show Keyboard & Character Viewer in Menubar [x]

Then you will see an icon in the menubar, click on that and select 'Open Keyboard...'

System Preferences

Show Keyboard

  • At least on OS X 10.6, "Open Keyboard" brings up the System Preferences Keyboard section. I have to "Show Keyboard Viewer" to actually see the on-screen keyboard.
    – Michael
    Dec 30, 2012 at 18:20
  • 1
    Also, for some reason the on-screen keyboard does not seem to do anything. Shouldn't I just be able to click on the on-screen keys? That does nothing.
    – Michael
    Dec 30, 2012 at 18:20
  • I do however see whatever key I am pressing highlighted...
    – Michael
    Dec 30, 2012 at 18:54

I found nearly the same problems with Mac-Mini (late 2012), with Italian keyboard.

I've performed some tests with Event Viewer tool found into KeyRemap4MacBook software, by comparing events with the local keyboard and the VNC connected keyboard. I suggest to use it to find what is happening for keyboard related problems.

I've tried with the native VNC server installed in OS X 10.8.4 Mountain Lion, the one installed in OS X 10.6.8, with VineVNC server (v4.01) and RealVNC server (v5.0.6).

Here my most interesting findings:

  • Leave native language keyboard on the remote Mac, but set "US Keyboard" on the local PC.
  • Use VineVNC server, because I found this is the only VNC server that generates complete Mac keyboard events. For strange reasons, with TightVNC both the native OSX server and the RealVNC server treats both the Win/Alt keys as Command.
  • Use RealVNC or TightVNC (2.7.10 or above see http://www.tightvnc.com/whatsnew.php#2.7.10) clients to have "Option" key enabled: TightVNC prior to 2.7.10 and UltraVNC viewers do not send the "Windows" key (which will be mapped to "Option" mac key).

In my tests the real events that are received by the server are always different from the local events of an attached keyboard. For example there is no distinction between left and right buttons when you are connected with VNC (for every client I've tested). RealVNC client version used is "5.0.5 Windows 64bit" on Windows 7 Professional.

About the "no keyboard connected" error, I've not tried nothing but connecting a keyboard to the MacMini (when I'm remotely connected I need to have a real keyboard connected to the Mac Mini !).


probably unhelpful shot in the dark here, but does super/windows key not work? It seems like they would be equivalent. Or am i confusing it with the command key?

  • the windows key (or ctrl + escape) doesn't do it. In one post I found that pressing <ctrl> + <alt> might simulate the option key, but that doesn't fly either.
    – iFloh
    Oct 1, 2010 at 4:41

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