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On Windows based machines, whenever a dialogue box pops up with multiple choice options (ie 'Abort', 'Continue', 'Retry'), you can use the 'Tab' key to cycle through those options without using the mouse.

On OSX, there doesn't appear to be an option to cycle through dialogue boxes using a key rather than the Trackpad.

Is there any keyboard shortcut to do this?


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Thanks for edits and additional helpful articles everyone – tomdot Jul 3 '12 at 11:06
See also:… – Pup Apr 13 at 3:26
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is also the tab key. The difference to Windows is, that the "return" key always pushes the default button (which is the colored one). The currently selected button (which can be changed using the tab key) is marked through a colored border. If you'd like to push this button, you have to press the space bar.

enter image description here

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Ah that's it! Thanks for the help. – tomdot Jul 2 '12 at 9:46
Just remember that for this to work you must have it enabled in System Prefereces / Keyboard / Shortcuts – Thecafremo Jul 2 '12 at 9:47

You can cycle the dialog boxes. Also note that by default esc will choose cancel.

To enable switching via the tab key this feature go to System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts → Full Keyboard Access... → All Controls

Now you can use the tab key to switch the selection:

enter image description here

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This is the second part of the problem - I didn't have it enabled in the first place! – tomdot Jul 2 '12 at 10:37
On my Mac, running OS X 10.11, System Preferences informs me that this setting can be changed with <kbd>control</kbd>+<kbd>F7</kbd>. – Kenny Evitt Jul 16 at 3:07

Enable focusing with tab key at  → System PreferencesKeyboardShortcutsFull Keyboard Access...All Controls

tab moves between buttons

space presses focused button (with blue outline)

return presses default button (with blue background)

+first letter on button presses that button (works sometimes)

+. cancels

esc cancels

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