There is a keyboard shortcut for "Contacts.app" which does not appear to be documented anywhere (correct me if I'm wrong) which allows you to highlight the groups that the selected contact is part of, assuming the Groups pane is visible.

You just hold down the "Option" key.

However, there is another mode that I have only ever activated by accident, where these highlights stay on. You can click or arrow-key from one contact to another, and the highlights will change accordingly without holding down the "Option" key.

This is a really useful way to view Contacts. Unfortunately, all my efforts to either (a) find the documentation for this, or (b) activate this mode on purpose have failed.

I am using El Capitan, but I recall seeing the same behavior all the way back in Snow Leopard, and I couldn't figure out how to make the highlighting stay on then, either.

How can I make this highlighting mode stay on, to quickly and at-a-glance show which groups a particular contact belongs to?

  • 1
    I never found this function since many versions of MacOS X. I think this would be a nice improvment to suggest to Apple. The [alt] secret function is behaving inconsistently. I bet this is the secret reason it is kept secret ®.
    – dan
    Sep 27, 2016 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


I think you found a bug.
Within All Contacts,
if you select one contact entry,
hold down , maintain them, and select a second contact entry
then the highlighted group will stay on.

From there, if you use the keyboard arrows, this highlighting will remain on, but won't be correct.

My analysis is that in this sequence of events the key up isn't managed correctly.

  • Thanks, this is indeed a bug. However, this isn't the behavior I observed. When I accidentally turned on the highlighting in the past, it changed when I clicked or arrowed from contact to contact, and accurately showed the groups that each selected contact was part of.
    – Wildcard
    Sep 27, 2016 at 21:20

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