I've been on a bit of a Keyboard-only kick lately, enabled chiefly due to the Chrome Keyboard Shortcut Extension, and I've begun bumping into a few difficult situations in everyday Desktop App use.

In applications like iTunes, or Code Editors, they have a unified sidebar with categorically organized content. iTunes has categories for your library, other people's libraries, your device, and playlists, Coda has a file picker, etc. But what is the easiest way to move keyboard focus to these sidebars? My current solution is to alternate Tab and aimlessly until I see an item on the sidebar highlighted. Needless to say this is frustrating and can lead to unintended changes being made in content panes.

I notice that most all apps have a function to hide the sidebar in the app menus, but restoring it doesn't move the focus to the sidebar.

I've looked at the Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcut Question but didn't find what I was looking for. Is there some kind of a global shortcut that will move focus between different interface elements, easily? Reliably?

  • Just keyboard or track/touch pad based ones too ?
    – garikapati
    Commented Dec 29, 2010 at 20:36
  • 1
    Just keyboard. This is a desktop question, not an iOS question. With a mouse, I can just click in the sidebar. The point is to avoid the mouse. Commented Dec 29, 2010 at 20:41
  • Nice extension! Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 21:01
  • Something tells me that this feature doesn't exist, and that's sad. If I'm particularly motivated enough, I may write this up at rdar://. I'm going to accept the only answer I got, because it, well, actually tried to solve the issue! :). Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 22:28
  • Thx :-) Let us know when you got something working. Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


Thinking outside the box:

If the only reason you want the keyboard shortcut, is to avoid your mouse, have you considered a trackpoint keyboard?

Because I had RSI in the past, trackpoint keyboards are about the only ones I can use (even at clients, I usually bring my keyboard, or work from my laptop that has such a keyboard).

The big upside of those keyboards is that you don't have to take your hand of the keyboard in order to use the mouse.
For trackpads I still need to (somehow using my thumb is far less accurate on trackpads than using my index finger, o I still need to lift my hand for pointing).

It takes a little while to get used to a trackpoint, but I can't do without them any more.
USB trackpoint keyboards work equally well on Mac and PC.


  • I want a keyboard shortcut because (when implemented correctly), the keyboard is blazingly fast, and more accurate than a mouse could ever hope to be. I understand that you can't map everything back to the keyboard, but when I can, I would love to use it. Again, reference the Chrome extension I linked in my post, that extension has been a boon (except in some places on this network, imagine that). I use a MacBook Pro and find myself nudging the trackpad occasionally, but again, the mouse is imprecise (to a point) by definition. I do miss trackpoints though, always preferred those to touchpads. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 18:32
  • thanks for your clarification; I agree that keyboard-only is way faster than any pointing device for repetitive tasks. Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 13:15
  • See the comment on the original post, thanks for your answer. Commented Feb 4, 2011 at 22:28

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