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How can I select buttons with just the keyboard?

I have been using OS X for only a while now and am finding certain things a bit hard to do. Consider an option box shown below :- enter image description here

Pressing an enter key would shut down the system, however how do I select the "restart" or the "cancel" options using they keyboard alone? Whats the keyboard shortcut for that? Arrow keys just dont work. Coming from a Linux/Windows background, this is really confusing.


Use the Tab key to switch buttons then return to activate that.

I think all GUIs I have used - Windows, OS X, X11, old Mac all have this.

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  • Don't try this at home ! You would risk shutting down your Mac by mistake. This answer is simply wrong. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jan 31 '15 at 17:48
  • How does that shutdown a Mac? – mmmmmm Jan 31 '15 at 19:39
  • Let's say Joe has full keyboard access enabled. Joe presses the Power button, and gets the dialog. Joe follows your advice, and presses Tab until the button Cancel is outlined, and presses Return to activate the button Cancel. This will activate the default button Shut down, and will shut down the Mac. – Nicolas Barbulesco Feb 1 '15 at 16:11