I recently converted from Windows to Mac, but one thing that I really liked on Windows was how easy it was to traverse the menu bar and the associated submenus with the keys. Effectively, I would push the magic menu button and then type letters corresponding to menu options. With Mac the analog is an awkward button combination followed by repetitively hitting up, down, left, and right.

So, is there any way to make my Mac behave like a Windows computer in this respect?

  • P.S. I know this question probably won't win me any popularity contests... sorry. :-( Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 3:04
  • OK, but what about pulling down an arbitrary menu like you can on Windows? It sounds like OSX requires a lot more keystrokes to do the same thing, especially if my application has a lot of menus with a lot of items that don't have dedicated key bindings.
    – nitind
    Commented Apr 23, 2011 at 7:55
  • > won't win popularity . That's for sure in general. But I'm one of the persons that rcognizes that Windows/Linux did not get it all wrong (and macos did not get it all right) . THIS is the smoking gun. Anyone who does not appreciate the value simply never understood it - versus either memorizing hundreds of shortcuts or (even worse) resorting to the mouse . Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


It works pretty much as you describe Windows.

If you want a better key combo to access the menu bar, you can customize it under System Prefs > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Keyboard & Text Input > Move focus to the menu bar.

Then type to select which menu you want, hit enter, then type to select the menu item.

Note that most menu items have keyboard shortcuts. These are written next to the menu item, often a single character preceded by the CMD key.

  • This answer is correct as far as: "it's the best one can do on this mnemonics-hostile operating system". It is additional keystrokes and works only a fraction of the time. Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 19:39

The fastest way to access the menu items is just by hitting Command Shift ? , and typing the menu item you want in the search box that appears

  • ⇧⌘␣? At least on the US and Finnish locales the default shortcut for showing the help menu is ⌘?.
    – Lri
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 1:24
  • oops, i was kinda out of it i guess, i'll edit my answer :P
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 1:26

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