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Mac 101: Use the tab key in more dialog boxes

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma

TUAW reader Cody Rogers wrote in to say: "I'm fairly new to my iMac and Macbook Pro running Snow Leopard. One of my biggest annoyances from switching over from PC to Mac is when a dialogue box comes up and says 'cancel' or 'okay' I can't find the keyboard shortcut to go from cancel to okay. In Windows, I could just hit 'tab' to go to the other option. Is this possible on a Mac? I've been doing some searching on it and can't find anything!"

I happened to have found the same thing when doing a clean reinstall of Snow Leopard over the weekend. The good news is that there is a way to do it, but it is not turned on by default and it does require a bit of hunting around. I didn't remember where it was either.
  1. Launch System Preferences, either by choosing it from the "Apple" menu or by going to your /Applications/ folder.
  2. In System Preferences, select the "Keyboard" preference pane (middle of the 2nd row)
  3. Then click "Keyboard Shortcuts" at the top of that window (see image above)
  4. At the bottom of that panel there is an option to use Tab to move between either "Text boxes and lists only" (default) or "All controls".
Select the radio control next to "All controls" and you will now be able to use the tab to go between "Save" and "Cancel" or any other dialog boxes which appear.

Also note that for most dialog boxes, the Enter/Return key will select "OK" and command+period (or the Escape key) will cancel.

If you'd like to learn more about using keyboard shortcuts with Mac OS X, Apple has a really useful page which will come in handy, especially for those switching from Windows.

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