It’s always bugged me that you couldn’t operate the menu bar on the Mac as easily as you can on Windows. Most Windows users have discovered that you can get to most any menu command by pressing the Alt key plus certain letter keys. This isn’t so easy on the Mac.
Now on the Mac you can configure a hot key to get to the menu without using the mouse. The default for this is Control+F2. Seems odd that they would choose such a contorted key combination for something you need to do so often. I suppose it’s a result of the Mac’s mouse-centric cultural heritage.
In System Preferences they let you set this to almost any key combination you want, but setting it to something as simple as Windows’ Alt-key-by-itself isn’t possible. Also, no matter what you set it to, it isn’t always reliable. The web is full of complaints that this simply stops working sometimes.
So I decided to fix this problem. This little utility, Alt+Mac, does one thing and one thing only. When you press the Alt (a.k.a. Option) key by itself, it places focus on the menu bar. Then you can use the arrow keys, letter keys, and return key to select menu commands as you’ve always been able to do. Not a big change; you can simply get to the menu faster and easier, and without having to press an awkward or unaccustomed key combination.
Those of you who are used to the way Windows menus work will still notice some differences in how you operate the Mac’s menus, for example, you have to press the Return key or an arrow key to select menu commands or get to sub-menus. I looked in to fixing this problem as well, but once the menu has focus, it doesn’t send keyboard events to the Cocoa API. (If anyone knows how to listen to keyboard events while the menu is activated, I’m all ears.) Even so, it’s so much nicer being able to get to the menu bar with a simple press of the Alt key.
Alt+Mac is and will remain a free utility. The code quality at this stage is Alpha/Beta-ish. Please download it, give it a try, and let me know if you have any issues by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If enough people are interested, I’m also willing to make it open source, and am open to your suggestions regarding a good code sharing platform for this.
Here it is, hope you enjoy:
Build 1.0.1 Beta – Requires OS X 10.7 Lion or OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Alt+Mac by Finding Order Software LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.