Hold down the Option key to unlock Mac’s hidden menu bar

The Option key (sometimes marked ⌥ on your Mac keyboard) gives you additional options, whether you use the keyboard or the mouse. Hold it down while dragging a file, for example, and it will create a duplicate of that file, instead of just moving it. The Option key works everywhere – also in the menus. Today we’re going to see what happens when you click the Options button on the status menu icons on the right side of your Mac toolbar. Bluetooth widgets, volume, Wi-Fi, Time Machine and Notification Center, to be precise.

Clicking on these icons gives you much more control over some of the basic functionality of your Mac. You may be surprised at what you can do up there.

Hidden Mac Menu Bar Options

To use these tips, simply hold down the Option key while clicking on one of the status menu icons. When you do, a different menu appears (or at least an expanded version of the standard menu). In these new menus, you will see additional options.

The exception here is the notification center icon, which performs an action immediately when you click Option. We’ll start with that, and then go over the hidden features of other Mac status menus one by one.

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Notification Center

Option-clicking the Notification Center icon, which is the rightmost icon in the Mac menu bar, will put your notifications in Do Not Disturb mode. It’s exactly the same function as opening the Notification Center and switching the DND button to Sure. The icon will turn gray until tomorrow when it returns to normal.

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Bluetooth

Normally click on the icon in the Bluetooth menu bar and you will see a list of paired devices that you can click to connect or disconnect. However, if you click the Options button on the Bluetooth icon, you will get a detailed overview. You’ll see the appropriate name and address for your Mac’s Bluetooth radio, as well as options for browsing and sending files to devices, and more.

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Volume

Option-click the volume icon to route the audio to your Mac.

A normal click on the volume icon shows you the available output devices on your Mac so you can see where you want your audio to be played. Option-click the volume icon, and you’ll also see a list of available input devices, including AirPlay devices. It is a quick way to switch inputs and outputs for main system audio.

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Wireless

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Option-click on the Wi-Fi status menu to see many additional options.

Wi-Fi offers the largest menu, if only because it displays a list of all the networks available in your immediate vicinity. In terms of extras, click on the Wi-Fi menu option to view additional details about your current Wi-Fi network, from its name and channel, to signal strength and noise. You can also click on new menu items to activate various logging and diagnostic tools, which may prove to be useful when troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues.

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Time Machine

Time Machine also offers practical options.

The only change when you hold down the Option key and click on the Time Machine menu is that you can browse backup disks other than the default one. This is useful if you are backing up to multiple Time Machine volumes or if you have connected an old backup.

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Third-party Mac menu bar icons

It’s worth taking a moment to Option-click on all of the items on your Mac’s menu bar right now. Some status menus for third-party applications offer nothing more, but others add a lot. Dropbox, for example, shows you a completely different status menu, replacing that hideous default window that normally appears.

Have fun exploring.

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