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

The option key (sometimes marked with ⌥ 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 make 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 Message center to be precise.

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

Hidden Mac menu bar options

To use these tips, hold down the Option key while clicking on one of the status menu icons. When you do this, another menu appears (or at least an extended version of the standard menu). You will see additional options in these new menus.

The exception here is the message center icon, which immediately performs an action when you click Option. We will start with that and then discuss the hidden functions of other Mac status menus one by one.

Notification center

If you click the Notification Center icon (the right-most icon in the Mac menu bar), your notifications will be placed in Do Not Disturb mode. It is exactly the same as opening the Notification Center and switching the Do Not Disturb button to Certainly. The icon will turn gray until tomorrow when the weather becomes normal.

Bluetooth

Normally click 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 see the correct name and address for your Mac’s Bluetooth radio, as well as options for browsing and sending files to devices, and more.

Volume

Option-click on 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 to play your audio. Hold down Option and click on the volume icon. You will 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.

Wireless

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

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

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 scroll through backup discs other than the default disc. This is useful if you are backing up to multiple Time Machine volumes or if you have connected an old backup.

Third-party Mac menu bar icons

It is worthwhile to just click on Option and click on all items on the menu bar of your Mac. Some status menus for third-party applications no longer offer anything, but others add a lot. Dropbox, for example, displays a completely different status menu, replacing that horrible standard window that normally appears.

Have fun exploring.

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