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How to control your computer using your keyboard in macOS 12 Monterey

How to control your computer using your keyboard in macOS 12 Monterey

Short guide:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences.
  2. Click Accessibility.
  3. In the sidebar, click Keyboard.
  4. Tick the checkbox for Enable Full Keyboard Access.
  5. To change the settings for Full Keyboard Access, click the Options button.

Before and after

Images illustrating using a computer before and after Full Keyboard Access has been enabled

This section gives you step by step instructions on how to enable Full Keyboard Access in macOS 12 Monterey, with pictures of the screens to help.

Open System Preferences

1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen and choose System Preferences from the menu.

Open the Accessibility settings

2. In the System Preferences window, click Accessibility.

Find the Keyboard settings

3. In the sidebar, click Keyboard. On the right, make sure the Navigation tab is selected.

Enable Full Keyboard Access

4. Tick the checkbox for Full Keyboard Access.

Change the appearance of Full Keyboard Access

5. To change the appearance of Full Keyboard Access, click the Options button.

Change the auto-hide time

6. When you use Full Keyboard Access, the item you can select is highlighted with a coloured outline (you can see the Appearance tab highlighted with a blue outline in the next screenshot). By default, the outline is hidden after 15 seconds. If you want the outline to remain visible all the time, untick the checkbox for Auto-Hide.  To change the auto-hide length, use the up and down buttons for seconds.  

Make the outline thicker

7. To make the outline thicker, tick the checkbox for Increase Size.

Make the outline easier to see

8. To make the outline stand out against the background, tick the checkbox for High Contrast.

Change the outline colour

9. Click the drop-down menu for Colour and choose from the options.

View the commands for using Full Keyboard Access

10. Click the Commands tab to see the keyboard commands you can use to navigate and control your computer. A full list of commands is shown in the Keyboard commands to control your computer section below.

Close System Preferences

11. When you are happy with your settings, close System Preferences by clicking the Close button (red circle) in the top-left corner of the window or using the Cmd + W keyboard shortcut.

Keyboard commands to control your computer

12. You can use the following keyboard commands to navigate and control your computer:

Action Keyboard command
Help Tab + H
Move forwards Tab
Move backwards Shift + Tab
Move up in a group Up arrow
Move down in a group Down arrow
Move left in a group Left arrow
Move right in a group Right arrow
Activate (select) Space bar
Move to the beginning Tab + Left arrow
Move to the end Tab + Right arrow
Move to the next item Control + Tab
Move to the previous item Control + Shift + Tab
Switch applications Hold down the Command key and press Tab. Whilst holding down Command, press Tab repeatedly to move to the application you want to use. Release the Command button to switch to that app.
Contextual menu (the right click menu) Tab + M
Actions Tab + Z
Move to Menu bar Control + F2
Control Centre Fn + C
Notification Centre Fn + N
Dock Fn + A
Pass-Through Mode Control + Option (Alt) + Command + P

You can find other keyboard shortcuts for navigating your device listed in the Keyboard section of System Preferences - Apple logo (top-right of the screen) > System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts tab.

View the Full Keyboard Access help window

13. To open the Help window, press Tab + H. The help window contains all the keyboard commands you can use with Full Keyboard Access. You can select these commands to activate them right from the Help menu.

Temporarily disable Full Keyboard Access

14. To temporarily disable Full Keyboard Access when it might interfere with what you are doing - for instance, when you are playing a game - use Pass-Through Mode. To turn Passthrough Mode on or off, press Control + Option (Alt) + Command + P.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings are managed by someone else (an IT department or administrator for example). If so, you will need to contact them to access these settings or for help.

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