macOS: How to put keyboard focus on the Mac menubar

For a long time I've read that you could use your Apple/Mac keyboard to access the menubar on MacOS systems using the [Control][F2] keystroke. That never actually worked, so I logically assumed that everyone else was insane.

Well, it turns out that what really happened is that silly me was using Apple keyboards ... and as I was trying to figure this out again today, I looked over at that [fn] key on the keyboard, and thought, "No, surely I wouldn't have to press that too ..."

The Mac menubar keyboard command (keystroke)

Sure enough, when using an Apple keyboard, if the [Control][F2] keystroke doesn't give you access to the Mac menubar (menu system), try the [fn][Control][F2] keystroke and see if that works for you. You'll be able to tell instantly, as focus will be moved to the "apple" menu on your Mac menubar.

About that [Control][M] key ...

Getting back to the insanity ... I've read that you can also type the [Control][M] keystroke to access the Mac menubar, but that isn't working — with or without the [fn] key, the [Shift] key, or even the gas pedal. If anyone knows the secret to that keyboard command, please write me, or better yet, leave a comment below. [Control][M] is certainly an easier keystroke to remember ... if only it worked.

Mac keyboard preferences panels

With many thanks to the people who commented below, I thought I'd share two screenshots of the Mac OS X keyboard preferences panels that show what is discussed in the Comments section. First, the Keyboard preferencs panel (tab) shows the option to use your Mac function keys as "standard" function keys.

Mac OS X keyboard preferences - function key options

Next, the Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Preferences panel shows a number of things, including the part where [Control][M] is not offered as a keyboard shortcut to get to the Mac menubar from the keyboard:

Mac OS X Preferences - Keyboard Shortcuts, including putting focus on the Mac menu bar

With the "+" and "-" buttons shown below the keystrokes area, it looks like you may be able to define your own keystrokes, but I just tried this, and didn't have any luck in making [Control][M] work with the menu bar ... I have a little too much on my plate today, but I'll try to look at this more the next time I have a little free time.



Just an FYI:

If you seem to use the F* keys more than the ones mapped onto the keyboard by Apple like brightness and volume control, you can actually check the box that says "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as....." that can be found under System Preferences > Keyboard.

Also, I don't think there's the CTRL+M option, under System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Keyboard & Text Input, you can see the available commands for moving focus.


This was driving me nuts. Your post inspired me to dig deeper, and I found, via, that you can toggle this behavior via keyboard prefs.

Jonathan - thanks, I got so caught up in the Keyboard Shortcuts panel that I forgot to look at the Keyboard panel. I like the way the function keys work by default, so I'll leave them as is, but that's good to know. And you're right, there is no [Control][m] in the Keyboard Shortcuts panel. I think I need a keyboard-mapping app, similar to the way Sizzling Keys works with iTunes.

rwhit - thanks, also. I haven't tried this on my MacBook Pro yet, but I'm glad to see this line in that support doc:

"If the keyboard shortcut uses a function key and you’re using a portable computer, you must press the Control key first, and then press the Fn key and the function key."