Option-tap the Touch Bar to open all kinds of preferences

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option Touch Bar Mac
Option-tap these icons to open Preferences.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you have a Mac with a Touch Bar, do this right now. Hold down the Option key (⌥), and tap the volume icon in the Touch Bar. For non-Touch Bar-using readers, this is what happened: The Mac’s Sound Preferences launched instantly.

This is such a typical Mac feature that it should be obvious. But when I shared this tip with fellow Touch Bar aficionado and Cult of Mac writer Graham Bower, he was all like, “Oh!” and, “That’s pretty neat!”

So, what other tricks can be done with the Option key and the Touch Bar?

Touch Bar and Option key, sitting in a tree, etc.

Here’s a list of the Touch Bar icons that work with the Option key held down:

  • Brightness opens the Displays preferences.
  • Extensions opens the Extensions preferences.
  • Keyboard Backlight opens the Keyboard preferences.
  • Do Not Disturb opens — you guessed it — the Do Not Disturb panel in the Notifications preferences.
  • Sleep opens the Energy Saver preferences.
  • AirPlay opens Displays preferences.
  • Spotlight opens Spotlight preferences.
  • Siri opens Siri preferences.
  • Input Sources opens Input Sources preferences.
  • Notifications opens Notifications preferences.
  • Screen Lock opens Security & Privacy preferences.

Some of the Touch Bar icons just perform their normal duty, ignoring the Option key. Take Screenshot, for example, opens the screenshot tool. Others ignore the Option key completely, effectively blocking the icon from doing anything.

Option key and Touch Bar in apps

Some apps offer a selection of commands in the Touch Bar, usually relevant to whatever you’re doing in the app right now. Apple’s Logic has the most amazing Touch Bar support. And, as you might predict, it has good support not just for the Option key, but also for the Command (⌘), Shift (⇧) and Control (⌃) keys.

Holding down any of the four modifier keys will offer a whole new set of actions in the Touch Bar. Take a look:

Logic's amazing Touch Bar support.

This is kind of like opening up a visual menu in the Touch Bar. I like it. I just wish more apps made such great use of the Touch Bar. Until developers step up and increase Touch Bar support, you can at least enjoy the shortcuts to the Mac’s various preferences.