Can I use drop-down menus in Word for Mac?
January 22, 2006 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Menu bar / keyboard control of Word for Mac - is it possible?

I recently purchased a Powerbook G4 (right before MacWorld - d'oh!). I have used PCs exclusively in the past, and have gotten very comfortable driving with the keyboard. My job requires me to do a LOT of writing and editing in Word, and I really miss all the key-stroke combinations and drop-down menu options, accessed via the keyboard, from the PC version of Word. For instance, I loved Alt-E-S for paste-special, Alt-I-N for insert footnote, Alt-O-E-U for change text format to uppercase. The great thing about the drop-down menus was that you didn't necessarily have to know all the keyboard shortcuts by heart - you could simply hit Alt-E and see all the Edit menu options, and then complete the keyboard shortcut from there.

So far, in using the Mac Word program, I haven't been able to find the same sort of keyboard functionality. More importantly - and I guess this is my real question - why can't I trigger drop-down menus from the keyboard the way you can in PC Word? For instance, Alt-O drops down the format menu in the PC version, and lets me arrow through all the options underneath that menu. Why can't I do this with the Mac?

Sorry if this is a dumb question. I have loked at Rixstep, but didn't see what I was looking for there. I hope I'm not just missing something obvious... if I am, please be gentle.
posted by fearless_yakov to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > change "Move focus to the menu bar" to any key you find convenient. Then you just hit that key and you can navigate the menu bar with the keyboard including typeahead to select menu or item names.

If there are specific commands you want to assign keyboard shortcuts in particular applications, you can do that here too.

The reason you can't find this in Word is because it's not in Word regardless of whether it's on Windows or the Mac, it's in the operating system itself.
posted by kindall at 5:39 PM on January 22, 2006

(Control-F2 is the default for moving focus the menu bar, and indeed it is listed on Rixstep.)
posted by kindall at 5:40 PM on January 22, 2006

Response by poster: Switching focus to the menu bar with (default) ^F2 helps, but doesn't get me all the way there. For instance, to change text to All Caps with macWord, I have to switch focus to the Menu bar, then arrow over to Format, arrow down to Font, go into the Font menu, and mouse-click to select "upper case." Many keystrokes, and a mouse-stroke.

In PC Word, I hit Alt-O and see the Format menu. When it drops, I can see that all I have to do is hit E to access "change case," then hit U to select UPPERCASE. 3 key strokes.

Does the fact that this is an operating system issue mean there's nothing I can do about it? I was informed by all the Apple zealots prior to purchasing that OS X was superior in every way to Windows... my expectations are being crushed...
posted by fearless_yakov at 5:58 PM on January 22, 2006

That's why we call them "Apple zealots." Even if OS X was the superior operating system (which it is generally acknowledged to be), that doesn't mean it'll be superior in every single aspect. Interface quirks are one of the biggest sticking points for former Windows users.

As far as I know, the exact functionality you seek isn't available in OS X; you're just going to have to learn the proper keyboard shortcuts like everyone else.
posted by chrominance at 6:05 PM on January 22, 2006

You're thinking about the problem in a Windows way. You don't actually want to control menus from the keyboard, you want to assign shortcuts to the commands you want. For instance, by default Shift-Apple-K turns highlighted texts to small caps.

To set the commands and shortcuts you'd like, go to Tools -> Customize -> Customize Keyboard... then choose the menu options from the list and assign them keys. All the ones you mentioned are in there. Good luck.
posted by bonaldi at 6:12 PM on January 22, 2006

I've just had a play, and you should in fact be able to assign all your old PC shortcuts without interfering with the default apple-key ones. Just use Ctrl instead of alt. I was able to assign insert footnote to Ctrl-I,K for example.
posted by bonaldi at 6:14 PM on January 22, 2006

To change text to All Caps with macWord, I have to switch focus to the Menu bar, then arrow over to Format, arrow down to Font, go into the Font menu, and mouse-click to select "upper case." Many keystrokes, and a mouse-stroke.

Wait, why are you using the mouse in a procedure intended to avoid using the mouse? Don't make it harder than it has to be and then complain about how hard it is. Just hit Space or Return to select whatever's highlighted. You can also typeahead to select menu titles and menu items, no need to arrow all over the place.

That said, the Windows way is still fewer keystrokes, which is why I suggested assigning shortcuts for the commands you need... you can do this in Word itself, as bonaldi notes, in addition to the system-wide control panel.
posted by kindall at 7:40 PM on January 22, 2006

Quicksilver has some new keyboard shortcut goodness that involves controlling the menus in the way you specify. Haven't tested it in any thorough way since keyboard access to menus isn't my cup of tea, but it might be worth looking into.

Warning, it's not exactly straightforward. I found it while playing with the constellation plug-in, I think.
posted by Jeff Howard at 7:57 PM on January 22, 2006

Response by poster: I'm not making it harder than it is intentionally, dammit... I'm just struggling to get Word to do what I want it to with just the keyboard. Keep in mind that the Mac interface is COMPLETELY new to me, and it often doesn't act like I want it to.
The Typeahead thing, for example... I know that seems obvoius to you, but I didn't know about it. Using Typeahead is actually solving most of my problems now.
posted by fearless_yakov at 8:31 PM on January 22, 2006

How about that, I learned something new. I was ready to say there is no way to do multi-stroke shortcuts in Word. Then I went in and tried to create one, and it worked. I replicated Bonaldi's experiment, and was taken aback to see it work.

I can see how it would be useful to break some shortcuts into two steps because Word has so freaking many commands. One key for "Insert..." and another for "footnote/endnote/TOC/whatever" makes sense.

Still, this is not quite the same as Windows. You're going to need to learn new muscle memory.
posted by adamrice at 7:02 AM on January 23, 2006

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