Volume menu bar alt controls

The volume button in the menu bar seems extremely simple on the surface. When you click the button, you’re met with a basic volume slider for adjusting your Mac’s audio output. But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this tiny menu bar control.

For example, did you know that you can also use the volume button to change your Mac’s sound output device, input device, and quickly access the sound preferences? Or what about its ability to change the volume of OS X’s alert sounds? Indeed, the unassuming volume button packs quite the utilitarian punch.

Changing input and output

To change your volume input or output device, hold the Alt/Option (⌥) key on the keyboard, and click on the volume button in the menu bar. From there, you’ll be able to choose between your Mac’s available input devices and output devices. Clicking on one of the available devices switches to it immediately. Not only is this a great way to switch between audio interfaces connected to OS X, I also find that it’s an easy way to output to an AirPlay-enabled device like an Apple TV.

Quick access to sound preferences

Holding the Alt/Option (⌥) key also allows you to quickly access the sound section of the System Preferences. This is a great trick to use if you want a surefire way to get directly to the sound section without any possible detours along the way.

System Preferences Sound

Adjusting system alert volume

As if all of those extras weren’t enough, you can use the volume button in the menu bar to adjust the system alert volume. To do so, hold the Shift key on the keyboard and click on the volume button in the menu bar. You may notice that the location of the volume knob is different that your current volume. This is because holding the shift key while clicking the volume button changes the volume control to system alert sounds instead of the overall system volume. You can then adjust this slider to change the volume of the alert sounds on your Mac.

System alert volume control menu bar

I urge you to watch the video walkthrough above, which showcases all of these awesome menu bar volume button tips in action.

What do you think about the diminutive volume menu bar button now? Have you adopted a newfound respect for it, or have you admired it all along?

  • klouud

    I want to know how to get rid of sound flower. It drives me nuts!!

    • P51oss

      Download the Sound Flower.dmg, open it up and run the Uninstall Sound Flower script. Run the scrip in Script Editor then restart your machine.

      • klouud

        I tried this but sound flower still shows up in Syst Prefs>Sound

  • AlanAudio

    What I want is a way to independently control the volume of Safari compared to other apps.

    I frequently listen to iTunes or something similar in the background while surfing the ‘net. Far too many sites now feature intrusive video adverts that start up by themselves and obliterate the music I have chosen to listen to.

    • Newgunnerr

      Exactly this!

      • Will Mason Moses

        Have you two head of uBlock?

  • Joshua The-Legend Wiebe

    Hey Jeff Benjamin, make a tutorial on guest accounts for OSX

    • Carlos Medina

      Yes this x10 i tried playing around with the settings but somehow the guest account keeps going to safari only.

      • Eventually

      • Carlos Medina

        Ill be on the lookout, Thanks and by the way keep these articles going. Very helpful indeed.

  • :)

    is there a way to make the sound output be my tv if i dont have external mouse or keyboard? When i hook up my macbook to my tv and close it the sound reverts back to the laptop.

  • Ian Leon

    why don’t you make a tutorial that says, “Wanna see awesome cool stuff in all the places? hold down option”

    • Because that would be the equivalent of saying “want to see some cool stuff? Use a computer.” Plus there’s more than option being used here.

      • Ian Leon

        Good point. Did you see my comment about the hidden flags in iOS 8.3 beta ???

  • John Smith

    How do you have a Photos app?

  • Jose Rivera

    Hey Jeff, so I found out that holding down Option does the same thing for bluetooth and the WiFi… For WiFi it brings up more details on your network… Maybe a possible article can come from this?