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 macOS’ 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 macOS, 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?