Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Do you know any hidden or little-known nice feature of Mac OS X? It doesn't matter what it is—maybe just a short terminal command or a keyboard shortcut. Share your experiences on hidden Mac OS X features with us..

Please post one tip per answer. Please also check to see if your answer has already been posted - duplicate answers will be deleted. To search answers for this question use inquestion:400 (or inquestion:this, directly from the question page) in addition to your search terms in the search box in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Also provide details on how to achieve that feature, and if possible, include a relevant image too!

share|improve this question
20 is a great source of hidden gems on the Mac. – Philip Regan Aug 24 '10 at 23:35
I wonder if the "Terminal Tips and Tricks For Mac OS X" thread from SU can be ported over:… – Josh Newman Sep 14 '10 at 17:12
@3rdparty, that would probably happen only after this site is out of beta... (though I don't know what the exact plan is with regard to these overlapping sites). – Jonik Sep 14 '10 at 17:18
My collection of OS X tweaks (hidden or not) can be found here: – Mathias Bynens May 2 '13 at 18:43
Does iOS count? I'm sure most people know, but if you pull the camera thingy on the lock screen in iOS 7 up about 2/3 of the screen and then quickly flick it back down again, it will bounce up high enough to trigger the camera! – RPi Awesomeness Dec 27 '13 at 3:56

137 Answers 137

alt + + left click in the dock hides all windows except application currently in focus. Great if you find window clutter distracting.

share|improve this answer
You can use alt+cmd+H too, without having to move the mouse – jtimberman May 19 '11 at 3:36

Secrets by Blacktree is a preference pane which enables many hidden OS X and specific application preferences (e.g. change Dock to 2D, change iTunes stoplights back to horizontal). Saves you a couple of trips to the Terminal.

share|improve this answer
This is NOT a hidden / useful feature. – ff10 Jun 24 '13 at 8:32

There is a fast way to create a hidden folder on Mac OS. Hidden folders a created by typing "." on the beginning (e.g. ".hiddenfolder")

The Finder won't let you do this though. So we gonna use the terminal.

to create a new folder:

mkdir .hiddenfolder

first of course you have to navigate to the location, you want the folder to be. For example the Desktop:

cd /Users/USERNAME/Desktop/

or drag a folder into the Terminal to get it's address

To know where you are right now, type:


Another way is, to rename a folder. To do so type:

mv ActualFolderName .hiddenfolder

To open a hidden folder, make hidden files visible like described earlier, or use terminal (navigate there first, or type open absolute path)

open .hiddenfolder

or if you are in the hidden folder already, just type

open .

to show hidden folders/files in terminal type

ls -a
share|improve this answer
Most of those are not Mac OS X-specific. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:12
If you [shift][command][G] on finder, you can type the hidden folder's path and browse it in finder as a normal visible folder. – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:35

You can adjust the scale of all windows (sizes of buttons and menus and toolbars) to fit more on a smaller screen. It was really helpful on my TV setup, because I couldn't see the bottom items in the System Preferences.

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleDisplayScaleFactor .75

to reset simply

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleDisplayScaleFactor 1

Or you can change it per Application

defaults write AppleDisplayScaleFactor .7
share|improve this answer
Does it still work in Mavericks? I can't seem to get it to work. – Daniel Pendergast Aug 5 '14 at 13:05

You can force Expose to only show windows that are on the current Space (instead of all windows open on any Space). Type the following into Terminal:

defaults write wvous-show-windows-in-other-spaces -bool FALSE

then, to restart Dock:

killall Dock
share|improve this answer
Doesn't work on El Capitan – Tolgay Toklar Dec 24 '15 at 22:08

I am new to Mac so this might be common knowledge but in snow leopard if you hold 3 and 2 during boot you will boot into 32 bit mode and the same goes foe 64 bit when holding the 6 and 4 keys during boot. Macfuse for example did not like running in 64 bit mode

share|improve this answer
Note that this only affects whether a 32 or 64 bit kernel is used. Both can still run 32 or 64 bit applications, and 64 bit applications are always the default if the processor is 64 bit. However, the default kernel is 32 bit because, as you have seen, some third-party extensions don't work with a 64-bit kernel yet. – LaC Apr 18 '11 at 19:03

Probably the most used shortcut I created on my machine is one to hide and show hidden files.

I've set this up via an AppleScript on my machine with a keyboard shortcut of ^ + + + . which toggles the visibility of hidden files within Finder whenever I want. This way I don't have to manually run a terminal command to show hidden files, and I can quickly turn it off to avoid accidentally modifying system files. I use FastScripts to allow me to set the keyboard shortcut for my AppleScript, and placed the AppleScript in my ~/Library/Scripts Folder.

Here is the AppleScript in case you wish to give it a try:

tell application "System Events"

    set hiddenFilesDisplayStatus to do shell script "defaults read AppleShowAllFiles"
    set hiddenFilesNewDisplayStatus to "NO"

    if hiddenFilesDisplayStatus is "NO" then
        set hiddenFilesNewDisplayStatus to "YES"
    end if

    do shell script "defaults write AppleShowAllFiles " & hiddenFilesNewDisplayStatus
    do shell script "killall Finder"

end tell
share|improve this answer

The Guest account is great for troubleshooting.

If I have a software issue, logging in as Guest lets me open an app with 'clean' preferences settings.

It's helped me with network issues as well.

To enable Guest logins, go to System Preferences, Users & Groups, Guest User, and check Allow guests to log in to this computer.

share|improve this answer

One of the most amazing things I know to do in the terminal is "doctor terminal" I just love it! :D I know it's a silly program that's easy to make but, no other operating system has it. I'm trying to get hold of the command now...

share|improve this answer
It's emacs feature and it's available on almost all operating systems – mspasov Apr 12 '11 at 19:25

Create a Keyboard Shortcut to open Terminal (or any application) no matter where you are or what application is currently active.

Use Automator to create a Service. Within Actions choose Launch Application.

In my case I made sure that the service receives no input in any application.

Then from the dropdown select other then double-click Utilities then select and click choose.

Save the service and make sure it has a .workflow extension.

Next open up System Preferences and click on the keyboard. Click the Shortcuts tab and select the Services option on the left.

You should see your new service in the General section named whatever you chose to name it.

Then you can click the none button that indicates it has no shortcut yet and assign it whatever shortcut keys you want.

There are other ways but this works no matter what application is active and it never fails.

share|improve this answer

Safari also supports a subset of Emacs keybindings

share|improve this answer
It's not a Safari thing: it's supported by any native text control. To name a random few: Spotlight search field, TextEdit, even Stickies. – PCheese Apr 12 '11 at 9:37
@PCheese: Nice to know! – dreynold Apr 12 '11 at 18:09

If you want to Open/Close FrontRow just use + esc

share|improve this answer

In an any Open/Save dialog, you can use Quicksilver to quickly find the desired file or folder and just drag it anywhere into the file dialog, sendig the file chooser directly to that location. [Enter] will do the rest.

(While not included in OSX, I assume, that the majority of users interested in this thread do run

share|improve this answer

Extremely quick way to open a new Finder window:

  • Click on the desktop (even a sliver will do)
  • Hit N

The desktop is part of Finder, so in a lot of ways it acts as a Finder window itself. For me it's faster to select the Finder app by just clicking on the desktop than to use Spotlight or to switch apps to Finder.

share|improve this answer

El Capitan has a new split full screen feature, where you can have two apps open at once. I use it all the time, but the one thing I find inconvenient about is that it will very strongly blur the un-focused window when resizing a pane:

Blurred unfocused window demo

You can hold down while resizing to see both screens respond to your resize changes -- neither will be blurred.

share|improve this answer

Use this plugin to allow QuickLook to view animated GIFs - Animated GIF QuickLook For Mac 1.0

share|improve this answer
This isn't a feature of OSX it is a plugin. – Graeme Hutchison Jan 20 '12 at 18:37
And Quick Look supports animated gifs by default on Lion anyway. – user495470 Feb 23 '12 at 22:50

A handy tip I discovered by accident.

Highlight any file in an Open dialogue window, press the space bar and voila! there is your file in all it's glory.

share|improve this answer
This is called Quick Look and is already posted:… – styfle May 20 '11 at 23:26

protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.