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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!

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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

Ever wanted to stop the iTunes visualizer at that really cool moment and take a picture? In iTunes 10 (and previous versions really) you can control what your visualizer is doing. You need to have a song playing to notice changes.

Simply press the ? key to see a help menu of the controls. On most visualizers press f to see the current FPS. (all except the default)

To freeze the default iTunes visualizer press F to freeze the mode, then press L to freeze the camera. Now that your visualizer is completely stopped, press M to change the mode. Turn the fog on and off with N (only works with certain themes). Change the color palette with P before freezing the mode or locking the camera or it has no effect. + F for full screen, then ++3 for full screen grab.

Viola, instant custom desktop pattern!

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In iTunes, it’s possible to make + F focus the search input instead of toggling the full screen mode.

Simply enter this command in

defaults write NSUserKeyEquivalents -dict-add "Target Search Field" "@F"

Then, restart iTunes.

Disclaimer: This is just one of the many goodies in my .osx file.

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Holding lets you drag icons in your menu bar to reorder them. Dragging them out of the menu bar removes them.

All of the built-in icons support this behavior, but most third-party apps don't.

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Fantastical is the only third-party app that supports this, as far as I know. You have to download a "menu extra" from their website's FAQ page to enable it. – Tyler Wayne Jul 4 '13 at 21:42

In finder "columns" view, double click the block below the scroll bar arrows to auto fit column width

via @Mactip

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You know, I've never tried special clicks on the drag box. Thanks! – Jason Salaz Mar 12 '11 at 1:51

If you want to quickly resize your Dock you can click and drag the bar that separates the apps from minified windows, the Trash etc. If your Dock is on the bottom then drag up to increase the size of the dock and down to make them smaller. Drag left/right if your Dock is on the side of the screen.

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If you use random Backgrounds, there is a quick way to make them change when you want.

type in the terminal

killall Dock

This will make your random Desktopbackground change.

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You can disable 3D Dock effect ( if you don't like ) when dock is at bottom.

Use tinker tool (it's free).

Now, switch to Dock tab, do as instructed in image.

alt text

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You can achieve the same effect without using TinkerTool by entering this string defaults write no-glass -boolean YES in the terminal. – Davide Gualano Jan 11 '11 at 12:17
I used Docker to get the little triangles back. I'm not a fan of the glowing orb. – John Ferguson Apr 8 '11 at 23:04

Hibernate your MacBook Pro with

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 25

and then put it to sleep which will save the state of your system and then power off. Very handy when flying.

If instead you want very fast sleeps, without writing memory to disk, use

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

To restore the default behaviour, use

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 3

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Quickly find your search results in Safari

  1. Perform a Google search in the toolbar
  2. Click a result
  3. Press +G

via @Mactip

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Looks like this has become ⌘+⌥+S as of Lion. – Tyler Wayne Jul 4 '13 at 21:34

When closing an unsaved document +D will invoke Don't Save for you.

Use with care though.

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Remember the double-sided arrows on both the top and bottom of the scroll column in OS 9? Go to the terminal and type:

defaults write "Apple Global Domain" AppleScrollBarVariant DoubleBoth

When you login/restart, this will work across all applications. Very handy to have.

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Target Disk Mode lets you mount a Firewire-enabled Mac as an external disk, without even booting into the OS. Useful for quick transfers, large transfers (it's quite fast), recovery, etc.

To start it, hold T during startup.

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For what? A little more explanation of how this is a tip or stick might make this a better tip – bmike Apr 21 '11 at 18:18

If you connect two Mac's directly using a standard ethernet cable, you can quickly transfer files between them. It automatically configures the connection, and is much faster than doing large transfers over wireless.

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Gigabit Ethernet is great in not needing crossover cables for direct connections. – John Ferguson Apr 8 '11 at 23:07
I believe you can also connect via a Firewire cable and network over that connection. (Not using one machine as a drive, but actually networking.) – Wayne Apr 13 '11 at 3:32

Not sure if it's posted already but you can drag folders and files from the finder into an application's open / save dialogue. It sets the save or open path to that of the folder or file you're dragging. Excellent when you prefer to use the finder to navigate but don't want to repeat the process in your app or vice versa. Also, on many cases, whilst in the open / save dialogue, you can hit command R to reveal the files in the finder.

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+ = switch between applications. Press before releasing and it will un-minimize minimized windows from that application.

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For a user who doesn't like taking their hands off the keyboard, I use this feature all the time. – eywu Jun 24 '13 at 17:28

Hold ctrl and scroll with the mouse/trackpad in order to zoom the view at any time. Extremely handy in order to discern pixel differences of a UI.

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You can -click and drag many OS provided icons from your menu bar to rearrange or remove them if it's getting too crowded. Doesn't work with all 3rd party ones, but many built-in ones (like volume, battery, sync, bluetooth, etc) can be removed this way. Many of them can be removed from the control panel, but this is the only way some of them can be removed once activated (that I'm aware of).

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+ ctrl + "two finger swipe" = change the opacity of the window under the cursor

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This doesn't work for me. Is there something special you have to do first? – Jason Salaz Jan 17 '12 at 16:49
I cannot get this to work either. Tested with and windows. – Mathias Bynens Mar 26 '12 at 7:45
This doesn't work for me. – Dag Høidahl Nov 28 '15 at 22:42

When you're in the +Tab task switcher selecting the Finder and pressing +Q will restart the Finder.

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Hold Option & click Speaker/Volume icon in top menu bar to quickly select audio output and input devices (bluetooth, airplay etc.)


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Hide an Application While Cmd-Tabbing

As you're Cmd-Tabbing through applications, you can pause on an app (while still holding Cmd) and then press 'h' to hide the other app. You aren't switched to the hidden app, so your focus stays on the original one.

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You can prevent app from appearing in Dock by editing .app/Contents/Info.plist. Just add

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When +clicking on an open app in the Dock the application hides.

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I don't get that behavior with Shift. Did you have to change an option to get hiding to work like that? – seh Feb 23 '11 at 2:12
@seh - No I didn' least I don't remember changing anything like this. This is on OS X 10.6.6, but I'm not sure if it's version related. Could also be that I've changed something while working on this SL installation, I haven't reinstalled since SL came out. – deiga Feb 23 '11 at 5:43
I have this behaviour when I hold the Alt key instead. – Rabskatran Apr 6 '11 at 10:42
It is Option/Alt key, not Shift. – styfle May 20 '11 at 23:32

If you need to type an accented letter like "é" or "ñ" just press and hold the corresponding letter on your keyboard and a little popup will appear with numbered letters with accents. You can also click the letter of your choice.

enter image description here

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+1 for the sentence =D – Thomas Ayoub May 14 '14 at 16:47

To paste plain text without any formatting use +++V.

That's very useful when working in app like Keynote and copying some text from webpage.

Note: It doesn't work if any other function assigned to this shortcut. To fix that just change the default shortcut in the app to something else.

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Also TinkerTool shows some hidden features

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+1 I really love this 3rs-party. – Am1rr3zA Aug 24 '10 at 19:55

Exposé for spaces and 'Show desktop' attached to corners of the screen. I've attached 'Show desktop' to my lower right corner, and Exposé for spaces in the top left. Now, i can go bottom right to the desktop, grab a file, move over to the top left to switch to a space, and drop it there in a Finder window or Application.

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Yeah, active corners are useful! Personally I also like to have Dashboard bound to one corner and screen blanking (Put Display to Sleep) to another. – Jonik Sep 15 '10 at 20:38

Do a "killall dock" in Terminal while a window is being minimized with the Genie effect (helps to hold down Shift to slow it down) and the window will be 'stuck' in the Genie effect yet still be operational! For example, you can still scroll.

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That's neither a feature nor a nice tip or trick. – Raim Oct 14 '10 at 19:44
AppleDisplayScaleFactor – username Nov 3 '10 at 23:44
I am actually typing this comment in a stuck window :p – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:09
Well, this doesn't seems to work in El Captain. – tourdetour Dec 24 '15 at 0:00

If you are a recent convert to osx and miss the mouse/cursor acceleration of a windows mouse? OSX mouse doesnt feel quite as good as the windows mouse?

Give SteerMouse a try!

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+1 it's nice but it's not a real OS X hidden features it's good 3rd-party apps. – Am1rr3zA Oct 8 '10 at 12:39
I figured it would fall into the "nice tips & tricks" part of the thread :) – Shaun W. Oct 8 '10 at 13:48
"OSX mouse doesnt feel quite as good as the windows mouse" ?? Heresy! – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:29

If you drag files while holding the command key, the contents move but don't copy. Great for cutting the copy - then delete original process.

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That is the default when staying on the same hard drive. Use option to copy on the same drive, and command and option to create an alias. – ughoavgfhw Mar 22 '11 at 20:04

protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

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