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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

+ click on the title bar at the top of a Safari window to get a menu of URLs, each the same as the previous but with the last path component removed. Like this:

alt text

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Or right-click. – Paul Eccles Aug 2 '11 at 17:41
Too bad this doesn't work in Chrome. :-( – daviesgeek Oct 21 '11 at 5:54
This doesn't seem to work any more in El Capitan. – Dag Høidahl Nov 28 '15 at 22:55

You can change screen brightness in quarter intervals using this combination:

+ + Brightness Up / Down

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This doesn't work for me. – Tyilo Mar 16 '12 at 21:06

It’s possible to set a blazingly fast keyboard repeat rate, much faster than the maximum possible setting in System Preferences → Keyboard → Keyboard → Key Repeat.

The trick is to use this command in

defaults write NSGlobalDomain KeyRepeat -int 0

After that, log out and back in, or just reopen all applications.

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

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This is especially useful when typing FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU, etc. – Mathias Bynens Mar 28 '12 at 6:53
Best part of this is to navigate faster in text files, e.g. hjkl in visual mode in vi. – Samet Atdag Jun 24 '13 at 15:16

Switcher + Exposé


While +ing (holding , tapping ), you can press or to switch to the currently selected application's window Exposé view. You can then use the keyboard arrows to highlight a window and to switch to it.

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really nice tricks – Am1rr3zA Apr 12 '11 at 18:02
You can also do this with the "1" key while ⌘-tabbing. – Tyler Wayne Jul 4 '13 at 21:29

Click and hold Show All in System Preferences, and you'll get a list of all Preferences panes

enter image description here

At the bottom of this list there is a Customize... option

enter image description here

which enables a check mark in the lower right corner of each Preferences panes item

enter image description here

un-checking a check mark, will disable/remove the item(s) from the view, but not delete it.

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Yeah I believe this is for Lion only. Nice tip though. – Paul Eccles Aug 2 '11 at 20:26
I had it posted on the Lion tips & tricks thread (now deleted from the thread) -… - (I couldn't remember if it was possible on Snow Leopard) - BUT there this comment was written "This was in snow leopard as well" - so I don't now what right and wrong, because I don't have Snow Leopard anymore for testing - what I know is that it is working as described in Lion. – Rene Larsen Aug 2 '11 at 22:29
Works in Mavericks, too. – Daniel Pendergast Aug 7 '14 at 15:29

Hold down and click TimeMachine Icon in the menubar. Now you can search/restore from other backups

via @MacTip

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Often a simple spotlight query isn't enough.

The shortcut ++space brings up the powerful finder search window no matter what app is running.

Not only can you use the normal search types like kind:app or kind:mail but you can force spotlight to show you files that are normally hidden.

This is particularly useful to search for and inside hidden system files such as .ipsw packages, detailed logs and CoreServices utilities. search window showing hidden System Files

You may want to add System files to your default search menu for quicker access.

  • first click the circle plus to the far right of the Save button to show the optional search filters
  • then choose other under the Kind dropdown
  • lastly search for System and check the include toggle. choose the "other" itementer image description here
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  • Select a bunch of text and drag to the desktop and it will make a text clipping.
  • Drag it back to a text window and it will dump the text there.
  • Double-click and you can view the selectively copy for pasting elsewhere.
  • Install the quicklook extension and you can view text and pict clippings in quicklook.
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Theres also a service to summarize text by right clicking a text clipping file or selected text. A wonderful replacement for word – AMomchilov Aug 3 '11 at 4:56
Quick Look in Lion handles both .textClipping and .pictClipping files with Apple-provided generators alone. – Graham Perrin Aug 4 '11 at 20:49

In Terminal, if you hold option, your cursor turns into a small "+". While holding option, you can use this to highlight and copy any square/rectangular area of text instead of whole lines at a time.

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it's a nice trick – Am1rr3zA Apr 4 '11 at 5:47

+ ` (backtick accent) switches between multiple windows of the same app.

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The 'Open Terminal Here' applescript that can be added to the finder toolbar(?), is a great way of getting a shell prompt to the folder your are viewing.

The 'original' is at the pages of its author Marc Liyanage:

He kindly links to a number of other versions so you can take your pick.

The other side of the coin (though not worth it's own answer) is the command

open .

to open a finder window for the current shell folder.

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It's a nice trick – Am1rr3zA Oct 20 '10 at 16:31
Do you know of any updated icons for Snow Leopard? Love the functionality, but the icon is ugly next to the others. – Lizzan Oct 21 '10 at 8:20
Anything can be added to the Finder's toolbar. Mine contains a couple of applications and my trash. – ughoavgfhw Mar 22 '11 at 19:59
As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Terminal provides Services to do this. Enable New Terminal at Folder in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Services. The quickest way to get there is to choose [Application Menu] > Services > Services Preferences…. There's also New Terminal Tab at Folder. These operate on folders in Finder, as well as pathnames selected in text in any application. You can also drag folders (and pathnames) onto the Terminal application icon in the Dock, or onto the tab bar of a terminal window to add a new tab. – Chris Page Sep 4 '11 at 9:30
@Chris: Nice to know about new Lion functionality. I still use the "cd" tool to provide a button in the Finder window to make this fast, but it's good to have alternatives. – khedron Oct 20 '11 at 3:49

++ or ++ can be used to select the previous or next word.

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@Lri All posts in this tread are community wikis. That means that anyone can edit them to improve them. Why don't you make an edit with the correction? – Nathan Greenstein Apr 14 '11 at 20:41

When resizing columns in Finder, hold down whilst dragging, and you'll resize all columns and reset the default width.

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I love the DigitalColor Meter application (in /Applications/Utilities) for finding the color of something on screen (especially useful for web development). cmd + shift + h to lock/hold the color you're on, ++c to copy the value as RGB Hex value.

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Note that if you use it on a second display the colors may not be correct. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:07

While you are using + to cycle through open applications, you can press Q before you release to close the app. You can close several apps before release .

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When switching focus between applications, you can hold down and click on another application. When you change focus from one application to another, the first application hides. So, let's say you are switching from an open Finder window to an open TextEdit window while holding the key. Finder will hide once you click on the TextEdit window. I discovered this by accident and it's pretty cool

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By pressing + + + you can create the  - Symbol on a german keyboard.

The tilde-key btw is created by pressing +N for all those who searched `~´

For English (American) keyboards, the shortcut is: Option ⌥ + Shift ⇧ + K

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It's alt+shift+K on an English (American) keyboard. – Ricket Nov 20 '10 at 0:43
It's Alt+A on a Norwegian keyboard :) – Emil Feb 7 '13 at 18:29
Alt + & in a french one – Thomas Ayoub May 14 '14 at 16:03
 sudo purge

I use this all the time for freeing unused memory on my Mac.

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From man purge: “force disk cache to be purged (flushed and emptied). Purge can be used to approximate initial boot conditions with a cold disk buffer cache for performance analysis. It does not affect anonymous memory that has been allocated through malloc, vm_allocate, etc.” – Mathias Bynens Mar 26 '12 at 7:44
To put it more bluntly, purge-ing your disk caches can actually slow you down. – zigg Jul 4 '13 at 22:43

LaTex from Grapher:

enter image description here

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I searched through all 5 pages of this thread and I'm surprised to find that nobody already mentioned this handy tip for

Press ctrl+R to bring up a search through your command history. It's a somewhat fuzzy search in that what you're typing doesn't have to be the initial characters of a command, but it still must be a contiguous section of the command.

For example, you could find a previous usage of curl by typing "rl" in the search... or "post" if the curl command you want to find was a POST.

You can also use the Up & Down arrows to flip through just the matching commands in your history.

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Well it's not Mac specific. The reverse-i-search is available all over. – keyser Jul 28 '13 at 19:49

Want to move back and forth through your navigation history? Most apps, including Safari and Finder, let you use the following shortcuts:

+[ to move back.
+] to move forward.

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For swedish keyboards: <Shift><CMD> + Ö/Ä – keyser Jul 28 '13 at 20:00

Here's one I learned a long time ago, still works today.

Keyboard shortcut for proper single and double quotes:

Single Quotes

  1. For Left ( ) press: Alt + ]
  2. For Right ( ) press: Alt + Shift + ]

Double Quotes

  1. For Left ( ) press: Alt + [
  2. For Right ( ) Alt + Shift + [
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nice one, I didn't know that – Am1rr3zA Jun 25 '13 at 18:54
On some non-US keyboards it seems to be Alt N for ‘, Alt M for ’, Shift-Alt N for “ and Shift-Alt M for ”. – Winterflags Apr 25 at 9:44

In order to navigate with the keyboard in the menu bar, press ctrl+F2. The Apple icon in the menu bar will light up, and you can navigate through the menus using arrows and the key.

Once you are in the menu bar you can also navigate using initial letters, e.g. b to go to Bookmarks

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If you type quickly you can usually type the whole thing in (or until it's unique) to select it. – 0942v8653 Oct 21 '14 at 9:17

In Finder, select any number of files. Press + ctrl + N to automatically have them moved to a new folder.

Great if you forgot to create a new folder before selecting files, and in general.

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You can play tetris in Terminal:

When you are in Terminal type emacs and hit enter. After that press escape button and X button at the same time. Now just type tetris and hit enter.

Same goes for pong, 5x5, snake, tetris, dunnet and blackbox, just type its name instead of tetris


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Not really a OS X tip, but an emacs tip. – claytron Apr 20 '11 at 19:52
I didn't realize emacs was installed by default. Thanks. – hsmiths May 27 '11 at 23:26
now I'm stuck in emacs... – Chris F Carroll May 30 '15 at 16:04

I prefer using the keyboard. Some shortcuts that kind of work together in Finder:

  • + = Go to parent directory
  • + = Open selected directory/file
  • + 2 = Clean up by type (see navigation bar for all the alternatives)

And something I use all the time:

When copy-pasting, + v (normal copy-pasting, but adding the option key when pasting) will move the file instead of copying it.

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I really liked the copy pasting part – Am1rr3zA Jul 29 '13 at 4:56
I was bothered for about 3 years that there is no way to move a file in Finder via the keyboard, until I finally heard from a former colleague about CMD-C + CMD-OPT-V. This answer deserves more upvotes! – Tafkadasoh May 12 '14 at 11:37

An often-neglected feature of OS X is the ability to drag files and proxy icons into other applications or windows.

Try this in Adobe apps. Why use the File > Place… command? Just drag a file directly from the Finder directly into the document you’re working on.

Drag files onto Dock icons to open that JPG in Photoshop rather than iPhoto. Drag an image from your browser into Photoshop’s Dock icon.

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Wait, Adobe actually did read the HIG? – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:11

You can access the file, edit and other application menus with the "move focus to the menu bar" setting in Keyboard Preferences. I changed it from the default to ctrl ` as the default merely adjusted brightness.

No-one at Apple seemed to be able to let me know how to do this!

enter image description here

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To quickly lock your computer with a screen-saver style password, regardless of whether a password or time delay is set in the Security preference pane, enable the keychain status menu item and use its Lock Screen command. To enable it, open the Keychain Access utility, choose Preferences… from the Keychain Access menu, and enable "Show Status in Menu Bar" from the General pane.

Keychain status menu item with lock screen command

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Ctrl-Shift-Eject does this without filling your menubar. – Max Ried Nov 2 '11 at 8:07
@bot47 Not exactly the same. Ctrl-Shift-Eject simply puts the display to sleep. Therefore (1) the password lock does not kick in until the Security time delay is reached (if password is even enabled in the first place) and (2) the display goes to sleep instead of screen saver mode, which as of Lion requires a keyboard button press or mouse click to awaken and takes slightly longer to respond to user input. – PCheese Nov 9 '11 at 0:52

3rd party apps can add unwanted items to your right click menus! To add or remove items from the right click contextual menus: Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts. Select the "Services" panel and uncheck the services which you don't need. enter image description here

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protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

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