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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..

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

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17  
mac.finerthingsin.com is a great source of hidden gems on the Mac. –  Philip Regan Aug 24 '10 at 23:35
2  
My collection of OS X tweaks (hidden or not) can be found here: mths.be/osx –  Mathias Bynens May 2 '13 at 18:43
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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

134 Answers 134

Most animations in OSX can be played in slow motion, when you hold . Works for example to slowly minimize windows if you click the minimize button while holding the key.

Other examples are:

  • toggle exposé
  • toggle dashboard
  • add/remove dashboard items
  • all kinds of animations in Twitter for Mac

From: http://www.eeggs.com/items/29318.html

In MacOS X, while in the finder, open any window & click the minimizie button (yellow) at the top of the window while holding shift.

This will minimize the window in slow motion using the new "genie effect" minimize function of Mac OS X.

The CEO of Apple has shown this egg publicly several times. However, this egg is undocumented & has no system menu equivalent to use this feature. Anyone who has NOT followed the development of Mac OSX & watched the demos at the MacWorld trade shows would not realize this somewhat useless feature exists in Mac OSX.

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1  
The Shift trick can be used to slow down many kinds of animations, too. –  Josh Lee Oct 5 '10 at 18:10
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Even better: If you type killall Dock in Terminal, without hitting enter, do this, then go back to Terminal and hit enter, the Dock is quit while the window is minimizing, leaving it in its animated state until next time you minimize it. –  ughoavgfhw Mar 22 '11 at 19:49

In file open and file save dialogs: Hit ++. to show all hidden files and folders.

Note that this appears to be true for any keyboard, no matter what +. on its own produces on that keyboard.

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1  
Shift . doesn't correspond to : in the US keyboard, maybe another distribution? –  Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:38
1  
Heh. I forgot about the community wiki feature. I edited it myself. –  Harald Hanche-Olsen Apr 5 '11 at 16:02
6  
I so wish this feature existed in the Finder itself, and not just the Open/Save dialog. I would LOVE to be able to enable hidden files temporarily, on-the-fly, as it were. –  Jason Salaz Apr 15 '11 at 1:16

In iTunes pressing + L brings you to the song playing right now.

Helpful if you lost yourself in your collection or are in iTunes Store and want to change something real quick.

Very useful in combination with + I to show the details of the currently playing song.

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This is a pretty common one, but to show all hidden files you can type the command

defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles 1

and then

killall Finder

in Terminal.

To reverse, repeat using a 0 instead of 1.

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8  
The only annoying bit is that you see the .DS_Store files EVERYWHERE, like on your desktop. –  mhud Apr 12 '11 at 17:51

Image Wells

All good mac programs contain image wells for opening files, such as the Desktop and Screen Saver pane in System Preferences:
alt text

or in Filemerge:
alt text

This nifty litte things allow you to drag-and-drop files into them (and in some cases, out of) to load them into the program. Here, I am changing the wallpaper by dragging the file out of Finder and into the image well:
alt text

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This is also how you can change the icons for apps & other files in Finder. Highlight a file, press Cmd-I, and drag a new icon onto the well. –  Joe Shaw Apr 12 '11 at 15:43

My favorite trick is using expose with drag and drop. Once you've started dragging something you can use the expose keyboard shortcut, switch to the app you want to drag it to, and drop it wherever it's needed. It's great for doing things like adding images to a presentation.

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2  
You can also drag it to the app's Dock icon and Exposé will pop up with only that app's windows. –  rightføld Apr 2 '11 at 16:02

Disable Caps-Lock

The ability to disable the Caps-Lock key is wonderful (simply in the keyboard preferences, special keys). It is not really hidden, but I never need the key, but especially on my macbook I sometimes hit it by fault.

Some people also use this panel to replace Caps-Lock with Control. Especially useful when you're using Ctrl+A, Ctrl+E shortcuts a lot.

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2  
If you are a command line hacker, having caps lock as control is pretty essential in my book. –  claytron Apr 20 '11 at 19:54

Have a menu command/keyboard shortcut that you know exists, but you can't find it (or just don't want to touch your mouse)?

Press --/ to get to the help menu. It'll pop up the help menu that you can type into. Type the word you want to search the menus for, then to the menu item you want. OSX will helpfully show you where that item exists in the menu with a big blue arrow and you'll also see any associated shortcuts.

help menu search example

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  • Hold down the key to drag a background window by it's title bar without focussing it and bringing it to front

  • -click in a scrollbar's empty space to scroll to the clicked place (instead of scrolling up or down one page). You can switch this behavior in the Appearance panel of System Preferences.

  • -click on the name of a page in Safari's title bar to show the URL path as a menu. Select to browse (this is the same as -clicking the title in document windows).

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When you're + between running applications, if you press before releasing command, it will raise minimized windows from the dock. Otherwise, you may be in an application, but without a raised window.

Also, while + goes to the right through the application list, ++goes left. + backtick (`) also goes left.

ctrl++-8 inverts the screen. Sometimes useful for whacky lighting situations, especially with glossy screens.

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Option to raise minimize -- this only works for me if the application has no non-minimized windows. I wonder if this is intentional behavior or a side-effect of something else? –  khedron Sep 22 '10 at 0:35

On any open file or save file dialog instead of searching for the file, you can grab any from the finder...

enter image description here

And drop it in the window to select it!

enter image description here

This little trick has saved me hours in looking for files to be opened. You can also drop files directy on the file fiedls of any webpage.

enter image description here

Specially useful tricks when you have files on your desktop or a finder window! Hope it helps!

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1  
Drag and drop on OS X is just amazing. Pretty much works everwhere. –  David Pearce May 6 '11 at 3:51
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I would vote this up 10 times if I could. –  Ian C. May 20 '11 at 16:28
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You can also drag and drop a folder on the Open/Save dialog to change the current path to that location. So useful! This is one of my favorite little features in OS X. –  daGUY Jul 11 '13 at 15:45

I still think + + + v (paste without style) is very handy.

That is, when something is on the clipboard and has unwanted styles along for the ride, this keyboard shortcuts lets you paste just the plain text without any formatting.

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2  
I wish all programs implemented this key combination consistently. Evernote decided they needed to be "special" and use Cmd + Shift + V for paste-without-style. Grrrr. –  Ian C. May 20 '11 at 16:26
1  
Cmd + Shift + V makes a hell of a lot more sense than Apple's ridiculous "claw" hotkey. –  Oscar Jun 24 '13 at 11:32

Use widget in Desktop:

This allows you to drag widgets out of Dashboard onto the desktop. Requires the dock to be relaunched to take effect, so type "killall Dock" and press enter. Now, if you click and hold onto a widget in the dashboard and press F4 to return to the desktop, the widget won't disappear with the rest.

If you want get it back to dashboard click it and press f4 (show dashboard) and release widget

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

alt text

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2  
no click it and press f4 (show dashboard) and release widget. –  Am1rr3zA Aug 28 '10 at 0:16

It's always worth pressing Alt when a menu is posted, as some menu items will change to offer previously-hidden options. For example:

  • In Safari, File>Close Window and File>Close Tab become Close All Windows and Close all Tabs.
  • In iTunes, File>Find Duplicates becomes File>Find Exact Duplicates, and Advanced>Create MP3 Version becomes Advanced>Convert to MP3...
  • In Mail.app, Edit->Add Link... becomes Edit->Remove Link.
  • In Finder right-click menu, Get Info becomes Show Inspector, and Keep Arranged By becomes Arrange By.
  • On the Window menu in any application, Minimize, Zoom, and Bring All to Front become Minimize All, Zoom All, and Arrange in Front.
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Have a laptop? +Click BatterySymbol in menu bar to view your battery's condition

via @Mactip

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8  
The same on the WiFi logo: displays more information about the hotspot you're connected to. –  gregseth Sep 15 '10 at 20:12
3  
Same goes for the audio symbol and the bluetooth symbol. –  johnwards Sep 27 '10 at 9:31

When clicking from one application's window to another's, holding down while clicking will automatically hide the former app's windows.

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Photo Booth:

Hold to skip countdown and take immediate photo.

Hold to disable the screen flash.

via @Mactip

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hold down ctrl and while mousing over the dock to toggle magnification on-demand.

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+ + . will show hidden files in any file-open dialog box.

enter image description here

Cmd + Shift + .

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Dialogs usually have two useful actions accessible from the keyboard. performs the default action (Save, in the image below) and space performs the secondary action (Don't Save, in the image below).

Dialog with two actions

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2  
Hmmm could it be possible that works only because first button is focused which is not the default OSX option? –  Vincent Apr 9 '11 at 0:10
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For this particular type of sheet, you can also press ⌘D to choose the Don't Save option. Unlike the space bar this works whether or not you have Full Keyboard Access enabled. –  PCheese Apr 12 '11 at 8:13
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This is incorrect; space only performs "Don't Save" because it is highlighted, which will only happen if you have full keyboard access enabled. Pressing the <kbd>tab</kbd> key move focus elsewhere, and space will then perform that action. –  eykanal Apr 13 '11 at 3:45

This isn't really a "feature", just a way to customize OS X, but I still think it's useful:

You can edit the icons used by OS X at /System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources

You can also change the login screen to your liking here

/System/Library/CoreServices/SecurityAgentPlugins/loginwindow.bundle/Contents/Resources

There are so many ways to customize OS X... the dock, for example (/System/Library/CoreServices/Dock.app/Contents/Resources)

And you don't really need to "resource hack" anything: just backup and change a couple png or tif files!

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I really like the way of MacOS modifies the letter spacing of the fonts when resizing a pane. As long as the spacing can be decreased, the title won't be truncated.

Example:

enter image description here

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That's (negative) letter spacing or tracking. Kerning means adjusting the distance between pairs of characters specified by the font. –  ؘؘؘؘ Aug 23 '11 at 0:12

I use "Spacers" to organize my Dock. Some apps can make them, but its also possible with this command for the Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-apps -array-add '{tile-data={}; tile-type="spacer-tile";}'

Use

killall Dock

after, to restart your Dock. Now a "Spacer" appeared, just copy and paste this command again to make more. They can be removed and repositioned by dragging just like normal apps.

As an example, here's a spacer between Launchpad and Chrome:

dock spacer example

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3  
Can it be removed like any other app? By drag 'n' dropping it off the dock? –  Loïc Wolff May 4 '11 at 20:15
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@loic-wolff Yeah, they act just like an app without picture –  Dave Aug 22 '11 at 22:03

When you use + to switch tabs, you can continue to hold down and drag a file into any icon in the bezel.

Combined with the trick of dragging from the proxy icon in the menubar, this is a powerful way to open a file in another application, especially if you rarely use your dock.

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Just came across this one...

To enter a newline character in a text field you can use + return. Similarly to enter a tab character use + . This is particularly helpful in a find and replace window.

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I avoid using the mouse, so I like to start applications using Spotlight. You can launch Spotlight by pressing + space. Once Spotlight is launched, type in application name and press enter.

So to start Safari without using the mouse, type: + space -> "Safari" ->

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2  
"I avoid using the mouse" Really? on the platform that virtually gave birth to the mouse? really? –  Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:22

Option ⌥-click menulets to bring up extra information. I use this all the time!

Battery Menulet:
battery menulet option click
Airport Menulet:
airport menulet option click
Bluetooth Menulet:
bluetooth menulet option click
Sound Menulet:
sound menulet option click

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It’s possible to enable AirDrop on unsupported (older) Macs running Lion by entering a single command in Terminal.app:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser BrowseAllInterfaces -bool true

This also enables AirDrop over Ethernet (not just WiFi). (CableDrop™?)

Don’t forget to logout and login again, or reboot your Mac after entering the command.

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

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If you hold down option while resizing the Dock, it will resize in multiples of 16 pixels.

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In Safari, on a page that wants you to select a file for upload, instead of clicking "browse", you can usually just drag a file directly to the "browse" button. It will set the filename without even opening up the file dialog.

Slightly recursive example below :)

enter image description here

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protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

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