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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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mac.finerthingsin.com is a great source of hidden gems on the Mac. –  Philip Regan Aug 24 '10 at 23:35
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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
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131 Answers

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
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I had it posted on the Lion tips & tricks thread (now deleted from the thread) - apple.stackexchange.com/questions/18677/… - (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
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Hold down and click TimeMachine Icon in the menubar. Now you can search/restore from other backups

via @MacTip

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

+ + Brightness Up / Down

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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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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 Terminal.app:

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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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
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Switcher + Exposé

(10.6+)

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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  • 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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Quick Look in Lion handles both .textClipping and .pictClipping files with Apple-provided generators alone. –  Graham Perrin Aug 4 '11 at 20:49
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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:

http://www.entropy.ch/software/applescript/

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

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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
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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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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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 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
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To put it more bluntly, purge-ing your disk caches can actually slow you down. –  zigg Jul 4 '13 at 22:43
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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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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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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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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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@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
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When resizing columns in Finder, hold down whilst dragging, and you'll resize all columns and reset the default width.

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

Simply enter this command in Terminal.app:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes 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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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

Source: http://secretpctips.com/2011/04/mac-os-secrets-easter-eggs/

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Not really a OS X tip, but an emacs tip. –  claytron Apr 20 '11 at 19:52
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In finder "columns" view, double click the block below the scroll bar arrows to auto fit column width

via @Mactip

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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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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 com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES in the terminal. –  Davide Gualano Jan 11 '11 at 12:17
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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
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protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

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