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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
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

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.

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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.

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The Guest account is great for troubleshooting.

If I have a problem troubleshooting a software issue, logging in as Guest lets me try opening apps and documents 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.

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  • Hold down the key to drag a background window by it's title bar without focusing it or 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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While Cmd tabbing between applications, without releasing Cmd, you can hit Q to quit or H to hide the selected application. Works great with the mouse to get rid of a whole bunch of applications quickly.

The bevel won't go away and you can repeat this for as many applications as you like as long as you're holding Cmd.

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Nice one! Really saves precious seconds. – Jonik Sep 17 '10 at 13:30
Holding OPTION when over a hidden or minimised application will bring it back to the foreground when you let go. – Odin Jun 24 '13 at 9:42

In any Finder window or Open/Save dialog, you can hit ++G (just '/' also works in Open/Save) to get a location bar from which you can directly type in the directory to go to. It even supports ~ for home and tab completion.

The Open/Save dialog has several other useful shortcuts:

  • + R - Reveals the selected item in a new Finder window.
  • + I - Info window shows for the selected item.
  • + + > - Shows/Hides hidden files in the dialog
  • + F - cursor jumps to the Find text field
  • / or ~ - Opens a Go To Folder dialogue.
  • + D - selects the ~/Desktop folder as a destination
  • + + L - selects ~/Downloads folder as a destination
  • + . or esc - Cancels and closes the dialog window
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nice one! this has been bugging me for awhile now... – Robert S Ciaccio Sep 13 '10 at 10:53
Typing / or ~ in an open/save dialog will also trigger the file path text field to appear. – John Siracusa Sep 14 '10 at 18:09
This basically works like the command line cd command. Type /... to go to absolute paths, ~/... for paths relative to the user directory and ... for directories relative to the current directory. Great for opening hidden directories. – deceze Sep 27 '10 at 3:21

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.

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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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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

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

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

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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

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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Hold ctrl and move the scroll wheel (or use two fingers on trackpad). It will zoom in the entire screen.

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I use it occasionally. I wished it was possible to disable antialiasing... To count pixels ;) – Vincent Apr 8 '11 at 23:10
@Vincent you can disable AA in Mac OS X 10.7+ by going to System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Zoom -> Un-tick "Smooth Images". As XAleXOwnZX says, it used to be a very handy shortcut key for pixel-counting graphic designers, I want it back. – simeon Jun 24 '13 at 4:16
In Mavericks you have to enable the "Use scroll gesture" option in System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom – Alfred Xing Jul 6 '14 at 0:03

Want tab to go to every field on a form not just input fields?

I got sick of the state/country drop down fields of web forms being skipped when tabbing.

Go to System Preferences → Keyboard and set Full Keyboard Access to All Controls.

alt text

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I cannot live without this...absolutely essential! – Lizzan Oct 9 '10 at 13:01
I don't understand rationale behind "Text boxes and lists only" setting being default. – Peter Štibraný Nov 2 '10 at 5:40
Ah THAT's where it is! I set it in OS 10.4 and haven't been able to find it since! thanks :) – Mark Pim Apr 5 '11 at 7:50
It's a trade-off. I find it more irritating than helpful because it often makes it lots more keystrokes to get to the text boxes. – Old Pro Apr 27 '12 at 23:12

You can increase or decrease your volume by quarter increments by Pressing:

+ + Volume Up/Down

The same also works for brightness.

Note that this feature was disabled in Mac OS X Lion from 10.7 through 10.7.3. This feature was restored in 10.7.4. For workarounds on how to accomplish this on earlier Lion versions, see this question.

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Related to this tip, option+any volume key will open the sound system preference pane, and shift+vol up/down will change volume silently (without the little plink sound.) – ghoppe Sep 9 '10 at 20:38
Following up on ghoppe, if you've turned off the preference for the little plink sound using Shift + Volume Up/Down will change the volume with the sound effects. – Matthew Shanley Sep 14 '10 at 17:58
This works for the screen brightness as well: Option + Shift + Brightness Up/Down – Florin Sep 18 '10 at 10:57
I think I love you. – titaniumdecoy Apr 9 '11 at 8:24
If you want the tiniest little bit of sound, you can turn the sound all the way down with "Volume Down" and then hit the "Mute" key to turn it up just a little bit. – Ted Naleid Apr 9 '11 at 19:17

Pressing +fn will bring up the System Preference panel for that key. Here's a list:

  • +Brightness: Displays
  • +Exposé/Dashboard: Exposé and Spaces
  • +Mute/Volume: Sound
  • +Keyboard Brightness: Keyboard (for Macs with backlit keyboards)

Remember that if you have checked the option to use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys, done in System Preferences>Keyboard, then you will need to add the fn to the afore mentioned sequences.

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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
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While typing, just press F5 to get suggestions for what you're typing (almost equivalent to spell-check suggestions). Example:

alt text

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OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING. I had no idea this existed! – Josh Hunt Dec 30 '10 at 12:10
Or for MacBooks where to press F5 you have to press the Fn key as well, you could just use the Esc button. (This is cool though, thanks for bringing it to my attention :)) – Jonathan. Jan 9 '11 at 18:19
Esc works too, but it more unsafe due to Esc usually having another function. But it works :). – Jason Salaz Mar 12 '11 at 1:46
I love this one!! – daviesgeek Sep 6 '11 at 2:07

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

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

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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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Secrets is a database with a huge amount of hidden settings for both the system and some common applications.

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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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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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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

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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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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In the terminal, you can pipe the output of any command to pbcopy to copy it to the system clipboard. You can also paste from the system clipboard using pbpaste, and pipe that to another command or write the value directly to a file:

Copy a string: echo "ohai im in ur clipboardz" | pbcopy

Copy the HTML of curl "" | pbcopy

Open a new buffer in VIM, initialized to the content of the clipboard: pbpaste | vim -

Save the contents of the clipboard directly to a file: pbpaste > newfile.txt

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Dude… vi !== vim – Mathias Bynens Apr 12 '11 at 9:31
@Mathias while true, on OS X vi seems to actually be a symlink to vim. – spacemanaki Apr 13 '11 at 1:17
You can also use this to turn rich text (HTML/RTF/etc) into plain-text; just "pbpaste | pbcopy". – caelyx Apr 13 '11 at 23:40
@caelyx You can use the keyboard shortcut Command + Shift + Option + v to paste plain-text if you have rich-text in your clipboard. – Buzzy Jun 24 '13 at 9:22
@spacemanaki: True, but Vim starts in compatibility mode if it was run as "vi". – Sidnicious Jun 25 '13 at 20:04

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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protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

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