Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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!

share|improve this question
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

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.

share|improve this answer
it didn't work for me – Am1rr3zA Apr 4 '11 at 4:19
Sorry, it’s Command not Option. Maybe it’s Snow Leopard only? – Debilski Apr 4 '11 at 6:08
Shift . doesn't correspond to : in the US keyboard, maybe another distribution? – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:38
Heh. I forgot about the community wiki feature. I edited it myself. – Harald Hanche-Olsen Apr 5 '11 at 16:02
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
  • When typing text in any document or text field ⌥ Option+Backspace will delete the entire word, the same with ⌥ Option+Del which will delete the whole next word.

  • Using an accented language? Press ⌃ Control+Backspace after an accented letter to delete just the accent, not the letter.

share|improve this answer
On the tiny aluminium wireless keyboard - fn + backspace gives you del. fn + alt + backspace will delete the whole next word in that case. – Danny Staple Mar 23 '11 at 22:51
@Danny Staple same for laptops and wired aluminum keyboards. – rightfold May 5 '11 at 16:22

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.

share|improve this answer

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

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 1

and then

killall Finder

in Terminal.

To reverse, repeat using a 0 instead of 1.

share|improve this answer
+1 because defaults are fun. – Philip Regan Aug 26 '10 at 0:57
YES and NO are also possible instead of 1 and 0. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:01
The only annoying bit is that you see the .DS_Store files EVERYWHERE, like on your desktop. – mhud Apr 12 '11 at 17:51
Annoying, but just realized/found out that I had a .htaccess file sitting on my desktop, so useful as well, even if temporary. – Darryl Hein Apr 16 '11 at 0:52

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

share|improve this answer
certainly a nice usability feat! – ChrisR Sep 15 '10 at 20:54
Very very important to know! – Ricket Nov 20 '10 at 0:20
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
Also, if you click on the image well you can use Cmd-C and Cmd-V to copy the image for use elsewhere or paste a new image in. – Joe Shaw Apr 12 '11 at 15:45
Why do your tabbar items and windows look so, different? – rightfold May 5 '11 at 16:18

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.

share|improve this answer
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
@claytron: I have three control keys on my keyboard this way! As a heavy emacs user, I think it's fantastic. – khedron Oct 20 '11 at 3:50
Removing this key <kbd>⇪</kbd> is suppressing a lot of stupid errors with password entering windows (when this key is accidentally pressed). Some of these password entering windows aren't intelligent enough to show this trap to the user. – daniel Azuelos Jul 15 '13 at 14:08
I use this. Beware that this will be a slight annoyance when you use other people's computers, since you will find yourself toggling caps lock whenever you mean to use the ctrl key. – Dag Høidahl Nov 28 '15 at 22:03

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

share|improve this answer
This one is my favorite. It's like a command line for the application. – Sam Apr 12 '11 at 15:04
You can execute the selected item by hitting Return. – rightfold Dec 19 '11 at 20:15
This is amazing! – Mike Chamberlain Sep 9 '15 at 12:31

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.

share|improve this answer
You can also drag it to the app's Dock icon and Exposé will pop up with only that app's windows. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:02
That's quite awesome! – Neil Fein May 5 '11 at 22:57
  • 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).

share|improve this answer

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.

share|improve this answer
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
Google Docs also deals with this weirdly. In general, though, I find it very handy. – khedron Oct 20 '11 at 3:51
Cmd + Shift + V makes a hell of a lot more sense than Apple's ridiculous "claw" hotkey. – Oscar Jun 24 '13 at 11:32

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!

share|improve this answer
Drag and drop on OS X is just amazing. Pretty much works everwhere. – Josh Hunt May 6 '11 at 3:51
One of the reasons to love OSX :D – kevin9794 May 7 '11 at 0:35
I would vote this up 10 times if I could. – Ian C. May 20 '11 at 16:28
haha thanks! Indeed its one of my favourites too. I use it all the time! – kevin9794 May 24 '11 at 0:22
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 use "Spacers" to organize my Dock. Some apps can make them, but its also possible with this command for the Terminal:

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


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

share|improve this answer
Can it be removed like any other app? By drag 'n' dropping it off the dock? – Loïc Wolff May 4 '11 at 20:15
@loic-wolff Yeah, they act just like an app without picture – Dave Aug 22 '11 at 22:03
This is cool. Thanks :) – Jash Jacob May 21 '13 at 5:45

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.

share|improve this answer
+1 I really love option trick to raise minimize I don't know this. – Am1rr3zA Sep 15 '10 at 12:24
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
Wow the inverting shortcut is amazing! – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:19
When using cmd + tab, what option does is the equivalent of clicking the application's icon in the Dock. Typically, if the application has windows open and visible, it will simply switch to that application; if it only has minimized windows open, it will raise the most recently accessed window; if no window is open, it will open either a new document or the application's default window. – eyelidlessness Apr 14 '11 at 5:39

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, 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.
share|improve this answer
Holding Alt/Option in the Virtual Machine window on VMWare Fusion gives you options to explicitly/forcefully kill the selected Virtual Machine. Instead of gracefully. (Read: Pull the plug instead of pushing the power button.) – Jason Salaz Mar 12 '11 at 1:50

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

share|improve this answer
great to hide window ! – code4j Feb 18 '13 at 21:18

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 devmode YES

alt text

share|improve this answer
Not working form me on a MacBook Pro with 10.5.8 – Alex Aug 26 '10 at 7:24
How would you get it back into the dashboard? Would you have to delete it and then add again? – Nippysaurus Aug 27 '10 at 23:48
no click it and press f4 (show dashboard) and release widget. – Am1rr3zA Aug 28 '10 at 0:16
Some systems have Dashboard tied to F12. So basically, enable the feature, open Dashboard, select tool, then close Dashboard. You can "stow away" by clicking the widget while opening Dashboard. – r00fus Sep 15 '10 at 0:31
Unfortunately, the widget then appears above all Windows, which makes this not very useful – Casebash Sep 17 '10 at 6:43

Have a laptop? +Click BatterySymbol in menu bar to view your battery's condition

via @Mactip

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

Photo Booth:

Hold to skip countdown and take immediate photo.

Hold to disable the screen flash.

via @Mactip

share|improve this answer
lol i used to invert the screen colours (control + option + command + 8) so that the flash is inverted to dark black rather than bright white – AMomchilov Aug 3 '11 at 4:50

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.

share|improve this answer

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

share|improve this answer

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

share|improve this answer
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
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
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
And ⌘. should choose Cancel – GEdgar Dec 22 '11 at 1:46
Cmd-Delete will also activate the most destructive action — in this case, Don't Save. – Tyler Wayne Jul 4 '13 at 21:16

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

share|improve this answer

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

defaults write 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.

share|improve this answer
What about Snow Leopard? – 11684 May 18 '14 at 18:02
+1 for CableDrop. – return true Mar 14 at 14:17

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

enter image description here

Cmd + Shift + .

share|improve this answer

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

share|improve this answer

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.


enter image description here

share|improve this answer
That's (negative) letter spacing or tracking. Kerning means adjusting the distance between pairs of characters specified by the font. – user495470 Aug 23 '11 at 0:12
@Lri thank you, fixed. I'm not a DTP guy :) – KARASZI István Aug 23 '11 at 9:11

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" ->

share|improve this answer
+1 - I use a mouse, but this is still my most used shortcut. – Jon Hadley Sep 18 '10 at 16:25
Note that the shortcut for launching Spotlight is configurable in System Prefs. To my understanding the default is Cmd + space, not opt + space. – Jonik Sep 26 '10 at 12:28
Thanks for that clarification, Jonik – Chris Reitter Oct 5 '10 at 13:12
"I avoid using the mouse" Really? on the platform that virtually gave birth to the mouse? really? – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:22

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


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

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

share|improve this answer

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

share|improve this answer

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.

share|improve this answer

protected by bmike Jan 23 '13 at 23:25

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.