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Do you know any hidden or little-known nice feature of macOS (née 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!

10
  • I wonder if the "Terminal Tips and Tricks For Mac OS X" thread from SU can be ported over: superuser.com/questions/52483/… Sep 14, 2010 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, 2010 at 17:18
  • more of the same here superuser.com/questions/15646/underused-mac-os-x-gui-features
    – username
    Sep 14, 2010 at 17:40
  • 7
    My collection of OS X tweaks (hidden or not) can be found here: mths.be/osx May 2, 2013 at 18:43
  • 6
    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! Dec 27, 2013 at 3:56

155 Answers 155

37

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.

The commercial extension TotalFinder makes this feature available to normal Finder windows as well.

11
  • it didn't work for me
    – Am1rr3zA
    Apr 4, 2011 at 4:19
  • 1
    Shift . doesn't correspond to : in the US keyboard, maybe another distribution?
    – Petruza
    Apr 4, 2011 at 15:38
  • 1
    Heh. I forgot about the community wiki feature. I edited it myself. Apr 5, 2011 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. Apr 15, 2011 at 1:16
  • 1
    It exists in the Finder plugin TotalFinder. Maybe there are other plugins which do nothing else but add that feature.
    – Debilski
    Apr 15, 2011 at 6:17
36
  • 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.

  • On MacBooks and aluminum keyboards, typing fn+← backspace leads to typing the del key, deleting the character in front of the cursor, not before it.

  • Using an accented language? Press ⌃ ctrl+← backspace after an accented letter to delete just the accent, not the letter.

2
  • 1
    On the tiny aluminium wireless keyboard - fn + backspace gives you del. fn + alt + backspace will delete the whole next word in that case. Mar 23, 2011 at 22:51
  • @Danny Staple same for laptops and wired aluminum keyboards.
    – user235
    May 5, 2011 at 16:22
31

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.

3
  • 3
    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, 2011 at 16:26
  • Google Docs also deals with this weirdly. In general, though, I find it very handy.
    – Michael H.
    Oct 20, 2011 at 3:51
  • 2
    Cmd + Shift + V makes a hell of a lot more sense than Apple's ridiculous "claw" hotkey.
    – Oscar
    Jun 24, 2013 at 11:32
30

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

3
  • This one is my favorite. It's like a command line for the application.
    – Sam
    Apr 12, 2011 at 15:04
  • 1
    You can execute the selected item by hitting Return.
    – user235
    Dec 19, 2011 at 20:15
  • This is amazing! Sep 9, 2015 at 12:31
30

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.

29

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.

4
  • YES and NO are also possible instead of 1 and 0.
    – user235
    Apr 2, 2011 at 16:01
  • 12
    The only annoying bit is that you see the .DS_Store files EVERYWHERE, like on your desktop.
    – mhud
    Apr 12, 2011 at 17:51
  • 1
    Annoying, but just realized/found out that I had a .htaccess file sitting on my desktop, so useful as well, even if temporary. Apr 16, 2011 at 0:52
  • @mhud I have a solution for the .DS_Store files that are everywhere. superuser.com/a/1322425/247728
    – JayRizzo
    Oct 30, 2018 at 9:46
29

Image Wells

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

1[Image well in Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane]1

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

6
  • certainly a nice usability feat!
    – ChrisR
    Sep 15, 2010 at 20:54
  • Very very important to know!
    – Ricket
    Nov 20, 2010 at 0:20
  • 6
    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, 2011 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, 2011 at 15:45
  • Why do your tabbar items and windows look so, different?
    – user235
    May 5, 2011 at 16:18
27

Disable Caps-Lock

The ability to disable the Caps Lock key is wonderful (open System Preferences, go to Keyboard, then click the button titled Special Keys or Modifier 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.

4
  • 2
    If you are a command line hacker, having caps lock as control is pretty essential in my book.
    – claytron
    Apr 20, 2011 at 19:54
  • @claytron: I have three control keys on my keyboard this way! As a heavy emacs user, I think it's fantastic.
    – Michael H.
    Oct 20, 2011 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.
    – dan
    Jul 15, 2013 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. Nov 28, 2015 at 22:03
26

You can add spacers to your Dock. Some apps make them for you or you can use the Terminal:

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

Afterwards, use the following command to restart your dock:

killall Dock

You will see a spacer appear. Like normal apps, they can be removed and repositioned by dragging.

You can add spacers multiple times by repeating the first command. For example, this Dock has 2 spacers:

Dock spacer example

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  • 4
    Can it be removed like any other app? By drag 'n' dropping it off the dock? May 4, 2011 at 20:15
  • 1
    @loic-wolff Yeah, they act just like an app without picture
    – Dave
    Aug 22, 2011 at 22:03
25
  • Hold down the key to drag a background window by its 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).

2
  • I like cheatsheet (cheatsheetapp.com/LandingCheatSheet). Hold down ⌘ for a moment and you get a popover showing all shortcuts.
    – Andrew
    Dec 12, 2016 at 2:20
  • [command] clicking in any background window allows you to interact with that window without bringing it to the front. You can also [command]-scroll a background window - especially useful when manually copying between docs or following instructions!
    – Demis
    Jul 7, 2017 at 4:48
24

My favorite trick is using Exposé with drag and drop. Once you've started dragging something you can use the Exposé keyboard shortcut, switch to the application 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.

2
  • 3
    You can also drag it to the app's Dock icon and Exposé will pop up with only that app's windows.
    – user235
    Apr 2, 2011 at 16:02
  • That's quite awesome! May 5, 2011 at 22:57
22

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

0
21

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!

5
  • 2
    Drag and drop on OS X is just amazing. Pretty much works everwhere.
    – Josh Hunt
    May 6, 2011 at 3:51
  • One of the reasons to love OSX :D
    – kevin9794
    May 7, 2011 at 0:35
  • 2
    I would vote this up 10 times if I could.
    – Ian C.
    May 20, 2011 at 16:28
  • haha thanks! Indeed its one of my favourites too. I use it all the time!
    – kevin9794
    May 24, 2011 at 0:22
  • 1
    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, 2013 at 15:45
21

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.

5
  • +1 I really love option trick to raise minimize I don't know this.
    – Am1rr3zA
    Sep 15, 2010 at 12:24
  • 1
    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?
    – Michael H.
    Sep 22, 2010 at 0:35
  • Wow the inverting shortcut is amazing!
    – Petruza
    Apr 4, 2011 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. Apr 14, 2011 at 5:39
  • 1
    FYI, the screen inversion shortcut didn't work for me here in 2016 under Yosemite 10.10.5.
    – dissolved
    Sep 13, 2016 at 3:54
19

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.
1
  • 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.) Mar 12, 2011 at 1:50
19

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

6
  • Not working form me on a MacBook Pro with 10.5.8
    – Alex
    Aug 26, 2010 at 7:24
  • How would you get it back into the dashboard? Would you have to delete it and then add again? Aug 27, 2010 at 23:48
  • 2
    no click it and press f4 (show dashboard) and release widget.
    – Am1rr3zA
    Aug 28, 2010 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, 2010 at 0:31
  • Unfortunately, the widget then appears above all Windows, which makes this not very useful
    – Casebash
    Sep 17, 2010 at 6:43
18

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

via @Mactip

2
  • 8
    The same on the WiFi logo: displays more information about the hotspot you're connected to.
    – gregseth
    Sep 15, 2010 at 20:12
  • 3
    Same goes for the audio symbol and the bluetooth symbol.
    – johnwards
    Sep 27, 2010 at 9:31
18

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

18

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

6
  • 2
    Hmmm could it be possible that works only because first button is focused which is not the default OSX option?
    – Vincent
    Apr 9, 2011 at 0:10
  • 6
    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, 2011 at 8:13
  • 5
    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, 2011 at 3:45
  • And ⌘. should choose Cancel
    – GEdgar
    Dec 22, 2011 at 1:46
  • Cmd-Delete will also activate the most destructive action — in this case, Don't Save. Jul 4, 2013 at 21:16
18

Click and hold the Show All/ button:

Show All button in System Preferences

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

List of preference panes

Clicking this enables "Hide mode", which adds a checkbox to the corner of each preference pane.

Hide mode in System Preferences

You can hide a preference pane by unchecking the checkbox. You can later show it again by going back and checking it again. In addition, you can go to a preference pane without manually showing it again by using the same Show All button.

4
  • 2
    Yeah I believe this is for Lion only. Nice tip though. Aug 2, 2011 at 20:26
  • 1
    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. Aug 2, 2011 at 22:29
  • Works in Mavericks, too. Aug 7, 2014 at 15:29
  • exists in 10.12 Sierra as well, neat!
    – Demis
    Jul 7, 2017 at 4:57
17

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.

17

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.

1
  • What about Snow Leopard?
    – 11684
    May 18, 2014 at 18:02
17

You can Option ⌥-click menu items to bring up extra information.

  • Battery:
    Extra context in Battery menu item
  • AirPort:
    Extra context in AirPort menu item
  • Bluetooth:
    Extra context in Bluetooth menu item
  • Sound:
    Extra context in Sound menu item
16

Photo Booth:

Hold to skip countdown and take immediate photo.

Hold to disable the screen flash.

via @Mactip

1
  • 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
    – Alexander
    Aug 3, 2011 at 4:50
16

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

enter image description here

Cmd + Shift + .

16

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

UPDATE: This feature does not exist anymore. :(

1
  • 2
    That's (negative) letter spacing or tracking. Kerning means adjusting the distance between pairs of characters specified by the font.
    – Lri
    Aug 23, 2011 at 0:12
15

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

15

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.

2
  • really nice tricks
    – Am1rr3zA
    Apr 12, 2011 at 18:02
  • You can also do this with the "1" key while ⌘-tabbing. Jul 4, 2013 at 21:29
14

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" ->

3
  • 1
    +1 - I use a mouse, but this is still my most used shortcut.
    – Jon Hadley
    Sep 18, 2010 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, 2010 at 12:28
  • 2
    "I avoid using the mouse" Really? on the platform that virtually gave birth to the mouse? really?
    – Petruza
    Apr 4, 2011 at 15:22
14

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

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.

2
  • 1
    Well it's not Mac specific. The reverse-i-search is available all over.
    – keyser
    Jul 28, 2013 at 19:49
  • 1
    Not related to Mac OS, that's available on every Unix shell through the Readline library.
    – zool
    Nov 29, 2017 at 16:04

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