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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!

  • I wonder if the "Terminal Tips and Tricks For Mac OS X" thread from SU can be ported over: superuser.com/questions/52483/… – 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
  • more of the same here superuser.com/questions/15646/underused-mac-os-x-gui-features – username Sep 14 '10 at 17:40
  • 7
    My collection of OS X tweaks (hidden or not) can be found here: mths.be/osx – Mathias Bynens May 2 '13 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! – RPiAwesomeness Dec 27 '13 at 3:56

153 Answers 153

35

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.

  • it didn't work for me – Am1rr3zA Apr 4 '11 at 4:19
  • 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
  • 1
    It exists in the Finder plugin TotalFinder. Maybe there are other plugins which do nothing else but add that feature. – Debilski Apr 15 '11 at 6:17
34
  • 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.

  • 1
    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
30

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.

  • YES and NO are also possible instead of 1 and 0. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:01
  • 12
    The only annoying bit is that you see the .DS_Store files EVERYWHERE, like on your desktop. – mhud Apr 12 '11 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. – Darryl Hein Apr 16 '11 at 0:52
  • @mhud I have a solution for the .DS_Store files that are everywhere. superuser.com/a/1322425/247728 – JayRizzo Oct 30 '18 at 9:46
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.

27

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

  • certainly a nice usability feat! – ChrisR Sep 15 '10 at 20:54
  • Very very important to know! – Ricket Nov 20 '10 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 '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
27

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
    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. – Michael H. Oct 20 '11 at 3:51
  • 2
    Cmd + Shift + V makes a hell of a lot more sense than Apple's ridiculous "claw" hotkey. – Oscar Jun 24 '13 at 11:32
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.

  • 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
  • @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 '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
26

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

  • This one is my favorite. It's like a command line for the application. – Sam Apr 12 '11 at 15:04
  • 1
    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
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).

  • I like cheatsheet (cheatsheetapp.com/LandingCheatSheet). Hold down ⌘ for a moment and you get a popover showing all shortcuts. – Andrew Dec 12 '16 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 '17 at 4:48
23

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.

  • 3
    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
23

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

  • 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
  • 1
    @loic-wolff Yeah, they act just like an app without picture – Dave Aug 22 '11 at 22:03
22

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

  • great to hide window ! – code4j Feb 18 '13 at 21:18
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.

  • +1 I really love option trick to raise minimize I don't know this. – Am1rr3zA Sep 15 '10 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 '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
  • FYI, the screen inversion shortcut didn't work for me here in 2016 under Yosemite 10.10.5. – dissolved Sep 13 '16 at 3:54
20

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!

  • 2
    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
  • 2
    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
  • 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 '13 at 15:45
18

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.
  • 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
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 com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

alt text

  • 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
  • 2
    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
17

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

via @Mactip

  • 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
17

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

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

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

  • 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
  • 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 '11 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 '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
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.

  • What about Snow Leopard? – 11684 May 18 '14 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

  • 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 '11 at 4:50
16

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

enter image description here

Cmd + Shift + .

15

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

  • 2
    That's (negative) letter spacing or tracking. Kerning means adjusting the distance between pairs of characters specified by the font. – Lri Aug 23 '11 at 0:12
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.

  • really nice tricks – Am1rr3zA Apr 12 '11 at 18:02
  • You can also do this with the "1" key while ⌘-tabbing. – Tyler Wayne Jul 4 '13 at 21:29
15

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.

  • 1
    Yeah I believe this is for Lion only. Nice tip though. – Paul Eccles Aug 2 '11 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. – Rene Larsen Aug 2 '11 at 22:29
  • Works in Mavericks, too. – Daniel Pendergast Aug 7 '14 at 15:29
  • exists in 10.12 Sierra as well, neat! – Demis Jul 7 '17 at 4:57
14

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

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" ->

  • 1
    +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
  • 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
13

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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