574

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

156 Answers 156

4

Secrets by Blacktree is a preference pane which enables many hidden OS X and specific application preferences (e.g. change Dock to 2D, change iTunes stoplights back to horizontal). Saves you a couple of trips to the Terminal.

  • This is NOT a hidden / useful feature. – ff10 Jun 24 '13 at 8:32
4

There is a fast way to create a hidden folder on Mac OS. Hidden folders a created by typing "." on the beginning (e.g. ".hiddenfolder")

The Finder won't let you do this though. So we gonna use the terminal.

to create a new folder:

mkdir .hiddenfolder

first of course you have to navigate to the location, you want the folder to be. For example the Desktop:

cd /Users/USERNAME/Desktop/

or drag a folder into the Terminal to get it's address

To know where you are right now, type:

pwd

Another way is, to rename a folder. To do so type:

mv ActualFolderName .hiddenfolder

To open a hidden folder, make hidden files visible like described earlier, or use terminal (navigate there first, or type open absolute path)

open .hiddenfolder

or if you are in the hidden folder already, just type

open .

to show hidden folders/files in terminal type

ls -a
  • Most of those are not Mac OS X-specific. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:12
  • If you [shift][command][G] on finder, you can type the hidden folder's path and browse it in finder as a normal visible folder. – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:35
4

Not sure if it's posted already but you can drag folders and files from the finder into an application's open / save dialogue. It sets the save or open path to that of the folder or file you're dragging. Excellent when you prefer to use the finder to navigate but don't want to repeat the process in your app or vice versa. Also, on many cases, whilst in the open / save dialogue, you can hit command R to reveal the files in the finder.

4

I am new to Mac so this might be common knowledge but in snow leopard if you hold 3 and 2 during boot you will boot into 32 bit mode and the same goes foe 64 bit when holding the 6 and 4 keys during boot. Macfuse for example did not like running in 64 bit mode

  • Note that this only affects whether a 32 or 64 bit kernel is used. Both can still run 32 or 64 bit applications, and 64 bit applications are always the default if the processor is 64 bit. However, the default kernel is 32 bit because, as you have seen, some third-party extensions don't work with a 64-bit kernel yet. – LaC Apr 18 '11 at 19:03
4

+ = switch between applications. Press before releasing and it will un-minimize minimized windows from that application.

  • For a user who doesn't like taking their hands off the keyboard, I use this feature all the time. – eywu Jun 24 '13 at 17:28
4

Hold ctrl and scroll with the mouse/trackpad in order to zoom the view at any time. Extremely handy in order to discern pixel differences of a UI.

4

You can -click and drag many OS provided icons from your menu bar to rearrange or remove them if it's getting too crowded. Doesn't work with all 3rd party ones, but many built-in ones (like volume, battery, sync, bluetooth, etc) can be removed this way. Many of them can be removed from the control panel, but this is the only way some of them can be removed once activated (that I'm aware of).

  • FYI a quick way to add any missing menubar icons is to double-click any of the files in /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Items/ – Demis Oct 2 '17 at 16:28
4

Hold Option & click Speaker/Volume icon in top menu bar to quickly select audio output and input devices (bluetooth, airplay etc.)

via https://twitter.com/justinerdman/status/316936844958916608

4

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 Terminal.app 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.

4

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.

4

Exposé for spaces and 'Show desktop' attached to corners of the screen. I've attached 'Show desktop' to my lower right corner, and Exposé for spaces in the top left. Now, i can go bottom right to the desktop, grab a file, move over to the top left to switch to a space, and drop it there in a Finder window or Application.

  • Yeah, active corners are useful! Personally I also like to have Dashboard bound to one corner and screen blanking (Put Display to Sleep) to another. – Jonik Sep 15 '10 at 20:38
4

macOS has a built-in option to mass rename files (including changing the extension), which I found here while looking for a shell script snippet to do the trick. Just select the files, right click and choose "Rename n items ...". The Replace Text dialog is rather self-explanatory.

enter image description here

enter image description here

(image sources: OS X Daily)

  • Is this a 10.14 Mojave feature or did it arrive a while back and no-one seemed to notice or read the friendly manual? – bmike Mar 10 at 19:34
  • According to this blog post it's available since Yosemite (10.10). – Glorfindel Mar 10 at 19:36
  • Woah! Thank you - that's just crazy it's been hidden / undocumented here for so many years. Thanks for the answer +2 if I could. – bmike Mar 10 at 19:39
3

Also TinkerTool shows some hidden features

  • Any specific 'hidden features'? – haykam Apr 11 at 0:17
  • @haykam oh boy, that post is ~9 years old. Not sure what exactly I used TinkerTool for back then, but since I switched to doing stuff with the defaults command. I vaguely remember using it to block .DS_Store files being created on network drives though. – Jemus42 Apr 12 at 8:40
3

Safari also supports a subset of Emacs keybindings

  • 2
    It's not a Safari thing: it's supported by any native text control. To name a random few: Spotlight search field, TextEdit, even Stickies. – PCheese Apr 12 '11 at 9:37
  • @PCheese: Nice to know! – dreynold Apr 12 '11 at 18:09
3

One of the most amazing things I know to do in the terminal is "doctor terminal" I just love it! :D I know it's a silly program that's easy to make but, no other operating system has it. I'm trying to get hold of the command now...

3

If you want to Open/Close FrontRow just use + esc

3

+ ctrl + "two finger swipe" = change the opacity of the window under the cursor

  • 10
    This doesn't work for me. Is there something special you have to do first? – Jason Salaz Jan 17 '12 at 16:49
  • 6
    I cannot get this to work either. Tested with Finder.app and Terminal.app windows. – Mathias Bynens Mar 26 '12 at 7:45
  • 1
    This doesn't work for me. – Dag Høidahl Nov 28 '15 at 22:42
3

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 Quicksilver.app)

3

Custom Alert Sounds - An old trick from OS9 days (tested to 10.8) is to create your own alert sounds. Not entirely productive but if you are into hacking your Mac / OS to make it your own, this is one on the list - it's fun to have Peter Griffin tell you it's time for lunch.

  • Sample your sound file as usual (download or record/input to the Mac using something like Sound Studio or QT Pro 7).
  • edit down to 10 seconds or less adding a clean entry and exit
  • export as an AIFF file
  • place here: /System/Library/Sounds/*
  • select the alert sound via the System Preferences / Sound / Sound Effects panel

Note: the Library folder may be invisible by default. If so open terminal and add the following to make it permanently visible:

chflags nohidden ~/Library/

Note2: this route path will facilitate a sound file available to all users on your Mac. You can keep it to yourself by placing the AIFF here:

/Users/username/Library/Sounds/
  • Such a fun customization from way back in Mac OS 6/7!!! Didn't know this still existed. It looks like Audacity can export AIFF still: manual.audacityteam.org/man/… – Demis Oct 2 '17 at 16:21
3

Text Edit - restore zoom feature in 10.7 / 10.8+

This is a helpful tip to remedy Apple's less than useful update to the ubiquitous Text Edit application from OS 10.7 following which they removed the incremental 'Zoom' control shown below.

enter image description here

I am aware of the keyboard shortcuts CMD + and CMD - that work post 10.7, however, the zoom increments with this method are pre-fixed and too large for me - I am most comfortable with 125% and to be honest, I am bugged that a useful function has been removed. So the action:

  • Delete the default version of Text Edit in the system / apps folder (you can drag this app to the trash or use a program like AppZapper). If you go the manual method, delete the preferences file as well.
  • beg, steal or borrow a copy of OS 10.6. Most regular Mac users will have one archived (I have Mac OS's back to 6.5, although I am sad).
  • drag a copy of Text Edit 1.7.1 (or earlier - 1.6 should work from OS 10.5) to your current applications folder.

enter image description here

  • Select any text edit document, get info (CMD + I) and set Text Edit 1.7.1 as the default application to open this type of file.

Note: you may get an error message from Text Edit stating that it cannot save the file due to a permissions error. Don't worry, the file is being saved OK under OS 10.7+ and the false flag is due to an Apple change in the way newer versions of Text Edit auto-save. To suspend this reporting, you can soft hack Text Edit 1.7.1's behavior in terminal with the following command.

defaults write -app textedit ApplePersistence -bool false

defaults write -app textedit AutosavingDelay -int 0

Hope you find this tip helpful.

3

Ever downloaded an app that Mac OS won't let you open because it's "from an unidentified developer"?

Instead of completely disabling this security feature (via SysPrefs>Security), try the following:

  • Right-click the .app file
  • hold Shift while clicking Open.
  • The resulting warning now has an [Open] button, click it.
  • The warning is circumvented for this app only, but still enabled system-wide. It will never warn you again for that particular app.
3

Quickly insert weird characters into text by setting Text-Replacement Keyboard Shortcuts for any characters you find in the "Emoji & Symbols" panel.

I personally use LaTeX-style shortcuts, so typing \arrowright gets replaced with →. Type a Space after the \arrowright to do the replacement.

Set your shortcuts in SysPrefs > Keyboard > Text enter image description here

You can copy/paste characters from anywhere into the Replace With... column. I prefer to double-click characters from the Emoji & Symbols pane, so I know they're in the standard font packages. The Emoji & Symbols pane can be enabled by selecting

SysPrefs > Keyboard > Keyboard (tab) > Show Keyboard and Emoji Viewers in menu bar

and then choosing Emoji & Symbols in the resulting menu item: show emoji & symbols

3

You can drag-drop Finder objects (or any document window's proxy icons) while doing any of the following:

  • App-Switching (+Tab or ++Tab),
  • Spaces (+ or +),
  • Show Desktop (+F3), or
  • Mission Control (+).

Combined with dropping into open/save dialogues, this means you'll never have to navigate to a file in one app and then navigate to the same file again in the open/save dialog. You'll also never have move windows around in order to drop a file into Safari.

Eg. I have an image open in Preview, and want to send it as an attachment in gmail.

  • Gmail pops open the "select attachment" file dialogue: gmail file dialogue
  • Start dragging the proxy Icon from Preview - don't let go of it start dragging proxy icon
  • While continuing to drag the file, switch apps with +Tab.

    • Keep holding , but release/hit Tab or +Tab repeatedly to get to Safari.
    • Let go of once Safari is selected, to bring it to the front. App-Switcher while dragging
  • Drop the file onto the file dialogue, and it'll become selected. drop icon into file dialogue File is selected and ready to send. Return to finish selecting the file. file is selected and ready to send

If you save screenshots to the desktop, then a similar trick is useful with the "Show Desktop" keyboard shortcut (+F3).

3

During a spotlight search, hit B to Google that term in Safari. Gives very quick access to a google search.

I assume the search setting in Safari determines which search engine is used.

3

In TextEdit, you can go to a specific line number by hitting L. Useful if a script errors at a specific line number.

Select Line tool

2

Pressing + + W will close all windows of an application at once, in most apps.

2

Regarding tips and tricks. The most annoying part of MacOS for me always was the inability to put dock on the side of a middle monitor in multi monitor setup.

I've managed to achieve it with a help of Wraparound app (Free). It wraps mouse around your monitors so you can setup you monitors arrangement so the monitor you want your dock to be on would be first (if you want dock on left) or last (if you want it on right) and then just wrap mouse movement horizontally.

Here is example of my monitor arrangement before

arrangement before Wraparound use

and this is after

arrangement after Wraparound use

and here's how Wraparounds settings look

Wraparounds settings

so in the end my real setup looks like this

real world monitor arrengement

The only thing that doesn't work is dragging window from middle monitor to the left, it seems to work for an instant but then gets teleported back. But I'm using Spectacle app (Free) to manage windows and I use a shortcut to move windows between monitors so that's not a problem for me at all.

2

I frequently use the shortcut: Shift + Home and Shift + End to jump to the begining and end (respectively) of a long command in Terminal. It is one of the most useful commands I have discovered for macOS to date.

2

Advanced cursor navigation for text.

  • optionleft/right arrow – Move cursor to previous/next word break.
  • commandleft/right arrow – Move cursor to start/end of line.
  • commandup/down arrow – Move cursor to top/bottom of textarea.
  • shiftleft/right arrow – Highlight left/right character.
  • shiftcommandleft/right arrow – Highlight left/right word.
  • shiftcommandup/down arrow – Highlight text to start/end of line.
  • optiondelete – Delete word.
  • commanddelete – Delete line.
2

By long-pressing on the bookmarks tab on the sidebar, you can open a menu containing the structure of the bookmarks folder. You can move your mouse to jump to a folder from this menu.

Context menu for bookmarks folder structure

You must log in to answer this question.

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 .