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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
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    My collection of OS X tweaks (hidden or not) can be found here: mths.be/osx – Mathias Bynens May 2 '13 at 18:43
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    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

155 Answers 155

13

+ click on the title bar at the top of a Safari window to get a menu of URLs, each the same as the previous but with the last path component removed. Like this:

alt text

  • Or right-click. – Paul Eccles Aug 2 '11 at 17:41
  • 1
    Too bad this doesn't work in Chrome. :-( – daviesgeek Oct 21 '11 at 5:54
  • 2
    This doesn't seem to work any more in El Capitan. – Dag Høidahl Nov 28 '15 at 22:55
13

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.

13

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.

13

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.

  • 1
    I really liked the copy pasting part – Am1rr3zA Jul 29 '13 at 4:56
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    I was bothered for about 3 years that there is no way to move a file in Finder via the keyboard, until I finally heard from a former colleague about CMD-C + CMD-OPT-V. This answer deserves more upvotes! – Tafkadasoh May 12 '14 at 11:37
  • In folder tree view, Cmd--> will expand a directory, and Cmd<-- will collapse it. – dr.nixon Apr 26 at 17:44
13

It’s possible to set a blazingly fast keyboard repeat rate, much faster than the maximum possible setting in System Preferences → Keyboard → Keyboard → Key Repeat.

Keyboard settings at apparent maximum

The trick is to use this command in Terminal.app:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain KeyRepeat -int 0

After that, log out and back in, or just reopen all applications.

Disclaimer: This is just one of the many goodies in my .osx file.

  • This is especially useful when typing FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU, etc. – Mathias Bynens Mar 28 '12 at 6:53
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    Best part of this is to navigate faster in text files, e.g. hjkl in visual mode in vi. – Samet Atdag Jun 24 '13 at 15:16
13

You can change screen brightness in quarter intervals by pressing + + Brightness Up / Down:

Brightness at quarter interval

  • 1
    This doesn't work for me. – Tyilo Mar 16 '12 at 21:06
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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

/System/Library/CoreServices/SecurityAgentPlugins/loginwindow.bundle/Contents/Resources

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

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

  • While this still works, starting with El Capitan you must disable SIP to perform these types of tweaks. – Wowfunhappy Jul 24 '18 at 18:32
12

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.

  • 1
    Well it's not Mac specific. The reverse-i-search is available all over. – keyser Jul 28 '13 at 19:49
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    Not related to Mac OS, that's available on every Unix shell through the Readline library. – zool Nov 29 '17 at 16:04
10
  • Select a bunch of text and drag to the desktop and it will make a text clipping.
  • Drag it back to a text window and it will dump the text there.
  • Double-click and you can view the selectively copy for pasting elsewhere.
  • Install the quicklook extension and you can view text and pict clippings in quicklook.
  • Theres also a service to summarize text by right clicking a text clipping file or selected text. A wonderful replacement for word – Alexander - Reinstate Monica Aug 3 '11 at 4:56
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    Quick Look in Lion handles both .textClipping and .pictClipping files with Apple-provided generators alone. – Graham Perrin Aug 4 '11 at 20:49
10

In Terminal, if you hold option, your cursor turns into a small "+". While holding option, you can use this to highlight and copy any square/rectangular area of text instead of whole lines at a time.

  • it's a nice trick – Am1rr3zA Apr 4 '11 at 5:47
  • This works in other native apps (though it's indeed most useful in Terminal). – jtheletter Nov 12 '18 at 5:46
10

Hold down and click TimeMachine Icon in the menubar. Now you can search/restore from other backups

via @MacTip

10

Often a simple spotlight query isn't enough.

The shortcut ++space brings up the powerful finder search window no matter what app is running.

Not only can you use the normal search types like kind:app or kind:mail but you can force spotlight to show you files that are normally hidden.

This is particularly useful to search for and inside hidden system files such as .ipsw packages, detailed logs and CoreServices utilities. search window showing hidden System Files

You may want to add System files to your default search menu for quicker access.

  • first click the circle plus to the far right of the Save button to show the optional search filters
  • then choose other under the Kind dropdown
  • lastly search for System and check the include toggle. choose the "other" itementer image description here
  • Can this be automated via defaults write? – Wowfunhappy Jul 24 '18 at 18:39
10

While you are using + to cycle through open applications, you can press Q before you release to close the app. You can close several apps before release .

  • "H" also hides apps. – Demis Jul 7 '17 at 13:36
9

To quickly lock your computer with a screen-saver style password, regardless of whether a password or time delay is set in the Security preference pane, enable the keychain status menu item and use its Lock Screen command. To enable it, open the Keychain Access utility, choose Preferences… from the Keychain Access menu, and enable "Show Status in Menu Bar" from the General pane.

Keychain status menu item with lock screen command

  • Ctrl-Shift-Eject does this without filling your menubar. – Max Ried Nov 2 '11 at 8:07
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    @bot47 Not exactly the same. Ctrl-Shift-Eject simply puts the display to sleep. Therefore (1) the password lock does not kick in until the Security time delay is reached (if password is even enabled in the first place) and (2) the display goes to sleep instead of screen saver mode, which as of Lion requires a keyboard button press or mouse click to awaken and takes slightly longer to respond to user input. – PCheese Nov 9 '11 at 0:52
9

+ ` (backtick accent) switches between multiple windows of the same app.

9

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.

  • For swedish keyboards: <Shift><CMD> + Ö/Ä – keyser Jul 28 '13 at 20:00
9

In Finder "columns" view, double click the block below the scroll bar arrows to auto fit column width.

via @Mactip

  • You know, I've never tried special clicks on the drag box. Thanks! – Jason Salaz Mar 12 '11 at 1:51
8

The 'Open Terminal Here' applescript that can be added to the finder toolbar(?), is a great way of getting a shell prompt to the folder your are viewing.

The 'original' is at the pages of its author Marc Liyanage:

http://www.entropy.ch/software/applescript/

He kindly links to a number of other versions so you can take your pick.

The other side of the coin (though not worth it's own answer) is the command

open .

to open a finder window for the current shell folder.

  • It's a nice trick – Am1rr3zA Oct 20 '10 at 16:31
  • Do you know of any updated icons for Snow Leopard? Love the functionality, but the icon is ugly next to the others. – Lizzan Oct 21 '10 at 8:20
  • Anything can be added to the Finder's toolbar. Mine contains a couple of applications and my trash. – ughoavgfhw Mar 22 '11 at 19:59
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    As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Terminal provides Services to do this. Enable New Terminal at Folder in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Services. The quickest way to get there is to choose [Application Menu] > Services > Services Preferences…. There's also New Terminal Tab at Folder. These operate on folders in Finder, as well as pathnames selected in text in any application. You can also drag folders (and pathnames) onto the Terminal application icon in the Dock, or onto the tab bar of a terminal window to add a new tab. – Chris Page Sep 4 '11 at 9:30
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    @khedron: Terminal will also open a terminal if you tell it to open a folder. So the script can be simplified to just tell application "Terminal" to open ... and all the stuff about checking whether it's running and issuing a cd command can be removed. – Chris Page Oct 22 '11 at 10:50
8

If you connect two Mac's directly using a standard ethernet cable, you can quickly transfer files between them. It automatically configures the connection, and is much faster than doing large transfers over wireless.

  • Gigabit Ethernet is great in not needing crossover cables for direct connections. – John Ferguson Apr 8 '11 at 23:07
  • I believe you can also connect via a Firewire cable and network over that connection. (Not using one machine as a drive, but actually networking.) – Wayne Apr 13 '11 at 3:32
8

3rd party apps can add unwanted items to your right click menus! To add or remove items from the right click contextual menus: Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts. Select the "Services" panel and uncheck the services which you don't need. enter image description here

8

++ or ++ can be used to select the previous or next word.

  • 1
    @Lri All posts in this tread are community wikis. That means that anyone can edit them to improve them. Why don't you make an edit with the correction? – Nathan Greenstein Apr 14 '11 at 20:41
8

When resizing columns in Finder, hold down whilst dragging, and you'll resize all columns and reset the default width.

8

Ever wanted to stop the iTunes visualizer at that really cool moment and take a picture? In iTunes 10 (and previous versions really) you can control what your visualizer is doing. You need to have a song playing to notice changes.

Simply press the ? key to see a help menu of the controls. On most visualizers press f to see the current FPS. (all except the default)

To freeze the default iTunes visualizer press F to freeze the mode, then press L to freeze the camera. Now that your visualizer is completely stopped, press M to change the mode. Turn the fog on and off with N (only works with certain themes). Change the color palette with P before freezing the mode or locking the camera or it has no effect. + F for full screen, then ++3 for full screen grab.

Viola, instant custom desktop pattern!

8

I love the DigitalColor Meter application (in /Applications/Utilities) for finding the color of something on screen (especially useful for web development). cmd + shift + h to lock/hold the color you're on, ++c to copy the value as RGB Hex value.

  • Note that if you use it on a second display the colors may not be correct. – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:07
8

When switching focus between applications, you can hold down and click on another application. When you change focus from one application to another, the first application hides. So, let's say you are switching from an open Finder window to an open TextEdit window while holding the key. Finder will hide once you click on the TextEdit window. I discovered this by accident and it's pretty cool

8

By pressing + + + you can create the  - Symbol on a german keyboard.

The tilde-key btw is created by pressing +N for all those who searched `~´

For English (American) keyboards, the shortcut is: Option ⌥ + Shift ⇧ + K

  • 2
    It's alt+shift+K on an English (American) keyboard. – Ricket Nov 20 '10 at 0:43
  • It's Alt+A on a Norwegian keyboard :) – Emil Feb 7 '13 at 18:29
  • Alt + & in a french one – Thomas Ayoub May 14 '14 at 16:03
8

In iTunes, it’s possible to make + F focus the search input instead of toggling the full screen mode.

Simply enter this command in Terminal.app:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes NSUserKeyEquivalents -dict-add "Target Search Field" "@F"

Then, restart iTunes.

Disclaimer: This is just one of the many goodies in my .osx file.

  • Shouldn't this work in almost any (Cocoa/ObjC based) application? It's basically the same as changing a menu shortcut via the Keyboard / Shortcuts System Prefs, isn't it? – Thomas Tempelmann Mar 26 '17 at 11:26
8

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.

  • 1
    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
8

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

  • If you type quickly you can usually type the whole thing in (or until it's unique) to select it. – 0942v8653 Oct 21 '14 at 9:17

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