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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
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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

8

You can access the File, Edit and other application menus with the 'Change the way Tab moves focus' setting in Keyboard -> Shortcuts Preferences. I changed it from the default to Ctrl+` as the default merely adjusted brightness.

Keyboard -> Shortcuts preferences with 'Change the way Tab moves focus' option highlighted

7

If you want to quickly resize your Dock you can click and drag the bar that separates the apps from minified windows, the Trash etc. If your Dock is on the bottom then drag up to increase the size of the dock and down to make them smaller. Drag left/right if your Dock is on the side of the screen.

7

If you use random Backgrounds, there is a quick way to make them change when you want.

type in the terminal

killall Dock

This will make your random Desktopbackground change.

  • 2
    This might also unhide hidden apps and un-minimize minimized windows. – Demis Jul 7 '17 at 13:43
7

An often-neglected feature of OS X is the ability to drag files and proxy icons into other applications or windows.

Try this in Adobe apps. Why use the File > Place… command? Just drag a file directly from the Finder directly into the document you’re working on.

Drag files onto Dock icons to open that JPG in Photoshop rather than iPhoto. Drag an image from your browser into Photoshop’s Dock icon.

  • 3
    Wait, Adobe actually did read the HIG? – rightfold Apr 2 '11 at 16:11
7

Hibernate your MacBook Pro with

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 25

and then put it to sleep which will save the state of your system and then power off. Very handy when flying.

If instead you want very fast sleeps, without writing memory to disk, use

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

To restore the default behaviour, use

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 3

7

Quickly find your search results in Safari

  1. Perform a Google search in the toolbar
  2. Click a result
  3. Press +G

via @Mactip

  • Looks like this has become ⌘+⌥+S as of Lion. – Tyler Wayne Jul 4 '13 at 21:34
7

When closing an unsaved document +D will invoke Don't Save for you.

Use with care though.

7
 sudo purge

I use this all the time for freeing unused memory on my Mac.

  • 3
    From man purge: “force disk cache to be purged (flushed and emptied). Purge can be used to approximate initial boot conditions with a cold disk buffer cache for performance analysis. It does not affect anonymous memory that has been allocated through malloc, vm_allocate, etc.” – Mathias Bynens Mar 26 '12 at 7:44
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    To put it more bluntly, purge-ing your disk caches can actually slow you down. – zigg Jul 4 '13 at 22:43
7

Here's one I learned a long time ago, still works today.

Keyboard shortcut for proper single and double quotes:

Single Quotes

  1. For Left ( ) press: Alt + ]
  2. For Right ( ) press: Alt + Shift + ]

Double Quotes

  1. For Left ( ) press: Alt + [
  2. For Right ( ) Alt + Shift + [
  • 1
    nice one, I didn't know that – Am1rr3zA Jun 25 '13 at 18:54
  • On some non-US keyboards it seems to be Alt N for ‘, Alt M for ’, Shift-Alt N for “ and Shift-Alt M for ”. – Winterflags Apr 25 '16 at 9:44
7

You can play tetris in Terminal:

When you are in Terminal type emacs and hit enter. After that press escape button and X button at the same time. Now just type tetris and hit enter.

Same goes for pong, 5x5, snake, tetris, dunnet and blackbox, just type its name instead of tetris

Source: http://secretpctips.com/2011/04/mac-os-secrets-easter-eggs/

  • 4
    Not really a OS X tip, but an emacs tip. – claytron Apr 20 '11 at 19:52
  • I didn't realize emacs was installed by default. Thanks. – hsmiths May 27 '11 at 23:26
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    now I'm stuck in emacs... – Chris F Carroll May 30 '15 at 16:04
7

When I migrated from Windows to Mac OS X, what I really missed is the ability to move files with cut (Ctrl + X) and paste (Ctrl + V) (as opposed to copy and paste).

It turns out Finder has this capability as well, but it's more like 'mark and move': Cmd + C and then Alt + Cmd + V.

  • This is awesome, thanks for posting. If it's like CMD-dragging a file, then it's probably more like "copy + delete the original". – Demis Oct 2 '17 at 16:24
  • @Demis correct, you won’t end up with two files. I see now why it’s confusing, I’ll try to fix it. – Glorfindel Oct 2 '17 at 16:27
7

Remember the double-sided arrows on both the top and bottom of the scroll column in OS 9? Go to the terminal and type:

defaults write "Apple Global Domain" AppleScrollBarVariant DoubleBoth

When you login/restart, this will work across all applications. Very handy to have.

6

You can disable 3D Dock effect ( if you don't like ) when dock is at bottom.

Use tinker tool (it's free).

Now, switch to Dock tab, do as instructed in image.

alt text

  • 9
    You can achieve the same effect without using TinkerTool by entering this string defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES in the terminal. – Davide Gualano Jan 11 '11 at 12:17
  • I used Docker to get the little triangles back. I'm not a fan of the glowing orb. – John Ferguson Apr 8 '11 at 23:04
  • What I would give for the ability to do the opposite on 10.10+... – Wowfunhappy Jul 24 '18 at 18:42
6

You can adjust the scale of all windows (sizes of buttons and menus and toolbars) to fit more on a smaller screen. It was really helpful on my TV setup, because I couldn't see the bottom items in the System Preferences.

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleDisplayScaleFactor .75

to reset simply

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleDisplayScaleFactor 1

Or you can change it per Application

defaults write com.apple.iTunes AppleDisplayScaleFactor .7
  • Does it still work in Mavericks? I can't seem to get it to work. – Daniel Pendergast Aug 5 '14 at 13:05
6

Target Disk Mode lets you mount a Firewire-enabled Mac as an external disk, without even booting into the OS. Useful for quick transfers, large transfers (it's quite fast), recovery, etc.

To start it, hold T during startup.

  • For what? A little more explanation of how this is a tip or stick might make this a better tip – bmike Apr 21 '11 at 18:18
6

To paste plain text without any formatting use +++V.

That's very useful when working in app like Keynote and copying some text from webpage.

Note: It doesn't work if any other function assigned to this shortcut. To fix that just change the default shortcut in the app to something else.

6

El Capitan has a new split full screen feature, where you can have two apps open at once. I use it all the time, but the one thing I find inconvenient about is that it will very strongly blur the un-focused window when resizing a pane:

Blurred unfocused window demo

You can hold down while resizing to see both screens respond to your resize changes -- neither will be blurred.

6

Since El Capitan (OS X 10.10), the green button in the top left of a window does not resize the window as it used to, but instead turns it into full-screen mode.

To get the old behavior back, hold down the key, which will turn the green button's symbol from the resizer to a + as it used to be.

6

If you need to type an accented letter like "é" or "ñ" just press and hold the corresponding letter on your keyboard and a little popup will appear with numbered letters with accents. You can also click the letter of your choice.

Accent popup

5

alt + + left click in the dock hides all windows except application currently in focus. Great if you find window clutter distracting.

  • You can use alt+cmd+H too, without having to move the mouse – jtimberman May 19 '11 at 3:36
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When you're in the +Tab task switcher selecting the Finder and pressing +Q will restart the Finder.

5

You can prevent app from appearing in Dock by editing .app/Contents/Info.plist. Just add

<key>LSUIElement</key>
<true/>
5

Probably the most used shortcut I created on my machine is one to hide and show hidden files.

I've set this up via an AppleScript on my machine with a keyboard shortcut of ^ + + + . which toggles the visibility of hidden files within Finder whenever I want. This way I don't have to manually run a terminal command to show hidden files, and I can quickly turn it off to avoid accidentally modifying system files. I use FastScripts to allow me to set the keyboard shortcut for my AppleScript, and placed the AppleScript in my ~/Library/Scripts Folder.

Here is the AppleScript in case you wish to give it a try:

tell application "System Events"

    set hiddenFilesDisplayStatus to do shell script "defaults read com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles"
    set hiddenFilesNewDisplayStatus to "NO"

    if hiddenFilesDisplayStatus is "NO" then
        set hiddenFilesNewDisplayStatus to "YES"
    end if

    do shell script "defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles " & hiddenFilesNewDisplayStatus
    do shell script "killall Finder"

end tell
5

When +clicking on an open app in the Dock the application hides.

  • I don't get that behavior with Shift. Did you have to change an option to get hiding to work like that? – seh Feb 23 '11 at 2:12
  • @seh - No I didn't...at least I don't remember changing anything like this. This is on OS X 10.6.6, but I'm not sure if it's version related. Could also be that I've changed something while working on this SL installation, I haven't reinstalled since SL came out. – deiga Feb 23 '11 at 5:43
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    I have this behaviour when I hold the Alt key instead. – Pierre Watelet Apr 6 '11 at 10:42
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    It is Option/Alt key, not Shift. – styfle May 20 '11 at 23:32
5

The Guest account is great for troubleshooting.

If I have a software issue, logging in as Guest lets me open an app with 'clean' preferences settings.

It's helped me with network issues as well.

To enable Guest logins, go to System Preferences, Users & Groups, Guest User, and check Allow guests to log in to this computer.

5

You can force Exposé to only show windows that are on the current Space (instead of all windows open on any Space). Type the following into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dock wvous-show-windows-in-other-spaces -bool FALSE

then, to restart Dock:

killall Dock
  • Doesn't work on El Capitan – Tolgay Toklar Dec 24 '15 at 22:08
5

Hide an Application While Cmd-Tabbing

While using +Tab, you can press H to hide/show the app that is currently selected.

4

Do a "killall dock" in Terminal while a window is being minimized with the Genie effect (helps to hold down Shift to slow it down) and the window will be 'stuck' in the Genie effect yet still be operational! For example, you can still scroll.

4

If you are a recent convert to osx and miss the mouse/cursor acceleration of a windows mouse? OSX mouse doesnt feel quite as good as the windows mouse?

Give SteerMouse a try!

  • 2
    +1 it's nice but it's not a real OS X hidden features it's good 3rd-party apps. – Am1rr3zA Oct 8 '10 at 12:39
  • 1
    I figured it would fall into the "nice tips & tricks" part of the thread :) – Shaun W. Oct 8 '10 at 13:48
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    "OSX mouse doesnt feel quite as good as the windows mouse" ?? Heresy! – Petruza Apr 4 '11 at 15:29
4

If you drag files while holding the command key, the contents move but don't copy. Great for cutting the copy - then delete original process.

  • 1
    That is the default when staying on the same hard drive. Use option to copy on the same drive, and command and option to create an alias. – ughoavgfhw Mar 22 '11 at 20:04

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