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Summary:

Have you ever noticed that little dark circle that appears within the close button of a document window in OS X when you have unsaved changes? Yeah, me neither. After years of diligent Mac use, this subtle little element somehow escaped me until now. I guess […]

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Have you ever noticed that little dark circle that appears within the close button of a document window in OS X when you have unsaved changes? Yeah, me neither. After years of diligent Mac use, this subtle little element somehow escaped me until now. I guess I remember noticing it at times but never realized it was telling me to save my work. It’s a nice touch and got me wondering about what other subtle elements I might have missed over the years.

I spent some time gathering up a number of these hidden gems and figured I’d list them here in the hopes that our readers could add to the list in the comments.

Save Dialog

When saving a file you can press / at the save dialog box to choose from any point in the file system via a file path.

Displays

You can press Shift + Ctrl + Eject to put external displays to sleep. On a MacBook this will force the system to sleep without having to close the lid.

Airport

Pressing the Option key when clicking on the AirPort icon in the menubar will display some detailed information about your wireless connection, including the transmit rate.

Finder

Pressing Control while clicking on the current location icon at the top of the Finder window opens a menu to let you select any parent location along that particular file path.

Screen

Pressing Ctrl + Option + Command + 8 will invert the color of your screen.

Dictionary

Pressing Ctrl + Command + D while hovering over a word in any Cocoa application (Safari, Mail, etc.) will automatically look up that word in the OS X dictionary app.

This list just scratches the surface of what I know are a huge number of hidden gems buried inside OS X. If you have any others you want to add to the list, please share it with us in the comments.

  1. Shawn Bouchard Friday, January 29, 2010

    These are gems! Thanks for sharing. I love the airport and dictionary tips – seriously awesome.

  2. Command works for the Finder tip too, thats the one I’ve always used.

    1. This also works for Safari, either with control or command.

    2. This finder-path dropdown works in all apps.

      Also, the little file icons at the top of the window can be clicked and dragged. (I think you have to hold the click for a moment before moving away)

    3. To what little file icons do you refer?

  3. cool. i like the inverting one

  4. Pressing Option while clicking on the battery icon on an MBP brings up the battery status in the menu (should be “normal”) – clicking it brings up a help screen explaining the various states.

    Ctrl-Option-Command-1/2/3/4/5/6 changes the order of icons on your desktop (click on desktop before this).

    1. That should be just Ctrl-Command-1/2/3/4/5/6 – see the View > Arrange By menu.

  5. piminnowcheez Friday, January 29, 2010

    Damn, those are great. Here I thought I knew most of this kind of stuff, and every single one of those was new to me.

  6. Another one for your list:
    Holding shift while minimizing/maximizing will make the action execute in slow-motion. Pretty neat…

    1. Yeah, that one works for the dashboard and exposé too

    2. Here’s a strange one: pressing ctrl while minimizing slows it down, but not as slow as the shift key. It only works with the minimization animation, I’ve tried it on as many others as I can think of. Pretty weird, huh?

    3. Try this: Open a terminal. Type “sleep 3 && killall Dock”. Hit return, then quickly Shift-Minimize the window. Enjoy.

  7. Haha. Nice tips. It reminded me of the time a friend in college passed out on my keyboard and somehow pressed the shortcut for the invert screen. I thought my iMac was broken and used it like that for the next month until I realized I could change it back in the Universal Access menu.

  8. I use the dictionary shortcut all the time. This is my favorite shortcut. Another really cool one is Command and space to type directly in spotlight. But you guys probably know this anyway. I hardly ever use dock or the finder any more to start apps…

    1. Man, that cmd + space is sooooo GREAT, I can’t believe I didn’t know that!

  9. Spotlight does easy calculations… no need to go to dashboard or the calculator to add/subtract/divide/multiply some numbers.

    1. Tried this but couldn’t get it to work. Can you give an example? I tried several variations. thanks for all the great tips, guys!

    2. Command+Space to bring up Spotlight, then try typing in “2+2″ or whatever. Calculator will pop up as the first result and display both the equation and the answer.

    3. 5/2 … results in 2.5,
      5/0 … results in divByZero,
      3+2*5 … results in 13,
      (3+2)*5 … results in 25,
      5! … results in 120,
      cos(1) … results in 0,
      tan(pi) … results in 0,
      sin(pi/2) … results in 1,
      pow(2,3) … results in 8,
      sqrt(121) … results in 11,
      log(1000) … results in 3,
      exp(1) … results in 2.718281828,

      Most of these are similar to abbreviations for functions you’d find in excel or numbers. Spotlight appears to know to ask the calculator app (or a built in library) for the result if it fits a certain format. Taking an exponent in Leopard was pow(10,2) but in Snow Leopard a simpler form is 10^2. Haven’t found the right format for taking the modulus (remainder after division) of two numbers or easily converting between two bases (eg. hex and decimal). Definitely handy for a quick result if your desk calculator isn’t out at the ready.

    4. A couple of other things to add about this. It’s great if you need a quick calculation and you don’t want to take your hands off the keyboard. Command+Spacebar opens spotlight. Just type the calculation and wait (don’t press return or enter). Then to get back to typing, press the escape key twice and you’re right back where you were in mid-sentence with your hands still on the keyboard.

  10. My favorites along these lines:

    – Cmd+R while in Open/Save will open a new Finder window for the selected file/folder. (Great for rename/copy/whatever operations while in Open/Save)

    – Cmd+Shift+. while in Open/Save to toggle system ‘.’ files/folders

    1. I couldn´t make the cmd+R shortcut work, does it work on Snow Leopard?

    2. @Steve Breen : I have been missing “Cmd+Shift+.” for years. Many thanks !

    3. Liked that Cmd+Shift+. one—I never knew about it. Here’s a couple:

      • When you’re in the terminal, typing “open .” will open whatever folder you’re in, in the finder.

      • If you’re in an open/save dialog, you can drag a file onto the dialog, and the finder will immediately go to that file. Really helpful, especially when uploading files.

    4. Yup, I’m doing the Cmd+R trick from an Open dialog trick right now in SL…

    5. In Leopard at least, command+R in a Save or Open dialog apparently opens the last folder that was accessed.

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