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OS X Hidden Gems

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

121 Responses to “OS X Hidden Gems”

  1. Wikisnoodle

    Great list. (Tip 1) If you tab your way around window and dialogue box features, you can use ctl+F7 to toggle between (a) tabbing around all features (à la Windows) and (b) text boxes and lists only. (Tip 2) 10.6-only, I think – Application/Dock Exposé is available in cmd+tab: make sure you have several windows open in, say, Finder, press cmd+tab, highlight Finder, keep cmd down and click up or down arrow key, use all arrow keys to navigate and return/enter to ‘open’ highlighted window. Who needs the Dock? :)

  2. I use the ctrl-option-cmd eject to shut down all the time. Much quicker.

    My absolute favourite though is this gem:
    With Safari open, press Command + Shift + i
    Mail opens with a new message, title the same as the page and a link in the message body. I can’t stop mailing links to people since I discovered this…

  3. I don’t know how common-knowledge this shortcut is; I sincerely love being able to hit the space bar when in Finder, and having a preview window of the file pop up. It is ultra-useful when quickly looking through a list of photos, but also works on other types of files.

    • That’s called Quick Look. I use it all the time to aid in renaming those Pictures I get from using command+shift+3 and command+shift+4+space to make copies of documents, maps, and other images.

  4. Not for the mac but for the iPhone and iPod Touch, probably the iPad too, so kind of topical :-)

    When playing music, you can go into other apps but lets say you want to skip tracks, double click the home button and the music controller pops up, skip the track and hit close, your app is still open!

    This also works even when your screen is locked, so no need to unlock to skip tracks, etc.

    I use it all the time!

    Also pressing and holding power and home on one of the above devices does a screen capture to your photos.