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Software Engineer at Polygon

A few "how did you do it" kinda macOS tips and tricks

Over the years, I collected an arsenal of little “how did you do it” kinda macOS tips and tricks. Let me share some of them with you. This post doesn’t assume you have XYZ software installed — just pure macOS stuff here. Enjoy!

Show/hide hidden files (dotfiles) #

Hidden files are those whose names start with the dot (.) character, so sometimes people call them dotfiles. There are two ways of toggling their visibility — terminal commands and Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + . keyboard shortcut.

# Show hidden files
defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true

# Restart Finder
killall Finder
# Hide hidden files
defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles false

# Restart Finder
killall Finder

Quick presentation of Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + . keyboard shortcut to toggle the visibility of hidden files

Built-in network quality testing tool #

I am sure you know and use Speedtest by Ookla or Fast.com to check your network performance. However, did you know that the networkQuality comes built-in and does the same thing?

A presentation of networkQuality CLI

Fine-grained volume/brightness control #

Two pairs of keys can control brightness and volume, F1 / F2 and F11 / F12, respectively. Holding the Shift ⇧ + Option ⌥ during the adjustment allows for much more granular control (a quarter of a step).

A presentation of fine-grained volume/brightness control using Shift ⇧ + Option ⌥ keayboard shortcut

Quick reply and tapback shortcut in Messages #

A quick reply and tapback keyboard shortcuts can save time by avoiding using the mouse. Hit the Command ⌘ + r shortcut to reply. The Command ⌘ + t followed by 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 is the fastest way to react to the previous message.

A presentation of quick reply and tapback feature in macOS Messages

Reduce duration and delay of Dock auto-hiding #

One of the best ways to remove the clutter on your screen is enabling “Automatically hide and show Dock” in the “Dock & Menu Bar” System Preferences section. Unfortunately, by default, the delay before showing the Dock and the duration of the animation are annoyingly slow. Luckily we can control these parameters using defaults CLI. “Change macOS user preferences via command line” that I published a few years ago explains the power of this command in depth. Unfortunately, as far as I know, these parameters cannot be controlled via UI (user interface).

# Automatically hide and show the Dock (animation duration)
defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-time-modifier -float 0.4

# Restart Dock
killall Dock
# Automatically hide and show the Dock (animation delay)
defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-delay -float 0

# Restart Dock
killall Dock

Fast animation of macOS Dock auto-hiding

Details about Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi network #

You can alt/option-click on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar to show the details about the connected devices and current Wi-Fi connection. Just compare the amount of information between the regular and detailed panels.

The comparison between the regular and detailed Bluetooth and Wi-Fi panels

Quickly toggle the “Do Not Disturb” mode #

This one saved my butt during the screen-sharing session so many times. You can alt/option-click the clock to toggle “Do Not Disturb” mode.

Alt/option-click on the clock, to toggle the “Do Not Disturb” mode

Screenshots (8 methods) #

There are shocking 8 methods to take a screenshot in macOS (or maybe more that I don’t know about).

  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 3 — capture the entire screen (saved to Desktop by default)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 3 + Control ⌃ — capture the entire screen (saved to clipboard)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 4, drag — capture selected portion (saved to Desktop by default)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 4, drag + Control ⌃ — capture selected portion (saved to clipboard)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 4, spacebar, left-click — capture selected window (saved to Desktop by default)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 4, spacebar, left-click + Option ⌥ — capture selected window without shadow (saved to Desktop by default)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 4, spacebar, left-click + Option ⌥ + Control ⌃ — capture selected window without shadow (saved to clipboard)
  • Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + 5 — the UI for all of the above and additional screen recording features

Change the screenshot format #

By default, macOS saves all screenshots in PNG format. However, you can change this behaviour and use JPG, TIFF, GIF or PDF instead.

# Change the screenshot format to png
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type png

# Change the screenshot format to jpg
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

# Change the screenshot format to tiff
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type tiff

# Change the screenshot format to gif
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type gif

# Change the screenshot format to pdf
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type pdf

# Restart SystemUIServer
killall SystemUIServer

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