Use the Terminal Application to Access Hidden Features

Enable Hidden Features in Your Favorite Applications

Hundreds of hidden preferences and features are available within OS X and its many applications. Most of these hidden preferences are of little use to the end user, because they’re intended for developers to use during debugging.

That still leaves plenty of preferences and features for the rest of us to try out. Some of them are so useful, you’ll wonder why Apple and other developers chose to hide them from their customers.

To access these features, you will need to use the Terminal application, located at /Applications/Utilities/. Go ahead and fire up Terminal, then check out these interesting Terminal tricks.

Terminal command to view hidden folders
Use Terminal to uncover your Mac's hidden secrets. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Your Mac has a few secrets, hidden folders and files that are invisible to you. Apple hides these files and folders to prevent you from accidentally changing or deleting important data that your Mac needs.

Apple's reasoning is good, but there are times when you may need to view these out-of-the-way corners of your Mac's file system. More »

Contextual Menu to Hide or Show Hidden FIles
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

By combining the Terminal commands for showing and hiding files and folders with Automator to create a service that can be accessed from contextual menus, you can create a simple menu item to show or hide those files. More »

Terminal Tricks: Using the Terminal Application to Access Hidden Features
The desktop after being cleaned up.

If your Mac desktop is anything like mine, it tends to get cluttered up with files and folders faster than you can organize and file them. In other words, much like a real desktop.

And just like a real desk, there are times when you wish you could just sweep all the debris off the Mac desktop and into a drawer. Believe it or not, you can do this (well, except for the drawer part). Best of all, when you clean up your Mac desktop, you don’t have to worry about losing any of the information. It all stays right where it is; it just becomes hidden from view. More »

Safari Debug menu
Use Terminal to enable Safari's debug menu. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Safari has long had a hidden Debug menu that contains some very useful capabilities. When Apple rolled out Safari 4, many of these capabilities found their way into Safari’s Develop menu. The hidden Debug menu still exists, though, and offers plenty of helpful resources, even if you aren’t a developer. More »

Remove Duplicate Applications From the 'Open With' Menu
Your 'Open With' menu can become cluttered with duplicate and ghost applications.

Resetting the 'Open With' menu will remove duplicates and ghost applications (ones you have deleted) from the list. You reset the 'Open With' menu by rebuilding the Launch Services database your Mac maintains. There are multiple ways to rebuild the Launch Services database; in this guide, we will use Terminal to rebuild our Launch Services database. More »

Terminal Tricks: Using the Terminal Application to Access Hidden Features
The Recent Items stack can display recently used applications.

One feature missing from the standard Dock is a stack that shows recent applications or documents. Fortunately, it’s both possible and easy to customize the Dock by adding a Recent Items stack. Not only will this stack keep track of applications, documents, and servers you’ve recently used, it will also track volumes and any favorite items you’ve added to the Finder sidebar. More »

What the Dock needs is some visual clues to help you organize and find Dock icons. The Dock already has one organizational clue: the separator located between the application side of the Dock and the document side. You’ll need additional separators if you want to organize your Dock items by type. More »

Terminal Tricks: Using the Terminal Application to Access Hidden Features
Widgets that have been moved to the Desktop.

One of the cool features of OS X is the Dashboard, a special environment where widgets, those mini-applications designed to perform a single task, reside.

Now, widgets are pretty cool. They let you quickly access productive or just plain fun applications by switching to the Dashboard environment. If you ever want to free a widget from the confines of the Dashboard, and let it take up residency on your Desktop, this Terminal trick will do the trick. More »

Terminal command to sing
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Terminal can be used for more then troubleshooting or discovering hidden features of OS X. It can also be used for a bit of fun, as well as to bring back a feature of MAC OS that predates OS X, the ability to have your Mac talk to you, or even sing... More »

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

 If you have your Mac set up for the use of multiple user accounts, have your Mac startup to a login window, then you will find this Terminal trick interesting. 

You can add a login message that will be displayed as part of the login window. The message can be anything, including reminding the account holders to change their passwords, or something fun and frivolous... More »

External 5 Tray RAID enclosure
Roderick Chen | Getty Images

Are you using OS X El Capitan or later? then you may have noticed that Disk Utility has been dumbed down a bit, and the RAID tools have been stripped clean of the utility. If you need to create or manage a RAID 0 (Stripped) array, you may find Terminal can take care of the process for you without having to buy any third-party RAID tools... More »

Leopard introduced the 3D Dock, which makes Dock icons appear to be standing up on a ledge. Some people like the new look, and some prefer the older 2D look. If the 3D Dock isn’t to your taste, you can use Terminal to switch to the 2D visual implementation.

This tip works with Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion. More »