Apple has built OS X to be quite intuitive, and while you can get many things done by pointing and clicking, and using the keyboard in standard ways, there are some services and features in OS X that can be quite useful for taking a closer look at things, looking up definitions, or getting around your files and folders. While there many such hidden features in OS X, here are a few that you could possibly use on a more frequent basis.
If you ever find yourself squinting at your screen or leaning in to take a closer look at what you are seeing, you can do the same by enabling Screen Zooming. Go to the Accessibility system preferences, where you will see an option for “Zoom.” In here you can check the option to either use keyboard shortcuts or scroll modifier keys to zoom your display in. My recommendation here is to use scroll gestures with the default “Control” modifier key, and then click the “More Options” button to set the screen image to move continuously with the mouse pointer.
With the large storage capacities of modern Macs, Apple’s Spotlight search tool is exceptionally useful for quickly finding what you need; however, in addition to being a searching feature, you can use Spotlight to quickly run a simply mathematic calculation. Just open Spotlight, and then type a calculation such as “2*(3+sin(2*pi))^4” and you will see the result displayed. You can then press Command-C with the result highlighted to copy it, so you can quickly paste it into another application.
Word Definitions and Suggestions
In many applications, when typing words you can look up possible words based on the characters you have just typed, by simply pressing the Escape key. Try typing “as” in a program like TextEdit, followed by tapping Escape, and you will see a drop-down menu of possible word completions. In addition, if you ever need to look up a word, you can right-click it and choose “look up WORD” from the contextual menu, or hover your mouse cursor over it and tap with three fingers on an Apple multi-touch trackpad.
For dictionary definitions (for those of us without ‘magic’ trackpads) you can just Command+Ctrl+D when you hover over a word to get the same dictionary/Wikipedia drop down. I find it much faster than using the contextual menu…
I didn’t know about the zoom feature. Thanks for that!
The dictionary lookup feature I had read about before. But it doesn’t work in my Firefox browser (or any other non-Apple application?) which renders it a lot less useful. So I forgot about it. I will forget about it again. In some ways Apple is its own worst enemy.
No, it’s not just Apple’s own apps. It’s pretty much any app that uses the standard libraries that Apple provides to the developer community. I reckon that will account for the majority of apps in common use today.
Apps like Firefox are developed as a cross-platform endeavour and the developers have produced their own equivalent code which provides the same functionality across every platform for which Firefox is available. Consequently, apps like that don’t support some of Apple’s core technologies.
Slightly perversely, in the Microsoft Office 2011 suite, Word doesn’t support the three-finger dictionary tap, but Outlook does – go figure. 🙂