Quick Tip: Trick Out Your Mac with Terminal


The Mac OS X operating system is already really sleek, but we're going to look at how to use terminal to activate some cool hidden settings that will make your Mac even better. The terminal tricks I'll be showing you range from adding spaces to your dock to freeing your Dashboard widgets from the Dashboard. So let's get started!

Note: These Terminal commands have all been tested on Snow Leopard and should run just fine on Lion and Mountain Lion.


Drag Dashboard Widgets onto your Desktop

Dashboard Widgets on the Desktop
Dashboard Widgets on the Desktop

This is probably my favorite Terminal trick. With the code below, you can move any Dashboard Widget from Dashboard to your desktop. Just click on and hold the widget, then hit F4 to exit Dashboard and release. Your widget will be on the desktop for your convenience, this is great for to-do lists or weather widgets!

defaults write devmode YES

You will have to log out for this to have a effect, if you decide you want to switch back, simply replace YES with NO. In fact, replacing YES with NO works for just about any Terminal command that has a YES or NO at the end of it.

Make Hidden Dock Apps Appear Transparent

Hidden dock apps become transparent

This Terminal command will make apps that you've hidden have a transparent icon in the Dock. This is useful since you don't have to right click them to find out if they are still hidden or not. You can now just take a quick glance at your dock to find out!

defaults write showhidden -bool YES

Press enter, then type:

killall Dock

Press enter again, your dock will hide itself and come back, and that's it! Hidden apps are now transparent in your dock! Again, you can switch back by replacing YES with NO.

Add Spaces to your Dock

Add Spaces to your Dock

Adding spaces to your Dock is a great way to organize your apps. To get started, type or paste the following code into Terminal:

defaults write persistent-apps -array-add '{"tile-type"="spacer-tile";}'

Press enter, now type:

killall Dock

Your Dock will come back up with a empty space in it. You can treat this just like any app, click and drag to move it around, or drag it out of the dock to remove it. Do the command as many times as you need to for more dock spaces.

Change the Format for Screenshots

If you're like me, you probably find it annoying that when you take a screenshot with Grab, you have to use a program like Adobe Photoshop to convert it to a jpg for web use. Well hold on, because terminal has a fix for this too! Here is the code you need:

defaults write type jpg

You will need to log out for this to have an effect. Once you have logged back in, Grab will take screenshots in jpg format.

Tip: You can replace "jpg" with a few different formats, such as "png" or "tiff".

See The Contents of a Folder with QuickLook

See The Contents of a Folder with QuickLook

When you normally use Quicklook, it will just show you the folder icon, the total amount of memory the folder is taking up, and the amount of items inside that folder. With this Terminal trick, the folder icon will also show previews of the contents of itself!

defaults write QLEnableXRayFolders -boolean YES

Wait a few seconds, then open and close a folder using Quicklook (press spacebar when a folder is selected). It will x-ray the folder to show its contents!


I hope you enjoyed these Terminal commands, each of which allows you to add a little bit of customization to your Mac.

These were just a few of my favorite Terminal tricks, Please feel free to share your favorite tips and tricks below in the comments!

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