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Five overlooked OS X system tweaks

Kirk McElhearn | May 14, 2013
If you like to find new ways to tweak OS X, you sometimes need to look in unexpected places. For example, the Accessibility pane of System Preferences, which houses a number of features to help users who have limited seeing, hearing, and mobility, contains some nifty features that all users should know about. Here are five system tweaks that you might want to try on your Mac.

If you like to find new ways to tweak OS X, you sometimes need to look in unexpected places. For example, the Accessibility pane of System Preferences, which houses a number of features to help users who have limited seeing, hearing, and mobility, contains some nifty features that all users should know about. Here are five system tweaks that you might want to try on your Mac.

1. Change the cursor size
If you mirror your Mac's display to a large-screen TV oruse a large (or especially high-resolution) monitor,you may find that the cursor on your screen is too small. You can change the size of the cursor, and make it anywhere from big to huge.

Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences, click Accessibility, and then click Display. Drag the Cursor Size slider from Normal (smallest) toward Large, settling on the size you want to use; the cursor changes size as you drag the slider.

This setting will change the standard mouse pointer, as well as other cursors (the text input cursor, for example), though it won't work in all applications. It will even make the hand pointer, which displays when you hover over a link in Safari, much larger.

2. Zoom everything, easily
Have you ever visited a webpage where the text is tiny, or wanted to get a closer look at an image?You can activate keyboard shortcuts to zoom the entire display, or you can use a scroll gesture--a two-finger vertical drag on a trackpad, or a turn of a scrollwheel--to zoom in when you press a modifier key, such as the Control key.

Go toApple Menu > System Preferences, click Accessibility, and then click Zoom.Select the Smooth images option, so that you don't see the pixels in images as they grow larger. You have a couple of Zoom Style choices: Fullscreen zooms everything on the display, whereas Picture-in-picture zooms the area around your cursor.

Click the More Options button to see additional settings, such as the exact magnification of the maximum and zooms, and how the screen image moves in relation to your pointer.

3. Get silent, visual alerts
You may have found a cool alert tone, such as the ringtone from 24 or a favorite character's rejoinder from a sitcom, but these alerts might annoy your friends and coworkers. If you're working with headphones on, no one will hear them; but if not, it's a good idea to be more discreet.

You can change the alert sound by going to System Preferences and clicking the Sound pane. Or, you can use a setting in the Accessibility pane to silence your alert. Click Audio, and check Flash the screen when an alert occurs. Instead of hearing a sound, you'll see a subtle flash whenever your Mac alerts you to something, such as when you receive a notification, or when OS X beeps. Click Test screen flash to see what this effect is like. It might be just the thing to promote harmony in busy offices.

 

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