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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.

4. Make modifier keys sticky
Do you find it hard to press Command-Option-Shift-W, the Safari keyboard shortcut to close all windows? Well, you're not the only one. Pressing more than one modifier key (the keys you use in shortcuts together with letters or numbers, namely Command, Option, Control, and Shift) can be tough for a lot of people.

Click Keyboard in the Accessibility System Preferences pane and select Enable Sticky Keys. If you activate this option, you can press the Command key once to activate it, and it stays "pressed" until you press it again. This arrangement makes it easy to press several modifier keys, as they will all add up. If you click the Options button, you can choose to have the keys display at the top-right of your display so that you know when they're pressed.

5. Mouse with your number pad
Sometimes you might want to move the cursor to a very particular location before clicking. Or you may simply want to navigate your Mac from the keyboard without using a trackpad or mouse.

Click Mouse & Trackpad in the Accessibility System Preferences pane. Here you can turn on Mouse Keys, which lets you move your pointer by pressing keys on your keyboard. This technique works with the number pad on a full-size keyboard, or with the 7-8-9, U-I-O, and J-K-L keys. Move the mouse in any of eight directions, in tiny steps, by pressing the outside keys in that square, and click the mouse by pressing the 5 or I key.

Click the Options button to adjust some settings for this feature, such as the ability to turn it on by pressing the Option key five times. You might find this setup useful, for instance, if you're working on a detailed Photoshop file and need to select something with precision.

With these five system tweaks, you'll find new ways to work with your Mac. Try them out and see if they make your computing life easier.


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