4 Lesser-Known Visual Functions on Macs

Posted on March 19, 2014 Written by Paul

Visually speaking, there’s no comparing Macs and PC and that’s almost a given fact. And even beyond how great everything tends to look on an Apple computer, there are also some lesser-known visual functions on Macs that can significantly improve your Mac visual experience. Check out our four favorite such tips and tricks below.

See your own widgets on the Dashboard

Some Mac users, especially those who came to the party a little bit later, don’t even know their Mac has a Widgets section on the Dashboard. It was first introduced in 10.4 and you can download widgets for it at http://apple.com/downloads/dashboard. But one of the cooler visual functions is that you can literally (and easily) make your own widgets, which will stay live. Access a page you frequently check out in Safari. Clip out the information you’re interested in by accessing Open in Dashboard in the File menu. Once you’ve got your selection down pat, you Add them from the top right. Customize the frame once the widget has been added to the Dashboard and see how your customized desktop gadget updates automatically. For force refreshes of this news feed, click the widget, then Command + R.

Perhaps your eyesight isn’t exactly 20:20, or maybe you just need to see something up close on your screen. Macs allow you to zoom into any point on your device’s display, but, surprisingly enough, this is one of the lesser-known visual functions on Macs. In order to zoom in, all you need to do is hold the Command key, then scroll up, either with the mouse or the trackpad. While this works in most cases, if it doesn’t, it probably simply means the option to zoom in has been disabled from Accessibility. To enable it, go to that menu and tweak for your preferences. You can smooth out the zooming function and choose between zooming in on the entire screen and having the zoomed-in area displayed in a separate little window on-screen. This function is particularly useful for Mac computers with very ample screens, whose desktops sometimes tend to become a bit over-crowded.

Enjoy the animated eye-candy

Macs come with a load of animations on screen, but, depending on the speed of your processor, some of them swish by so fast that it’s often difficult to figure out what’s going on. And it’s a shame not to bask in the glory of some of these clever animations – so one of our picks for this list of obscure visual functions for Macs is that of slowing down animations. How do you do that? Easy as pie. Simply hold down the Shift key when you’re, say, minimizing a window. This will make Mission Control or Launchpad come up, enabling you to get a closer look to the visual effect.

Personalize your screen real estate with custom icons

Remember the days when customized folder icons were the norm? Those days seem to have fallen behind the times – however, those of you who still want to personalize the appearance of their Mac screens via desktop icons can easily do so. For documents, use Finder and Command + C to select the file and icon you want, then move to Preview mode and tap Command + N. You’ll be given a choice of different icon sizes and can pick the one you need. Export it to .png, then drop it onto your file of choice.

You have loads of different choices for icons on websites such as www.interfacelift.com, but also on your systems, at /System/Library/CoreServices. Right-click CoreTypes.bundle, select Show Package Contents and you’ll be faced with an ample array of options. Identify the file, folder, or app whose icon you want to change, go to File Menu > Get Info, or just press Command + I. Click the icon to select it, followed by Command + C. Paste the new icon on your element of choice, ‘Get Info’, then tap Command + V.

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