Series: macOS Hidden Treasures
Articles that dive deep into the core technologies of the Mac's operating system to make sure that everyone is clear on the basics and understands how to take full advantage of all the lesser-known capabilities.
Article 1 of 5 in series
by Josh Centers
It’s not new, and Apple doesn’t show it much love, but the ubiquitous Services menu can be a productivity powerhouse. Josh Centers explains how to use it and even how to make your own services. Show full article
Services are one of the oldest ways of extending OS X’s capabilities, dating all the way back to NeXTSTEP, the operating system Apple bought in 1997 and turned into OS X. But there’s a good chance you’re not aware of services, or have forgotten about the Services menu, since it’s easily missed, tucked away as it is in the application menu for most apps. Since that menu mostly contains command like About, Preferences, and Quit, many people never look through it closely.
The simplest way to explain services is that they’re a way to invoke features of one app from within another app. Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to email a snippet of text (like a passage from a helpful TidBITS article on our Web site) to a friend. Here’s how most people would do that:
- Select the text.
- Copy the text.
- Switch to Mail.
- Create a new message.
- Paste the text into the body of the message.
Here’s how to perform that same task using a service. In this example, I’m viewing the desired text in the Google Chrome Web browser, but this built-in service works in most OS X apps:
- Select the text.
- Choose Chrome > Services > New Email With Selection.
This creates a new message in Apple Mail with the selected text, in fewer than half the required actions.
What’s great about services is that they work in many OS X apps and with all sorts of objects, like selected text, graphics, files, and folders. The Services menu is contextual, so what you see in it depends on what’s selected. In the Finder, the Services menu also appears at the bottom of the contextual menu that appears when you Control- or right-click on a file or folder.
Managing Services -- To see and manage all services, open System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services. Apple presumably chose this somewhat odd place for services because services can also be invoked with keyboard shortcuts.
Once in the Services view of the Keyboard preference pane, you can check and uncheck services to enable or disable them. To save even more time, you can add keyboard shortcuts to commonly used services. Select a service, click Add Shortcut, and press the desired keys. It can be tough to find a simple keyboard shortcut that isn’t already claimed by the Finder or another app, but I’ve found that Command-Option-Control, followed by a letter, usually works. Some services come pre-configured with their own keyboard shortcuts, which can be annoying if the service’s shortcut takes over from a command’s shortcut in a particular app — just redefine the service shortcut to resolve the conflict.
Frankly, the built-in interface is pretty bad, because you can’t expand the System Preferences window to accommodate a lengthy list of services or long service names that end up being cut off. Happily, there’s an alternative, a utility called Services Manager from MacOSXAutomation.com. It’s old, and thus a little fussy to install, but it still works fine.
Once you’ve downloaded and expanded the file, Control-click the Services Manager Installer.pkg, and choose Open from the contextual menu. This is necessary if you have Gatekeeper set to allow only apps from the Mac App Store and identified developers. Once you allow it to run, you can work your way through the installer, which places the Services Manager app in the Utilities folder inside your Applications folder.
Launch it, and you can see that it offers a simple interface for enabling and disabling services and assigning keyboard shortcuts. Since its window is resizable and you can show only services in specific categories, it’s far easier to use than the standard interface.
If you want to get rid of a service entirely, so it no longer shows up in the list in the Services view of the Keyboard preference pane or in Services Manager, Control-click it in either, and choose Show in Finder/Reveal in Finder. For services that are Automator workflows, the ~/Library/Services folder will open, and you can just move that service to the trash (Services Manager also has a Move to Trash command in its contextual menu). But for services provided by apps, choosing Show in Finder identifies the app containing the service, and the only way to eliminate the service is to delete the app. You also can’t delete services built in to OS X.
Adding More Services -- OS X ships with quite a few services, but if you want to expand the number of services in your Mac’s repertoire, the good news is that you often don’t have to do any extra work to install them, since many come with apps. Here are just a handful of apps that include their own services: BBEdit, Ember, Evernote, GraphicConverter, Nisus Writer Pro, TextExpander, Scrivener, Twitter, and Vox. There are undoubtedly hundreds or even thousands more.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to end up with services that are broken, due to having been installed by old or obsolete apps. For instance, I discovered an Open with Pixelmator service, which was exciting because Pixelmator is my second-favorite image editor (after Preview). Sadly, Pixelmator’s service doesn’t work, but I’ll explain how to work around this.
You can also download and install standalone services. One of my favorites is DEVONtechnologies’ free WordService package, which includes a slew of useful services for working with text, things like changing the case of selected text, inserting dates, trimming lines, and showing statistics. Download the WordService package, expand the .zip file, copy the WordService app to your Applications folder, and finally double-click the WordService icon to install the necessary services. You can then enable the included services in Services Manager or System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services, under the Text heading.
For fans of the Markdown text markup language, Brett Terpstra (with help from Joe Workman) offers Markdown Service Tools that help you create links, format text, and even convert between HTML and Markdown.
Installing Markdown Service Tools is a bit more involved than WordService. After unzipping the package, open the MarkdownServiceTools2.12 folder. You’ll see a whole mess of services, 33 all told. To install just a few, select them, and either double-click one or press Command-O. For each, OS X asks you if you want to install it or open it in Automator. Alternatively, in the Finder, press Option and choose Go > Library, and then open the Services folder. Drag the services you want to install from the MarkdownServiceTools2.12 folder. Either way, I recommend installing only those you need and understand, because otherwise the list is overwhelming.
Make Your Own Services -- If you can’t find a service you want, you may be able to make your own if you’re handy with Automator. In Automator, select File > New, and when prompted to choose a type, choose Service. The possibilities here are nearly endless, but you don’t have to memorize Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Automating Your Mac” to get started (although it’s an excellent reference if you want to learn more).
Here’s how to recreate that aforementioned Open with Pixelmator service:
After you’ve started a new service in Automator, search for the Open Finder Items action and drag it into the right-most pane.
Set the Service Receives Selected pop-up menus to “files or folders” in “any application.”
In the Open Finder Items action, choose Pixelmator (or whatever app you choose) from the Opens With pop-up menu. If you’re confused, just mimic the screenshot below.
Save your service and give it a descriptive name. I named mine “Open with Pixelmator — Custom” to distinguish it from the broken one that ships with Pixelmator.
Now, when you select a file or folder in the Finder and open the Services menu, “Open with Pixelmator — Custom” will be an option. You can also assign a keyboard shortcut to your new service too. I set my shortcut to Command-Option-Control-P, so I can select an image in the Finder and press that hotkey to open the image in Pixelmator. Again, you can modify this simple Automator service to open selected files in any application you choose.
Services are an excellent way to tie apps together in OS X, and they’re one of OX X’s hidden treasures, a feature that too few people think about and that suffers from Apple’s benign neglect. Nonetheless, services can make you more efficient with the apps you’re already using, and for those of you who already rely on services, let me know in the comments which services you find most useful.
Article 2 of 5 in series
Quick Look can help you peer inside files quickly, but it’s easy to miss or forget about. Read on to learn how to use Quick Look from the Finder, within some of Apple’s apps, and from the command line. We’ll also share some tricks you may not know and some of our favorite plug-ins that make Quick Look even more useful.Show full article
OS X is full of useful little features that are easy to miss or forget about, such as services, which we covered in “OS X Hidden Treasures: Services” (5 February 2016). Another easily overlooked feature in OS X is Quick Look, introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard back in 2009.
Quick Look offers a fast preview of what’s inside a file, most notably in the Finder and third-party file transfer apps. It works with many common file types, such as text files, images, audio, video, PDFs, Microsoft Office files, and even fonts (here’s a larger list of supported file types).
We’ll explain how to use Quick Look, in which apps you can use it, and how to use it from the command line (which is also helpful for troubleshooting). Then we’ll share some of our favorite Quick Look plug-ins to extend Quick Look’s capabilities and make it even more useful.
(One quick internal note. If you’re reading this on our Web site, click any image to zoom it to a better size; click it again to shrink it down. It’s not Quick Look, but it’s not far off, and some reader comments have indicated that people don’t realize this is how our site works.)
Basic Quick Look Usage -- To invoke Quick Look in the Finder, select a file and choose File > Quick Look “filename” (Command-Y). Better yet, just click a file and press the Space bar. The screenshot below shows Quick Look displaying a picture of an Apple Watch Edition.
With Quick Look open, you can click Open with App to open the file in its default app. You can also click the Share button in the upper right to send the file to another app or service without fully opening it. If the file you’re previewing with Quick Look has multiple pages, you’ll see thumbnails on the right that you can scroll through using your mouse or trackpad, or by using the Page Up/Page Down keys (on a laptop, use Fn-Up Arrow and Fn-Down Arrow). Although Quick Look windows generally open to a useful size, you can resize the window by dragging any edge. To close Quick Look, press the Space bar or Command-Y again, press Escape, or click the window’s close button in the upper left.
If you select multiple files before invoking Quick Look, you can use the Left and Right arrow keys to cycle through your selections; there are also forward and back buttons that appear in the top left of the Quick Look window. Next to those buttons is a thumbnail button that displays the selected files in a grid of thumbnails. Click any thumbnail to focus on just that item.
You can also use Quick Look to scan through the contents of a folder. While Quick Look is open, use the arrow keys to display other files in the same folder — how you navigate among the files depends on the Finder window’s view. Using Quick Look and the Up and Down arrow keys can be a great way to browse pictures in a folder in List view. You can continue to interact with the Finder while using Quick Look, which means you can delete an unwanted file by pressing Command-Delete while previewing it.
One interesting use of this capability is that you can use Quick Look to examine files in the Trash, which can’t otherwise be opened while they remain in the Trash. So if you want to recover a particular image among a bunch that you’ve trashed, Quick Look is a fast way to figure out which one to pull out. Similarly, you can use Quick Look within Time Machine to preview file versions before restoring them.
Certain file types offer special controls. If you open an image that’s larger than the Quick Look window, press the Option key to expand the image to its original size and use the mouse to pan around in the expanded image. Plus, when using Quick Look to preview video and audio files, you see mute and play/pause buttons, along with a scrubbable timeline.
Want to focus on an image without the distraction of your desktop? Select a file and press Option-Space (or Command-Option-Y) to open the Quick Look view in full-screen view. You can also enter full-screen view by clicking the zoom button in the upper left (to the right of the close button) while viewing a file in a regular Quick Look window.
One final tip. Quick Look also works in Open dialogs, so you can select any file and press the Space bar to see the preview. You can even select multiple files and preview them just as though you had selected them in the Finder. The only caveat is that the Open with App button does not appear.
Quick Look Outside the Finder -- Quick Look isn’t limited to the Finder. The main additional place you’ll find it is in file transfer apps like Fetch, Transmit, and Cyberduck. In those apps, Quick Look is usually invoked in exactly the same way as in the Finder, with a click to select a file and then a press of the Space bar.
However, various other OS X apps, including Mail and Messages, take advantage of Quick Look as well. In Mail, you can use Quick Look on attachments by clicking the paperclip button (which appears when you move the cursor to the message header area) and choosing Quick Look. In Messages, you can view all the attachments in a conversation by choosing File > Quick Look — it’s like previewing multiple files in the Finder with Quick Look, so you can navigate through them with arrow keys. Alternatively, double-click an attachment, select it and press the Space bar, or use a three-finger trackpad tap.
Safari, Mail, and Messages also let you summon a preview of a Web link with a three-finger tap on the trackpad (sorry, mouse users!). This may not be Quick Look behind the scenes, but it’s conceptually similar. If it doesn’t work for you, enable Look Up & Data Detectors in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click.
Quick Look from the Command Line -- If you prefer the command line for browsing, you can use Quick Look from Terminal with the command
qlmanage -p filename. That’s handy for a quick glance into any file that’s not straight text and thus not viewable with the likes of
tail. It’s a little fussy — it displays a bunch of debug messages and you have to close the Quick Look preview or press Control-C to quit the process — but it’s handy if you don’t want to switch back out to the Finder to look inside a file.
qlmanage -m command is also useful, since it displays all the loaded Quick Look plug-ins and may alert you to the existence of Quick Look support in apps you hadn’t realized supported Quick Look (DEVONthink! Evernote!). Since Quick Look plug-ins can conflict with one another (we haven’t yet figured out what determines loading order),
qlmanage -m can help you determine which app has precedence. To suss out who was managing EPUB support in
Quick Look (see below), we used
qlmanage -m | grep epub, which filtered just the EPUB-related lines out of the full report.
Another reason to use the
qlmanage command is for paranoid security reasons. Whenever Quick Look is invoked, OS X creates a cache of the thumbnail data for future use, even if the file previewed was on an external drive. To prevent an attacker (with physical access, of course) from spelunking through the thumbnail cache, you can reset it with the command
qlmanage -r cache. It’s not a concern for most people, but secret agents should take note.
There’s a bug in Quick Look that fails to release previewed files right away. So if you preview a file with Quick Look, send it to the Trash, and immediately try to empty the Trash, the Finder won’t delete that file, claiming that it’s “in use.” The solution is either to wait a while for Quick Look to let go of the file, or to reset Quick Look with
qlmanage -r and try again.
Finally, if you’re using a version of OS X prior to OS X 10.11 El Capitan, you can use the following Terminal command to enable copying text from the Quick Look window. Unfortunately, Apple decided to disable this option in El Capitan. Boo!
defaults write com.apple.finder QLEnableTextSelection -bool TRUE; killall Finder
Extend Quick Look with Plug-ins -- Quick Look supports a number of file types out of the box, but far from all of them. Thankfully, Apple created a plug-in interface for Quick Look so that developers could expand its capabilities, even without a companion app.
We’ve found a number of useful Quick Look plug-ins, but before we share that list, you need to know how to install them. All standalone Quick Look plug-ins are .qlgenerator files that need to live in
/Library/QuickLook (if you want the plug-in to be accessible to all users on your Mac) or in
~/Library/QuickLook (if only your user needs to be able to use it). Some Quick Look plug-ins are distributed as package files that you double-click to install in one of those locations. But most are just bare .qlgenerator files that need to be moved to a Library folder manually. To install them in your user Library folder, in the Finder, press Option and choose Go > Library.
Then open the QuickLook folder (create it if necessary, noting that the folder name doesn’t have a space between the two words). Drag .qlgenerator files into this folder.
After installing a new Quick Look plug-in, OS X should notice and load it automatically, but if the plug-in doesn’t seem to work, you may need to refresh the Quick Look engine. A restart is easy, but you can instead either log out and back in or Control-Option-click the Finder icon in the Dock and choose Relaunch. Or, if you’re in Terminal, type
qlmanage -r and press Return.
With that out of the way, here are some of our favorite Quick Look plug-ins:
Art View: One of only two commercial Quick Look plug-ins on this list, the $49.95 Art View helps graphic designers by both previewing Adobe InDesign and Illustrator files and providing additional information about embedded fonts and linked images. There’s a 15-day free trial if you want to give it a try.
BetterZip: BetterZip lets you peer inside a wide variety of compressed archives and even disk images! Just download the app, extract it from the .zip archive, drag it to your Applications folder, and restart your Mac. After that, when you use Quick Look on compressed archives and disk images, you’ll see a preview of their contents.
HetimaClipping: If you select text and drag it to the Finder, you’ll get a text clipping, and you can insert that text into other apps by dragging it into the right location. Text clippings aren’t terribly useful, but part of the reason is that without this Quick Look plug-in, you can’t easily preview them. It also works with picture clipping files.
Murasaki: Although iBooks has a Quick Look plug-in, all it does is display the cover of the book, which isn’t much of a preview. For those who want to crack the covers on an EPUB, the best option we know of is the EPUB reader Murasaki, which includes a Quick Look plug-in that lets you scroll through the entire book. (Even better would be the Quick Look plug-in from the EPUB reader Scarlett, which shows the table of contents and theoretically lets you navigate within the book that way; sadly, it doesn’t display the text of the book at all.) Murasaki costs $7.99 from the Mac App Store, but it may be worthwhile for those who use EPUBs a lot or who would prefer a scrolling EPUB reader instead of the page-by-page approach of iBooks.
qlcolorcode: If you work with source code regularly, you probably appreciate how much more readable it is when individual elements are denoted with colored text. The qlcolorcode plug-in does just that, making source code files in Quick Look that much more parsable.
qlImageSize: The simple qlImageSize plug-in displays the dimensions and file size of images in the Quick Look title bar. It also enables Quick Look to show previews for a few otherwise unsupported graphic formats. It’s distributed as a package installer; Control-click it and choose Open from the contextual menu to launch the installer and install into
QLStephen: At last, you can view all of your favorite Stephens in Quick Look! Just kidding. The QLStephen plug-in lets you view text files without extensions in Quick Look. For instance, many downloaded packages include a README file that lacks a .txt extension in the filename and without this plug-in, Quick Look can’t display them.
QuickLookCSV: By default, Quick Look shows you previews of Numbers spreadsheets, but not comma separated values (CSV) files, which are often used to distribute spreadsheets. The QuickLookCSV plug-in displays these files, split into rows and columns.
Quicklook Video: The Quicklook Video plug-in adds support for more video formats than Apple offers out of the box.
For even more Quick Look goodness, check out the QuickLook Plugins List, which is the best centralized repository of Quick Look plug-ins.
Quick Look is easy to master, and once you get in the habit of using it, you’ll be all the more productive on your Mac. Let us know in the comments if you have any other Quick Look tricks or plug-ins that you find useful!
Article 3 of 5 in series
Copy and paste is an easy technology to take for granted, but there’s more to it than you may think. We explain the basics, and beyond, of copy and paste on the Mac.Show full article
Copy and paste may be the most important computing technology of the past 30 years. That may sound odd, but just think how much you rely on it. Most of us use the Copy and Paste commands multiple times every day, probably hundreds of times per week, without even realizing it.
If we didn’t have copy and paste, vast amounts of work would have to be done from scratch, rather than starting from previous bits of text, graphics, or entire documents that just need minor modifications. It would also be far harder to share links to Web pages. Sure, there are share buttons now, but would Twitter and Facebook have gotten off the ground if everyone had to link to cat videos by hand?
Surprising as this may be, some people still don’t understand the basics. And many others are missing out on advanced techniques with copy and paste, not to mention related ways of moving data between documents and apps.
Cut, Copy, and Paste Basics -- To understand what the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands do, you first must understand the concept of the clipboard, a virtual container that holds whatever data you copy or cut. Although the clipboard is generally invisible to the user, you can view its contents in the Finder — just choose Edit > Show Clipboard. A small window appears, displaying whatever text or image is currently on the clipboard.
Before you can use Copy or Cut, you must first select some data. That might be text ranging from a character to an entire book, an image or a portion of an image, a file in the Finder, a column of data in a spreadsheet, or a chunk of an audio recording. How you select varies with the situation and the data, but it usually involves clicking once, or clicking and dragging over an area. (Don’t forget the Command-A shortcut for Select All!) Once you have something selected, you can copy or cut it.
When you copy selected data, OS X duplicates it on the clipboard for later pasting. You might copy a street address to paste into a mapping app, copy a photo from Safari to share with a friend, or copy a file in order to move it to another folder.
Closely related to Copy is Cut, which combines the copy action with a delete action. When you cut selected data, it disappears from its original location and moves onto the clipboard. Cut is thus handy for rearranging things. For instance, if you’re writing a report, and you decide that you want to move a paragraph higher up, you can select that paragraph, cut it, and paste it in the new place.
How do you cut, copy, and paste? Once you select the content you wish to cut or copy, choose Edit > Cut or Edit > Copy. To paste the clipboard’s contents, make sure the destination document or folder is active, and then choose Edit > Paste.
But navigating to the menu bar every time you wish to cut, copy, or paste is mind-numbing. Every Mac user should memorize these commands’ keyboard shortcuts — invoking them should be as second-nature as typing:
- Cut: Command-X
- Copy: Command-C
- Paste: Command-V
Paste with Style, or Style with Paste -- Copying and pasting of text is simple, but it can get tricky when font styles are involved. You won’t have any problems when copying from or pasting into a plain-text editor like BBEdit. But let’s say you copy some text from a Web page and paste it into Apple Mail — it will transfer the typeface, text color, and even background color! All this style info can be useful in some cases, but most of the time, you probably just want the text to take on the look of the text around it, or to use the app’s default style.
In most apps, the command to paste text without any additional formatting is Edit > Paste and Match Style (Command-Option-Shift-V). Some apps might call it Paste Text Only or Paste Without Formatting.
Unfortunately, not all apps have such a command, even when it might be useful. To work around that limitation, turn to utility software, which you may already own. Macro utilities like Keyboard Maestro, launchers like LaunchBar, and clipboard utilities like Copy’em Paste can all remove formatting from text when pasting. For more details on these and other clipboard-related tricks, see Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Automating Your Mac.”
Some apps (like Pages, TextEdit, and Messages) let you do the opposite, and copy and paste not the actual characters but instead the style of the source text. This capability is less common, and the location of the necessary commands varies widely.
In Pages, for instance, the Format menu contains Copy Style and Paste Style commands. In TextEdit, they’re in Format > Fonts. And in Messages, they’re in the Edit menu. Happily, the keyboard shortcuts remain the same, at least in Apple’s apps: Command-Option-C for Copy Style and Command-Option-V for Paste Style.
OS X’s Little-Known Secondary Clipboard -- Whenever you copy or cut something, the new data overwrites whatever is on the clipboard. That can be annoying at times, forcing you to shuttle back and forth to move discrete chunks of data between apps. We don’t want to get sidetracked away from our focus on built-in capabilities of OS X here, but know that if you want access to your clipboard history, all the utilities mentioned just above provide those feature as well. You won’t go wrong with any of them, and if you want to work with multiple named clipboards, Keyboard Maestro and Copy’em Paste can help.
However, back in OS X, there is a secondary clipboard that’s accessible only via keyboard shortcuts: Control-K performs a kill, while Control-Y does a yank.
“Kill” and “Yank” are odd terms, but they come from the venerable command-line Emacs text editor. In practice, Kill and Yank are largely equivalent to the Cut and Paste commands, but with a few differences. Most notably, they have their own clipboard, which is known as a “kill ring” in Emacs, so cutting something with Control-K doesn’t replace whatever is on the main system clipboard. This special keyboard is specific to each app, so it can’t be used to move text between apps, but is helpful for rearranging text within an app.
There are other notable differences. Unlike Command-X, if you press Control-K when no text is selected, it affects everything from the insertion point to the end of the paragraph. If you perform multiple kills with no text selected, each bit of killed text is appended to the kill ring, such that a yank pastes all of them back at once. Finally, when you paste with Control-Y, all styles are automatically stripped from the pasted text.
Kill and Yank work in most OS X apps, but not all, and only seemingly in text-editing areas. Plus, some apps, particularly word processors and text editors, implement the Kill and Yank keyboard shortcuts in slightly different ways. For instance, in BBEdit, they seem to use the system clipboard, so you can kill text with Control-K and then paste with Command-V. And in Nisus Writer Pro, Yank can paste the text in the kill ring multiple times no matter how it got there, and it pastes with styles.
Copy and Paste in the Finder -- So far, we’ve focused on copying and pasting text, but many people don’t realize that you can also copy and paste files and folders in the Finder. Dragging is often easier, but there are situations where copy and paste can be more efficient.
To copy a file or folder, select it and choose Edit > Copy filename (Command-C). Make sure you’re selecting the icon and not text in its name. Using Shift-click or Command-click, you can select and then copy multiple items at once. Next, open the window showing your desired location and choose Edit > Paste (Command-V) to paste the items in that spot.
While you can’t use the Cut command on files or folders to move them, the Finder enhances the Paste command to enable you to move items instead of copying them. First, copy one or more items normally and, once you’ve navigated to the destination, press and hold the Option key, and then choose Edit > Move Item Here (it replaces Paste). The keyboard shortcut for Move Item Here is, unsurprisingly, Command-Option-V.
Remember, if you make a mistake and paste in the wrong place, regardless of whether you’re copying or moving the items, you can always press Command-Z to undo the action.
One final tweaky Finder tip. Sometimes you need to tell someone where to find a file or folder that’s nested deeply within the directory structure, such as this folder:
Rather than type all that, you can copy the item’s pathname. With a file or folder selected, press and hold the Option key and choose Edit > Copy filename as Pathname (Command-Option-C). This copies, as text, the full pathname to the file or folder.
If you’re copying a pathname to paste it into the Terminal app as part of a command line invocation, there’s an even better way to do so: just drag the item into the Terminal window. This approach has the added benefit of reformatting the pathname as necessary.
Copying from Safari -- Although we’ve focused primarily on uses of copy and paste that work anywhere, many apps use the commands in particular ways as well. In particular, Web browsers make it possible to copy a variety of things. The details vary slightly between browsers, but in Safari, there are a few different things you can copy from a Web page:
- Destination URLs from hyperlinks
- Image URLs
Copying text works just as in any other app. However, for the other types of data, you need to Control-click (or right-click, or however you usually bring up a contextual menu) the link or image. Depending on what you’ve clicked, you can copy a URL or the entire image. (If you remember “The Power of Preview: Pulling Files into Preview” (25 February 2016), you can open a copied image in Preview by choosing File > New from Clipboard.)
Text Clippings and Drag-and-Drop -- This tip doesn’t use the clipboard precisely, but it offers similar functionality. After selecting text in almost any OS X application, you can drag it to your Desktop to create a “text clipping” — a special sort of file that contains the selected text. Text clippings aren’t standard text files, and double-clicking them opens them directly within an unusual window in the Finder. You can’t edit a text clipping, but amusingly, you can select text in one clipping and drag it to the Desktop to create another clipping.
Creating a text clipping is like copying the text; to “paste” the text in a clipping, drag its icon from the Finder into an app’s window. In a sense, text clippings solve the problem of OS X having only a single clipboard, since you could make a number of text clippings, and then drag them in all at once. (You can select multiple clippings and drag them into a document simultaneously.)
Text clippings can contain either plain text or “rich text” in RTF format. Plain text clippings take on the formatting of the surrounding text when dragged into a document, whereas rich text clippings retain their styles.
Some text editors and word processors — like BBEdit and Nisus Writer Pro, though not TextEdit and Pages — can open text clippings as documents, but said documents are new, and there’s no way to save changes back to a clipping. You cannot edit a text clipping in any way.
But wait! If you just want to move some text from one document to another, or even from one app to another, you don’t have to create an intermediary text clipping. Instead, just select the text and drag from one window to the other. This drag-and-drop trick works with graphics too.
What if the document into which you want to drop isn’t visible, or even open? Try this excruciatingly neat set of steps:
In an app like Safari, select some text and start dragging.
Drag the text to the Dock icon of an app that accepts text drops, like TextEdit or Pages.
Continue the drag (don’t let up on the mouse button) and pause while the Dock icon is highlighted; everything on the screen will disappear, except for smaller windows representing that app’s open windows and thumbnails at the bottom of the screen representing recent files.
Continue the drag to one of the open documents or thumbnails, and once your pointer is over it, pause again. The screen returns to normal, and the document you paused over opens.
Still continuing the drag, move the pointer to the top or bottom of the document to scroll within the document until you’ve located the spot where you want the dragged text to appear. (With your other hand, you can even use navigation keys like Page Up and Page Down at this point!)
Once you’ve positioned the insertion point as desired, let up on the mouse button to “paste” the text in that location.
You can start a drag and then use the Command-Tab application switcher to switch between apps as well, but that approach doesn’t provide any way to select recently used documents that aren’t open, as dragging to the Dock does.
It’s Pasteboards All the Way Down -- Text clippings and drag-and-drop don’t use the clipboard, but we mention them because they rely on the same underlying technology, which Apple calls “pasteboards.” In OS X, pasteboards are a standardized mechanism for exchanging data within an app or between apps. The clipboard is just one standard public pasteboard that all applications share; drag-and-drop operations use a different public clipboard, and the Kill and Yank commands presumably use yet another. Apple’s developer documentation about pasteboards actually makes for some interesting reading.
While pasteboards are conceptually simple, implementing them well can be quite complex. For instance, different apps can handle various types of data, and it’s up to each app to put all the appropriate types of data on the shared pasteboard so as many other apps as possible can access it. That doesn’t always happen, so, for instance, you can drag a picture from Photos to Apple Mail, but you can’t drag one to Mailplane because Photos isn’t giving Mailplane a representation of the picture that Mailplane understands.
Should you want to connect clipboard data with Unix apps, check out the
pbpaste commands. Explaining how to use them is beyond the scope of this article, but you can start at their man pages.
Here’s a final bit of geeky trivia. Since you can copy data, quit the source app, launch the destination app, and then paste, it’s clear that copy and paste has to rely on yet another background app to work its magic. That pasteboard server process is called
pbs, so if you see it in Activity Monitor, you’ll know that it’s powering your clipboard and drag-and-drop, not prepping for the next pledge drive.
Needless to say, you don’t need to know anything about pasteboards, but it’s a testament to Apple’s OS X engineers that moving data between apps with copy and paste, text clippings, and drag-and-drop is so easy. Now let’s show our appreciation by putting these subtle features to use! And, of course, if you have any other clipboard- or pasteboard-related tips, let us know.
Article 4 of 5 in series
OS X offers many, many more characters than you can type on your keyboard, from emoji to handy typographic symbols. We explain how you can figure out what they are and enter them in messages and documents.Show full article
It’s easy to look at your keyboard and assume that its keys represent all the characters you can type. But nothing could be further from the truth. You can press the Shift key to get uppercase letters, and the Option key provides access to numerous other characters. Even that’s just the tip of the iceberg, thanks to Apple’s support of Unicode, which makes it possible to enter more than 128,000 characters. Those characters come from modern and historic scripts, plus multiple symbol sets. Emoji? Just another symbol character set in Unicode.
So whether you’d like to insert an eggplant 🍆 emoji in a text message, give a price using the euro € symbol, or just use the Command key ⌘ symbol in a keyboard shortcut, it’s good to know how to access all the characters you can type on your Mac. (That said, we’re not going to get into how to type in languages that use different scripts.)
Everything we talk about here applies to OS X 10.11 El Capitan; in earlier versions of OS X, menu commands, keyboard shortcuts, and interface controls may differ.
Option Characters -- Historically speaking, the main way you used to access special characters was by holding down a modifier key or two while typing, and that’s still possible. Many people memorize a few key shortcuts, such as Option-8 for the bullet • character or Option-G for the copyright © symbol. You could even add Shift to get more characters, so Shift-Option-- (minus) gives you an em-dash — character.
The Option key also helps you type accented characters like the umlauts necessary for a proper rendering of metal band Mötley Crüe’s name. The trick is to type the keyboard shortcut for the accent, such as Option-U for an umlaut, followed immediately by the character you want underneath. So Option-U, followed by u, gives you ü.
It was hard to remember all the combinations, so starting in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple added an easier way, the Character Picker. Just press and hold the key for the character until the Character Picker appears. Then click the accented character you want, or press its corresponding number.
The Character Picker suffers from two problems. First, it can be flaky, and the recommended fix is to add a French or Spanish keyboard to System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources and then restart. Second, it prevents you from holding down a key and having it repeat. To re-enable that functionality, enter this command into Terminal and relaunch the app in question (revert the setting by changing
true at the end):
defaults write NSGlobalDomain ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false
Using the Option key to type special characters remains the fastest and easiest way to enter commonly used ones. How can you learn those shortcuts? With the Keyboard Viewer, a floating window that shows what pressing any combination of keys will insert.
To access it, open System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard and select “Show Keyboard, Emoji & Symbols Viewers in menu bar.” That puts a new icon in your menu bar, either a flag representing your language or a square icon with a ⌘ symbol in it. Click that menu and choose Show Keyboard Viewer. Whenever you press a key, Keyboard Viewer gives you feedback, and if you press Shift, Option, or Shift-Option, it shows you what characters you can type. How else would you figure out that Shift-Option-K gets you an ?
The Emoji & Symbols Viewer -- The problem with entering special characters from the keyboard is that, even with modifier keys, you can type only so many (there is another trick that we’ll share later, but it’s largely not helpful).
Starting in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, the primary way to insert special characters of any sort is via the Emoji & Symbols Viewer. In most Mac apps, you can find it in Edit > Emoji & Symbols (Edit > Special Characters in earlier versions of OS X) or bring it up by pressing Command-Control-Space.
By default, it comes up in the compressed form you see above, but unless space is at a premium, we recommend you expand it to its full glory (below) by clicking the square button at the top right. Click that button again to shrink it, if you prefer the thinner look.
There’s another way to access the Emoji & Symbols Viewer even if the app you’re using lacks the Edit menu command. If you enabled the menu bar icon that provides access to the Keyboard Viewer as discussed just above, you could also use it to bring up the viewer in any app — just choose Show Emoji & Symbols.
Unlike the Keyboard Viewer, which floats over all windows and shows keys typed regardless of the current app, the Emoji & Symbols Viewer is tied to the app that’s frontmost when you open it. Open Emoji & Symbols in BBEdit, then switch to the Finder, and the Emoji & Symbols window disappears. Switch back and it reappears. The window also remembers its state, position, and size per app, so you can configure it for one app and have it look different for another.
In the Emoji & Symbols Viewer, the far left column contains several categories, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s break it down to two: emoji and other Unicode characters. When Emoji is selected, as it was in the screenshot above, three more columns appear: one for emoji categories, another with the actual emoji characters, and a third that displays a large preview of the selected character with additional information and variations in other loaded fonts. When selected, the non-emoji categories show only two columns: the character and preview columns.
You can insert a character from the viewer in four ways:
While the cursor is active in a text area, double-click a character in the viewer to enter it at the insertion point.
Drag a character out of the viewer and into the text area.
Drag a character out of the viewer to the Desktop to create a text clipping with it. Then drag that text clipping anywhere you can type. For more on text clippings, see “OS X Hidden Treasures: Copy and Paste” (11 June 2016).
Control/right-click a character and choose Copy Character Info from the contextual menu. When you later paste, you’ll get that character along with its Unicode name and ID, which you can delete.
Once you insert a character, it appears in the Frequently Used category in the left-most column, which makes it easy to find and enter again later. You can also add your most used characters to a Favorites category: while a character is selected, click the Add to Favorites button in the right-hand preview column.
Browsing might work for emoji, but for other characters, you often know which character you want. To find a specific one, search for it using the Search field in the upper-right of the Emoji & Symbols window. Alas, not all characters are named what you might think, so don’t be afraid to fall back on a Google search with some words that you think describe the character along with the word “Unicode.” If you find the desired character on the Web, copy and paste it into the Emoji & Symbols Viewer’s search field, after which you can add it to your Favorites list.
While you’re looking at the top of the full Emoji & Symbols Viewer, check out the gear button at the left. Clicking it displays a pop-up menu that lets you customize which symbol categories appear and the size of the symbols; you can also use it to clear your list of frequently used characters.
The Emoji & Symbols Viewer provides access to even more character variations. For instance, when you first click on some emoji of people or body parts, a popover menu appears that lets you choose a skin tone. To change the skin tone later, click and hold on the emoji. If you have an appropriate trackpad, a Force Touch will also bring up the popover.
There are other variations, too. With a character selected, take a look at the preview column. You’ll see a section called Font Variation that’s uninteresting with emoji because the variation is usually the same as the original. However, most other Unicode characters have at least a few variations, and some have dozens. It’s worth scrolling through because a variation in a different font may fit your typographic needs better than the one from your current font.
Here’s another neat trick. If you select a Unicode symbol that has a corresponding emoji, like ✂︎, when you switch to Emoji in the left-hand column, the corresponding emoji appears automatically.
Finally, if you find yourself looking for an emoji that doesn’t exist, you can submit a proposal to the Unicode Consortium to have it added.
That’s about it for the Emoji & Symbols Viewer. Let’s take a look at some of the interesting characters it offers.
Fun with Unicode -- Now that you know how to access these characters, what can you do with them? Emoji need no introduction; their increasing popularity has led Apple to make them a prominent part of the upcoming iOS 10. But other Unicode character sets might offer some characters you would find handy.
For instance, have you ever wondered how to type the symbols for the Command ⌘ and Option ⌥ keys, which you see all the time in OS X’s menus? The Option character is easy to find, just search for “option” in the Emoji & Symbols Viewer. Finding the Command character is harder, since its Unicode name is “place of interest.”
The Emoji & Symbols Viewer offers numerous categories of characters to explore. Here are some of the most interesting ones:
Currency Symbols: If you’re using a U.S.-centric keyboard, the dollar sign is easy to type, but symbols for things like cents ¢, euros €, pounds £, and yen ¥ require more effort. If you can’t remember their Option-key shortcuts, you can find them in the Currency Symbols category.
Letterlike Symbols: The Letterlike Symbols category contains things like the copyright © and trademark ™ symbols, which are both commonly needed, but not easy to find. You’ll also find some typographic niceties, such as the ”care of” ℅ symbol. Be sure to play with the font variations for these.
Math Symbols: Here, you’ll find all the mathematical symbols you need, from basic multiplication × and division ÷ symbols to more obscure things like greater-than-or-equal-to ≥ symbol. It also includes advanced symbols like infinity ∞, spherical angle ∢, and sigma ∑.
Pictographs: This category is a lot of fun. It contains characters for things like the sun ☼, chess pieces (♞♔♖♛), dice (⚃⚅), astrological symbols (☿☉), playing cards (🂶🂸🂦), mahjong tiles (🀉🀊🀋), and even dominoes (🁒🁔).
Technical Symbols: Although this category isn’t enabled by default, it’s worth adding if you want access to the all the various symbols for Mac keys (⌘⌥⇧⌫), along with the power ⌽ button.
That’s just a taste of what the Emoji & Symbols Viewer has to offer, but what if you don’t want to fool with the viewer? There are other ways to type these characters…
Other Ways to Insert Special Characters -- Those who find themselves needing to enter a wide variety of special characters should take a look at Ergonis’s PopChar X, which has been helping Mac users find special characters since 1987, making it one of the oldest continuously developed Mac utilities.
PopChar X provides roughly the same capabilities as the Emoji & Symbols Viewer but adds numerous additional features. For instance, you can use it to find similar characters based on shape, find characters by drawing them, and figure out which font contains a particular character variation. It also boasts a magnifier tool that shows characters at a large size so you can see fine details and lets you preview fonts in paragraphs of text so you can get a sense of whether a font will work before committing to it.
We haven’t used it, but Ultra Character Map also comes highly recommended. It has many of the features of PopChar X, and also lets you apply colors and 3D effects to characters.
Even if PopChar X or Ultra Character Map is overkill for your needs, using the Emoji & Symbols Viewer to access a small number of characters that can’t be typed from the keyboard gets old fast. Luckily, if you already own a macro utility like Keyboard Maestro or a text expansion tool like TextExpander, it’s easy to set up a shortcut to any character you wish.
If you don’t own either of those apps, or something like them, OS X provides its own text expansion feature. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Text, click the plus button, type a shortcut into the Replace column, and then paste your character in the With column.
Another way to insert Unicode characters is via the Unicode Hex Input keyboard. To enable it, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources, click the plus button, and search for “hex.” Select Unicode Hex Input and click Add to make it a selectable keyboard. If you haven’t previously enabled another keyboard, adding Unicode Hex Input gives you a new menu bar icon — an American flag if you’re using a U.S. keyboard layout. Click it and choose Unicode Hex Input to enable the keyboard.
Now you can hold down the Option key and type in a four-character hexadecimal code for a character to insert it. How do you find the hex code for a character? The Emoji & Symbols Viewer shows it to you in the right-hand column, or you can scan through Wikipedia’s full list of Unicode characters. Just look up the character you want, find its code under the Code column, hold Option, and type that code, minus the U+ character. For instance, 00BF is an inverted question mark ¿, 2673 is the recycling ♳ symbol for Type 1 plastics, and so forth. This isn’t the most practical way to enter Unicode characters, but it might be useful at times.
Unfortunately, when you switch to the Unicode Hex Input keyboard, you can no longer use the Option key to enter characters as discussed earlier, and even using it to navigate within text may fail. Unless you work with obscure Unicode characters regularly, we can’t recommend using Unicode Hex Input.
There is one important reason to enable Unicode Hex Input, and that’s to help someone who has put an emoji in their account password. Since the login screen doesn’t let users bring up the Emoji & Symbols Viewer, emoji can’t be entered in its password field. However, Unicode Hex Input does work there. But it gets even trickier. Some emoji require five hex characters, and for them you must look up and enter two UTF-16 hex codes. (Thanks to Tom Gewecke for the solution to this unusual but sticky problem, and for other advice in preparing this article!)
Regardless of how you choose to enter special characters, remember that they’re available and more flexible than you might think. For instance, there’s no need to go looking for a skull and crossbones graphic when you can just find its ☠ symbol and then bump up the font size until it’s as large as you want.
Article 5 of 5 in series
by Josh Centers
When Mac trouble strikes, these 15 startup key combinations provide access to all sorts of troubleshooting and repair tools that could save your bacon.Show full article
When the proverbial manure hits the fan and prevents your Mac from booting as you want, knowing the right startup key combination can save the day, whether you boot into Safe Mode, Recovery, Apple Diagnostics, or from another disk entirely.
Here are fifteen startup key combinations that can save the day when things go wrong. Not all are useful on today’s Macs, but we wanted the list to be complete.
Option: Invoke Startup Manager -- The first startup key every Mac user should know is the Option key. Press and hold Option as your Mac boots to enter the Startup Manager, which lets you select which disk to boot from.
Startup Manager is primarily useful for booting from an alternative drive, like a system clone, USB thumb drive, or a Boot Camp partition. However, you can also use it to force a boot from your primary drive if your Mac is stubbornly booting from another disk. Startup Manager may also help identify a flaky hard drive; if the drive you’re looking for doesn’t appear in Startup Manager, you know you have a problem.
If you have a bootable external drive, booting from that drive can also help you isolate problems or provide a different environment, such as a different version of OS X.
T: Target Disk Mode -- What if you want to boot from another Mac’s drive using Startup Manager? You can connect the Macs via FireWire or Thunderbolt, and then put the other Mac into Target Disk Mode, which lets it serve as an external drive. Hold T during boot to enter this mode. If either Mac lacks a FireWire or Thunderbolt port, you’re out of luck.
In addition to troubleshooting, Target Disk Mode can also be useful for quickly transferring many gigabytes of files. And if your main Mac’s display fails, you can use Target Disk Mode to turn it into the boot drive for another Mac with a working screen.
Shift-Control-Option: Reset the SMC -- When your Mac is exhibiting truly odd behavior, it may be worth resetting the System Management Controller (SMC), which controls all manner of things, such as batteries, keyboard backlight, and cooling fans. Apple lists all the things an SMC reset can fix.
On desktop Macs, you reset the SMC by unplugging the power cable for 15 seconds, plugging it back in, and turning the Mac on after 5 seconds. On older Mac notebooks, you can reset the SMC by removing the battery and power adapter, holding down the power button for 5 seconds to drain the capacitors, reinserting the battery, and turning it back on again.
However, for newer Mac notebooks, where it’s impossible to remove the battery, you need to know this key combo: Shift-Control-Option, using the keys on the left side of the keyboard. Shut down your Mac, connect it to power, press Shift-Control-Option, and then press the power button while holding those keys down. Release the keys and press the power button again to fire up the Mac with a fresh set of SMC settings.
Command-Option-P-R: Reset NVRAM -- The other quick fix is resetting Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM), which you do by holding Command-Option-P-R during startup. The Mac startup chime should sound a second time. After that, release the keys. (The reason for using P and R in the key combination is that Apple used to call this bit of non-volatile memory “PRAM,” for Parameter RAM.)
NVRAM controls things like speaker volume, screen resolution, and startup drive selection. Like an SMC reset, an NVRAM reset can fix a host of seemingly random issues.
Shift: Safe Mode -- If your Mac gets stuck during the boot process, booting in Safe Mode might help you diagnose what’s wrong. To invoke Safe Mode, hold the Shift key while booting. It does a few things:
- Verifies and repairs your startup disk
- Loads only essential kernel extensions
- Ignores startup and login items
- Disables user-installed fonts
- Deletes all system cache files
Simply booting in Safe Mode may solve your problem, if it was related to directory corruption or a messed-up cache file. If a Safe Mode boot works fine, try a regular boot immediately, and if it proceeds normally, you’re all set.
However, if your Mac boots fine in Safe Mode, but has problems otherwise, you probably have a software problem related to something that loads at startup. You might guess that a third-party kernel extension was the culprit, but it could also be a corrupt font. Start poking around in the various Library folders on your Mac.
(If all you want to do is disable login items, press Shift when you click the Log In button in the login window, or as soon as you see the progress bar in the startup screen. Release it when you see the Desktop or Dock.)
Command-R: Recovery -- Every modern Mac can boot into a special mode called Recovery, which provides tools to resolve a variety of problems. The system disk of most Macs contains a small partition containing a stripped-down version of OS X, which you can boot from by holding Command-R as your Mac boots. If the recovery partition is missing for some reason, you can load the Recovery software from the Internet by holding Command-Option-R at startup. Needless to say, loading Internet Recovery takes quite a bit longer; happily, it does provide a time estimate.
Recovery gives you seven options:
Restore from a Time Machine Backup: You do have a Time Machine backup, right? Right?
Reinstall OS X: You don’t have to wipe your disk and start from scratch; this option reinstalls the currently installed version of OS X over your existing install, which can fix missing or corrupted system files. If you use Internet Recovery, you get the version of OS X that originally came with your Mac instead.
Get Help Online: This option opens Safari so you can browse Apple’s support site for help.
Disk Utility: Clicking this item in the list brings up the Disk Utility app, which can check and repair your disks. If absolutely necessary, you can use Disk Utility to erase your system disk, onto which you can then restore your data from Time Machine. (You do have that backup, right?)
Firmware Password Utility: Choose Utilities > Firmware Password Utility to launch this app, which lets you set and turn off a firmware password. You might want to enable a firmware password to make Find My Mac more secure (see “Disable Find My Mac by Resetting NVRAM,” 22 July 2016).
Network Utility: Also available from the Utilities menu, Network Utility lets you test local and Internet connectivity using tools like Netstat, Ping, Traceroute, and more. It’s more easily used when the Mac isn’t in Recovery mode, but it’s here if you need it.
Terminal: For those who are more comfortable at the command line, you can also launch Terminal from the Utilities menu. It’s a stripped-down installation that may lack some of the Unix tools you’re accustomed to having, but you can move around, look at files, and delete things. Be careful!
D: Apple Diagnostics -- If nothing mentioned so far is solving your problem, your Mac might be suffering from a hardware issue. Hold D at startup to boot into Apple Hardware Test or Apple Diagnostics.
Which you get depends on the age of your Mac; Macs produced before June 2013 have Apple Hardware Test, while later Macs have Apple Diagnostics. They do basically the same thing, but Apple Hardware Test is a blast from the past — it looks like the old, pre-OS X Mac OS! Apple Diagnostics is a lot slicker looking and more or less automatic, while you have to click a button to start Apple Hardware Test. Apple Hardware Test also gives the option of an extended test, which takes a lot longer and isn’t usually necessary. Apple recommends disconnecting all external devices except the keyboard, mouse, display, and Ethernet adapter before starting either test.
If you can’t boot into one of these tests for some reason, try holding Option-D instead to load an Internet-based hardware test.
Command-V: Verbose Mode -- Holding Command-V during startup puts your Mac in verbose mode. Instead of a tasteful gray screen, you see every single Unix system message as your Mac boots. Verbose mode could be useful for troubleshooting if you’re already a Unix expert; otherwise it’s mostly amusing to watch.
Command-S: Single-User Mode -- To go one step beyond verbose mode, hold Command-S during boot, which puts your Mac in single-user mode. After the Mac finishes displaying all the Unix messages during its boot sequence, you’re given a command-line prompt, just as though you were in Terminal. As with using Terminal from Recovery, single-user mode is useful mostly if you’re already comfortable in Unix. Some people use single-user mode to run the Unix fsck utility, although it’s easier to boot into Safe Mode or run Disk Utility from Recovery for that purpose.
To leave single-user mode and continue booting, type
exit and press Return. Or, to start over, type
reboot and press Return.
Neither single-user mode nor verbose mode is accessible if you have a firmware password enabled.
C: Boot from Removable Media -- If you hold the C key during boot, the Mac will start up from removable media, such as a CD, DVD, or USB thumb drive. Since Apple has largely done away with optical drives and physical installation discs are a thing of the past, this shortcut isn’t as useful as it used to be. Using Option to bring up Startup Manager is a better option because then you know exactly which disk you’re going to boot from.
Eject, F12: Eject All Removable Media -- Here’s a neat trick: if you hold the Eject key (if your Mac has one), F12, or the mouse or trackpad button during boot, the Mac will eject all removable media. Like the C shortcut, this technique isn’t as necessary as it used to be when it was the standard way of getting non-bootable floppy disks out of a Mac quickly, but it’s worth remembering should you ever end up working on an old Mac.
N: NetBoot -- If you hold N at startup, the Mac will boot from an available NetBoot server. Holding Option-N will boot from the default boot image on a NetBoot server. For those who have never even heard of NetBoot, it’s an Apple technology in OS X Server that enables a Mac to load the operating system from a network server, rather than from a local drive. Large networked environments sometimes use NetBoot to ensure that every Mac is using a consistent, approved version of the operating system. Chances are, you will never have to worry about booting from NetBoot.
X: Force a Boot into OS X, instead of Classic -- Finally, there’s X, which Apple says causes the Mac to “Start up from an OS X startup volume when the Mac would otherwise start up from a non-OS X startup volume.” This one threw us for a loop, but Phil Dokas, our shadow editor Chris Pepper, and several commenters reminded us that it’s a holdover from the early days of Mac OS X, when it was used to keep the Mac from booting into the Classic environment. Kevin Patfield said there was even a companion option — holding 9 — that forced a boot into Classic. If you know a contemporary use for this key, let us know in the comments!