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OS X Tips: Three Useful Tricks

Updated on March 27, 2015

OS X is a very user friendly system that becomes even more friendly when you know a few tricks. Let's explore a few (based on OS X Mavericks 10.9.2).

OS X Retrieve Wi-Fi Password

Let's say a friend is visiting who wants to log onto your WiFi and you can't remember your password. It’s easy enough to retrieve—so long as you have the Administrator password for your Mac. The Administrator password is the one used to install software, perform high level changes, and perhaps log in (according to your Mac's System Preferences settings). If you are the only user account then congratulations, you are the Administrator.

To reveal the stored Wi-Fi router password in OS X, go to the Utilities folder under the Go menu (or in the Applications folder). In the Utilities folder, open Keychain Access. On the left side, select System, then in the Category section select Passwords. Double-click the desired Airport network (your router) in the middle window. Select the box that says Show Password. A window should appear prompting for a password. Type in the Administrator password, then press Allow. You should see your Wi-Fi router password.

Note: Don't select Always Allow. Once finished, remove the checkmark from "Show Password" and close the window. Click Show Password again. If it asks to Allow, Always Allow, or Deny, choose Deny. Close all Keychain Access windows, then attempt to see the password again. Leave Keychain Access in the state that demands the computer (Administrator) password prior to showing the wi-fi access password.

Create Your Own App Shortcuts

Occasionally you may find menu items (in an app) that do not have a preassigned keyboard shortcut. Wouldn’t it be great if you could assign one yourself. Well, you can. This feature uses a keyboard option found in the System Preferences.

To create a shortcut for a menu item (currently without), go to the main System Preferences for OS X under the Apple menu, then select Keyboard. Along the bar near the top of the window select Shortcuts. Now look in the left hand column and select App Shortcuts. Click the plus sign to add an application to the list. Create a shortcut by entering the exact menu command in the Menu Title section, then enter the Keyboard Shortcut you wish to use. Take care not to use a shortcut combination used by the program or a global shortcut.

Expand Yourself With Multiple Spaces

Multiple monitors can be nice, but also take up a lot of space. Consider creating virtual desktops using Spaces instead. Why have one desktop when you can have up to sixteen?

Spaces has been around since OS X Leopard (10.5). In OS X Leopard and OS X Snow Leopard the number of Spaces was set in the System Preferences. Starting with OS X Lion (10.7), spaces are created, and deleted, using Mission Control.

To create a new space in OS X Mavericks (10.9), first open Mission Control. You can do so by pressing the Mission Control keyboard button, selecting Mission Control from the Dock, or using the shortcut Command + Up Arrow.

Create a space in Mission Control by clicking the plus in the top right corner of the window (you'll have to move the pointer there for it to appear). To delete a space, hover over the space until an X appears, then click it.

Moving a window into a space is easy. Just drag the window (by the top bar) to the edge of the current window. In a second the window will pop over to the next space. Continue to holding at the edge to go through any remaining spaces. Alternately, press Control and an arrow key while clicked on the top/title bar of a window to move it into a space. Finally, you can open Mission Control, then drag the current window to the desired space in the Mission Control view.

To move between spaces on a keyboard, hold Control then press an arrow key (left or right accordingly). You can also select a space directly from Mission Control (at the top) or use three finger swipe on a trackpad to navigate between spaces.


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