Mastering Terminal To Hack Your Mac’s User Interface [OS X Tips]


Yesterday, we spent some time with Terminal commands that tweak the Finder in different ways. Today, we’ll look at some commands you can issue in the Terminal to mess around with the user interface. Let’s get started.

Disable Window Animations
Snappier on that older Mac, for sure.

Snappier on that older Mac, for sure.

Mountain Lion has a window animation that make things look slick, but can slow down vital workflow, especially on older Macs. To get rid of this subtle but occasionally annoying feature, zoom up to open animation, and issue the following command into your Terminal app:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false

Now the windows will just appear without any opening animations, which should help things feel a bit snappier when running OS X on an older Mac. Change false to true to bring it back.

Get Rid Of Smooth Scrolling
Direct scrolling is the new black.

Direct scrolling is the new black.

When you launch a Safari window that needs scrolling and hit the space bar, OS X is set up to animate the scrolling down motion, so it feels smooth and silky. Some users complain about this effect being jerky and unattractive on Retina Macbooks, and would like to disable it. All you need to do is issue the following command into Terminal:

defaults write -g NSScrollAnimationEnabled -bool NO

Now, when you hit the space bar in Safari or other scrolling windows, it will jump right to the next area on the page, rather than animating down. Change NO to YES to get it back.

Dump The Rubber Banding Effect
Too bouncy! Stop!

Too bouncy! Stop!

When you’re scrolling up or down in any OS X application, including the Finder, you may notice a sort of bouncy, rubber-band effect when you scroll past the top or bottom of a page or list too quickly. This mimics iOS beahvior, which is aesthetically pleasing, but it can be annoying at times, or slow down your process on an older Mac. To get rid of this feature, type or paste the following Terminal command:

defaults write -g NSScrollViewRubberbanding -int 0

Now this only works in some apps, so you’ll have to quit them and relaunch to make sure. Safari or Chrome don’t seem to lose the effect, but Finder and Evernote do, so play around with it to see if the apps you want to disable this within will work.

Enable Key Repeats
Get rid of that annoying alt character popup.

Get rid of that annoying alt character popup.

It used to be simple to get a repeated key on your Mac; just hold down any key and it would repeat after a certain amount of delay time. Now, however, in many OS X apps like TextEdit, you can’t do that anymore, as an alternate character popup menu will appear if you hold down a key that has those associated with it. If you want to get rid of that popup feature, and get your key repetition back, simply issue the following command in Terminal:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

Now you can hold down any key and get a repeat. Yessssssssss!

  • dcdevito

    UNIX was the biggest reason I switched to Mac

  • Whodakat

    Does it make me less cool, because I like all of the things this articles shows you how to turn off?

  • roblef

    Does it make me less cool, because I like all of the things this articles shows you how to turn off?

    Not at all – I like them, too! But folks on older hardware might see a speed bump, and folks with Retina displays might like turning off smooth scrolling because, from what I hear, it can make things look better.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreRob LeFebvre is an Anchorage, Alaska-based writer and editor who has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, Creative Screenwriting, Shelf-Awareness, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef, and send him a cookie once in a while; he'll really appreciate it.

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