Usability hack: Click & drag anywhere in macOS windows to move them

Saturday July 7, 2018

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In macOS we click and drag the title bar of a window to move it. It’s been this way since 1984 and the introduction of the first Macintosh. But do you think it’d be useful to just click ANYWHERE in a window to be able to move it, as well?

It turns out this is built into macOS High Sierra but it’s just not activated by default. Open a Terminal window (you’ll find this in the Utilities folder of the Applications list in Finder), and paste in the following. This might appear as more than one line in your browser but it’s actually just a single line—triple-click the line to select it, then copy it:

defaults write -g NSWindowShouldDragOnGesture -bool true

Then reboot. From now on you can hold down Ctrl+Cmd, then click and drag ANYWHERE in a window to move it. Note how the window “jumps” a little when you do so—a nice little animation to show the feature is being used.

This trick isn’t compatible with all apps, so you’ll have to see how you get on.

To turn off this feature, again open a Terminal window and paste in the following:

defaults delete -g NSWindowShouldDragOnGesture

Then reboot.

Thanks to Corbin Dunn for sharing this trick.

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Get dark mode on macOS High Sierra with this hack

Saturday June 16, 2018

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The forthcoming macOS Mojave comes with a “dark mode” interface option. This switches the interface from being broadly white and grey, as per computing over the last 30 years, to being various shares of black and grey. It looks great—but did you know a preview of this is built into macOS High Sierra?

I’m NOT talking about the simple “Use Dark Menu and Dock” option within the “General” section of System Preferences (although if you follow the steps below then you’ll want to activate this too).

No, this is a system-wide config affecting most windows and it uses a hidden system key called “NSWindowDarkChocolate”. DarkChocolate is likely to be Apple’s internal codename for the dark mode feature.

Within High Sierra DarkChocolate is a prototype implementation and, to be blunt, it doesn’t work very well. Some interface items look wrong or are unreadable. Some apps like Calendar or third-party apps such as Microsoft Word just entirely ignore the setting and revert to their usual white mode.

But it’s fun to play around with.

Warning! Follow the steps below at your own risk! I will not be held responsible for damage arising from this. If you’re unsure, go no further!

Switching it on is pretty simple:

  1. Open a Terminal window. You’ll find Terminal in the Utilities folder of the Applications list in Finder.
  2. Paste in the following, which might appear as more than one line on your screen but is actually a single-line—just triple-click the text to highlight it, and then Cmd+C to copy it before pasting it into the Terminal window:
    defaults write -g NSWindowDarkChocolate -bool TRUE
  3. Log out via the Apple menu, and then log back in again.

Don’t forget that you’ll need to also turn on dark menu and dock within System Preference’s “General” section. Oh, and if you want the macOS Mojave “dark” desert wallpapers for the complete picture then—go right ahead!

Switching off dark mode is a matter of repeating the steps above to open Terminal, and this time pasting the following…

defaults delete -g NSWindowDarkChocolate

… And then rebooting the system (logging out doesn’t seem to turn off the feature—which again seems to indicate a buggy implementation).

(This hack appears to have been uncovered by Steve Troughton-Smith, with thanks.)

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One trick to make Safari on Mac useful

Saturday June 16, 2018

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I’ve a love and hate relationship with Safari on the Mac but have to admit it’s got better and better over recent years. It’s way better at power saving compared to the competition, for example, and its picture-in-picture feature is also incredibly useful when watching videos.

But it still does some odd things.

One of the irritations is that, if you’re using a trackpad, it reloads the page each time you two-finger swipe to go back. This can be slow but also infuriating if you’re scrolling through an auto-updating webpage list, for example, because the page will reload and you’ll be thrown back to the top of the list.

The solution is to activate three-finger back gesture—and then train yourself to make use of it. Here’s why: For reasons only known to Apple software engineers, using this gesture instead of the standard two-finger swipe means the page isn’t reloaded. It’s looks just as it did when you clicked away from it and it instantly appears without any redrawing or rendering.

The only caveat is that—again for reasons unknown to we mere morals—the three-finger swipe gesture works in the opposite direction compared to the two-finger swipe. (Well, on my Mac at least—let me know if you Mac is different in the comments.) In other words, while you swipe your two fingers right to go back with the two-finger gesture, you have to swipe in the left direction when using three fingers.

Activating three-finger swipe is easy. Just open System Preferences (in the Applications list of Finder), then click the Trackpad icon. Then ensure the More Gestures tab is selected, and underneath the Swipe Between Pages heading, select Swipe With Two or Three Fingers. This is a good option because you can still use two-fingers, so can avoid the frustration if you forget you’ve changed the settings.

Give it a try. It could be revolutionary.

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How to make your iPhone or iPad use Messages in iCloud

Saturday June 2, 2018

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If you’ve updated to iOS 11.4 you might think that the new Messages in iCloud feature works automatically.

But sadly you’d be wrong. You’ll need to specifically enable it. My guess would be that you need to do this because Messages in iCloud might eat a good chunk of your iCloud storage space, so if Apple enabled it by default then they’d be faced with complaints from users that suddenly their iCloud storage was full.

I assume in these steps that you’re already using iCloud and that your iOS device is signed-in – and, of course, that you have sufficient storage space for your Messages to sync to the cloud.

  1. Open the Settings app, then tap the main iCloud heading at the top of the list (or top left on an iPad) – the one that displays your name and Apple ID photo.
  2. In the following screen (or to the right of the main heading list on an iPad), tap the iCloud heading.
  3. Scroll down until the Messages switch is visible and tap it so that it’s activated. Main feature illustration
  4. Open the Messages app and you’ll see that syncing is taking place because there will be a message at the bottom reading something like, “Uploading Messages to iCloud” or “Downloading Messages from iCloud”. Notably, it appears the uploading of messages won’t take place unless your iPhone or iPad is using Wi-Fi, and also is being charged (see screenshot below, and as a side note spot Apple’s anachronistic phrasing asking that you “plug in” your device – I use wireless charging for my iPhone so this technically makes no sense!). However, it appears downloading of synced messages will take place under any circumstances, pretty much as it always has for incoming messages.
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