How to Unlock ‘Hidden’ Preferences

This article explains how to change preferences on your Mac that cannot be found in System Preferences.

This tutorial requires using Terminal, but you can paste simple commands from below into it.

Your Mac has preferences that you can change that most people never even know about! While these aren’t huge changes, they can definitely make your workflow more efficient, or just do really cool things! Let’s get started.

1. View Contents of Folders in QuickLook

Without changing this setting, when you use QuickLook (spacebar to preview a selected file) when a folder is selected, you just see an image of the folder itself. But with this preference enabled, you can view the contents of the folder within QuickLook.

All you have to do is go into Terminal and enter:

defaults write com.apple.finder QLEnableXRayFolders 1

Then click on a folder, hit the spacebar, and you can see  a cool preview of the files inside!

To reverse it, simply change the 1 at the end to a 0, like so:

defaults write com.apple.finder QLEnableXRayFolders 0

2. Dashboard Widgets on Your Desktop

You thought you could only have widgets inside your dashboard, right? Well not anymore. Fire up Terminal and enter:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES && killall Dock

&& in Terminal allows you to run a second command on the same line. Also, the command killall Dock restarts the dock, which is required for this trick to work. Alternatively, you could reboot your computer.

Then, open Dashboard (either F12 or F4, depending on your keyboard), click and hold on a widget, and then hit the dashboard button again. You can then move the widget around your screen and position it wherever you want.

To reverse this one, change the YES to a NO, so you’re entering:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode NO && killall Dock

3. Double Arrows on Both Sides of the Scroll Bar

You know those double arrows that allow you to scroll up and down or side to side? Well they’re only on one side of the scroll bar. With this simple terminal command, you can put them on both sides:

defaults write "Apple Global Domain" AppleScrollBarVariant DoubleBoth

This won’t work on applications that were open when you entered the command until you quit and open them again. Here’s what it looks like:

4. Open All New Windows in Tabs (for Safari)

Do you hate it when you click a link and it opens in a new window? Personally, I do all my work in tabs, not windows. This preference makes it so all links open in a new tab, regardless of whether or not they’re supposed to open in a new window. Just enter this in terminal:

defaults write com.apple.Safari TargetedClicksCreateTabs -boolean

Next time you open up Safari, this preference will be active.

To reverse, add a false to the end of the command:

defaults write com.apple.Safari TargetedClicksCreateTabs -boolean false

5. Remove Stripes From List View

By default in list view in Finder, there are stripes that allow you to distinguish between items in the list. Some people don’t find these visually appealing, so if you want to change it, enter this command you should enter in Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.finder FXListViewStripes -bool FALSE

Either reboot your computer or force-reboot Finder by pressing Alt-Command-Escape , selecting Finder, then hitting Restart.

To reverse, change FALSE to TRUE:

defaults write com.apple.finder FXListViewStripes -bool TRUE

6. Other Options

Of course, you can also use applications that others have developed to change hidden preferences. For example, one developer has made a very nice application that installs a new pane into System Preferences. From there, you can change many hidden preferences.

Get Hidden Settings from their website and hit the download button in the top right corner.

I hope this article was helpful! Let us know what you think and if you’ve got any more hidden preferences in the comments section below!


  1. trenchers1



    Try Deeper (http://cnet.co/oyzubW) which is very comprehensive in enabling all hidden preferences.

  2. Dude



    The Dashboard widget won’t disappear after I type the code to reverse it. Help!

  3. Samuel



    I tried the quicklook hack, but it doesn’t seem to be working?

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