Mac OS X defaults to a predefined set system font size for all onscreen text and user interface elements, and while many users will find the default text size to be sufficient, some users may wish the system font size was larger, and some may wish the Mac system text size was smaller. It turns out that OS X may not offer a method of directly changing all system fonts, but instead Mac users can adjust their screen to increase or decrease the size of the system font, onscreen text, and everything else seen on screen as well.
To change the system text size this way, we’ll be changing the screen resolution of the Mac display itself. In some cases, this may mean running on a non-native scaled resolution, which tends to look best on Retina displays. There’s a trade-off with this approach in that you lose or gain screen real estate (space for windows and stuff on the display) in order to increase or decrease the size of text and interface elements. The example images below will help to show this, but it’s better experienced yourself on your own Mac and display.
How to Increase Screen Element & Text Size in Mac OS X
This will increase the size of all onscreen fonts and interface elements by using a different display resolution, it’s slightly different for Retina displays and non-Retina displays, we’ll cover both:
Go to the Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
Go to the “Display” preference panel, then to the “Display” tab
For Retina Display Macs:
Next to the “Resolution” section, choose “Scaled”
Select “Larger Text” from the options available, you will see a pop-up message saying “Are you sure you want to switch to this scaled resolution? When using this scaled resolution, some applications may not fit entirely on screen.” so choose “OK” to confirm that you wish to use the larger text size scaled resolution
For Non-Retina Macs & External Displays:
Next to the “Resolution” section, choose “Scaled”
Select a smaller screen resolution from the list of available resolutions, this may include 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p, or direct resolutions like 1600 x 900, 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, 640 x 480 – to make the onscreen text size and other onscreen elements larger aim for a smaller number, such as 720p or 1024×768
When satisfied with the size of the onscreen element size, font size, and text size, close out of System Preferences and use the Mac as usual
The “Larger Text” option for Retina displays is similar to 1024×768 on a non-Retina display, and will dramatically increase the size of onscreen text and interface elements for most Mac laptops like the MacBook and MacBook Pro, as well as iMac and other high resolution displays. Setting the screen resolution to 1024×768 or larger on a non-Retina display will also dramatically increase the size of onscreen fonts and interface elements.
The animated GIF below demonstrates the four Retina settings being cycled between, with Larger Text being the first and displaying as the biggest of the group.
The Larger Text scaled display resolution option is great for users who have difficulty reading or interacting with onscreen elements with MacBook Pro and iMac displays, but it’s also incredibly helpful to use when any Mac is connected to a TV screen and viewed at a distance, since elements and interactions will be larger and easier to read at the larger size.
The other sizes, such as “More Space”, allow for considerably more screen real estate but at the expense of much smaller fonts and interactive interface elements. This trade-off largely depends on the user.
What do the Scaled Display Sizes Look Like?
You really need to use the different resolutions on the individual Mac yourself to get the best idea possible of how things will look on the individual screen, but the images below will give you a general idea of how large or small various items will appear on a display. As you can see, the font and text sizes change as well as the size of everything else on screen, including buttons, icons, windows, menu bars, title bars, literally the size of everything on screen is impacted by adjusting and scaling resolutions this way:
Mac OS X set to display “Larger Text”
Mac OS X set to display size “Default”
Mac OS X set to display in-between scale size of text / space
Mac OS X set to display as “More Space”
For Macs with secondary screens or an external display, you can show all possible display resolutions for an external screen to reveal other screen resolutions which may otherwise be hidden from the OS X default options.
Some may consider this a workaround, but aside from individually adjusting the font size in various applications, this is the only way to universally impact all onscreen text and font sizes on the Mac. It’s possible Apple will introduce greater text size and font size controls in future versions of OS X, but in the meantime, adjusting the screen resolution is the only way to universally change the size of things seen on the display of any Mac.
Have you ever wished the wallpaper on your Mac was animated? One common trick to achieve that effect is to set a screen saver as the desktop wallpaper in Mac OS X, which looks great but can wind up using a fair amount of processor to display the animations, but now another option is available; use an animated GIF as desktop wallpaper on the Mac instead, thanks to a little free app called GifPaper.
GIFPaper is somewhat experimental at this point, requires skipping Gatekeeper, uses about 15% of CPU to display the animation, requires manually installing a preference panel, and if you want to get rid of it, you have to force quit the associated process through Activity Monitor. Because of all that, using GifPaper is likely better used exclusively by more advanced Mac users, as it’s totally unsupported by the developer (or anyone else). If you aren’t comfortable with any of that, don’t use the GifPaper app for now. If you don’t mind those caveats, here’s how you can use GIFPaper to set an animated GIF as the desktop picture on a Mac.
How to Set Animated GIF as Desktop Wallpaper in Mac OS X
Get GIFPaper from this Dropbox link*, it’s free from the developer but unsupported
Install the preference panel and use the Browse option to select your animated GIF, then adjust the settings as desired
The animated GIF should load as wallpaper immediately, but if it doesn’t try manually launching the Gifpaper.app to load the gif as the desktop background picture
Here’s an example of the Mac desktop with a fireplace GIF in use as the wallpaper background image:
And here’s another Mac desktop example with animated GIF as wallpaper via Lifehacker:
This can be a fun use for your Live Photos converted to GIFs, which is what I have done in this piece with a fireplace gif that was created from a Live Photo. Of course if you have Gif Brewerythan you can use other masterful animated GIF creations of your own doing as well, otherwise a quick Google Image search for “animated gif (item)” or visit to a site like Giphy should find you something to meet your GIF needs.
* Download and use this app at your own discretion, currently there is no associated developer page or Github page about the GifPaper app. Generally speaking it is unwise to download and use apps or files from random web links from an unidentified developer, but this app was found by LifeHacker and it works as advertised (the creepy blinking eyes gif via 2001 (the movie) shown on page is from Lifehacker too).
Removing GIF Paper and getting the regular wallpaper back again
You can remove the GifPaper preference panel with a right-click:
And if you want to end the animated GIF as your wallpaper, either reboot the Mac, or quit the Gif Paper process running through Activity Monitor:
Unfortunately there isn’t a Github page with source or an official site for the project, though the developer Tomasz Wojcik mentions they’d likely put it on Github eventually. If you were hoping to get a look at the source, get support for the app, or ask questions specifically about the project or how it works, you’ll have to reach out to the creator directly via the readme file attached to the download, for now anyway.
Remember when you first started using a web browser, how great it was to be able to save bookmarks? It was necessary back in the day, because you couldn’t remember all those URLs, and browsers didn’t auto-complete with addresses of your saved sites. They also didn’t suggest sites when you typed the name of a company or publication, so you needed to know the URL to get where you wanted.
But the more bookmarks you save, the harder it is to find what you’re looking for. Remember that site where you saw that really interesting article last month? You bookmarked it, and you remember the title, but if you look in your Safari bookmarks, you have to either scan the entire list, or search for it. Sure, you can sort bookmarks in folders, but who has the time to do that? And you’d only do that for the sites you visit very often.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could sort bookmarks alphabetically in Safari? There has never been a way to do this in Safari itself, but there is a way, one that’s been around for donkeys’ years. The process is slightly different now.
Start by displaying your bookmarks in Safari (Bookmarks > Show Bookmarks). Click the Edit button at the bottom of the list.
Edit your Safari bookmarks to be able to drag them to the Finder.
Drag them all to a folder in the Finder; make sure you don’t select Bookmarks Menu, or you won’t be able to drag the bookmarks. Display that folder in List view (View > As List, in the Finder), and then click the Name header to sort the files by name.
Next, move up a level in the Finder (press Command-up-arrow), and drag that folder onto the bookmark list in Safari. All your bookmarks will be added to the Bookmarks list, in that folder, You can delete the originals, then move the bookmarks out of the folder to the Bookmarks Menu, or to your Favorites. This is a lot of work for something that should be pretty simple.
You can do this easily in other browsers. For example, in Chrome, if you display your bookmarks and click the Organize menu, you can easily sort them alphabetically (Reorder by title).
Chrome lets you sort bookmarks alphabetically.
And Firefox gives you a plethora of sort options:
Firefox gives you lots of sort options for your bookmarks.
Fortunately, there’s an app for this: the free SafariSort, which can sort your bookmarks alphabetically, or in alphabetical order with all your bookmark folders on top of the list. It’s fast and simple, and if you like having bookmarks in order, you can run it regularly.
SafariSort is a simple app that sorts your bookmarks alphabetically.
Wanting to sort bookmarks alphabetically doesn’t seem like an odd feature request; it’s actually a great way to cull duplicate bookmarks. In fact, Apple should allow Safari to display bookmarks in date order as well. If you add bookmarks to folders, you won’t see all your bookmarks by date, and having a full list in order can be a good way to find what you’re looking for.
No matter what, it would be nice if Safari offered some more ways to view bookmarks, as other browsers do.
When OS X won't let you unmount a flash drive or external hard drive, here's what you can do
the drive won’t unmount no matter what, and I get the dreaded “The disk wasn’t ejected because one or more programs may be using it” or “The volume cannot be ejected because it’s currently in use” messages.
He’s had this happen routinely with a Mac mini using flash drives and external hard disk drives (HDDs). I’ve definitely seen some of this behavior, though it’s not routine. If OS X “understands” why it can’t unmount a drive, starting a few releases ago, it will tell you. But the dialogs Kurt is seeing aren’t the informative kind that tell you which app is involved.
Folks across the Internet seem to have connected the rise of this issue under El Capitan to Spotlight indexing. They’ve tested whether that was the cause by removing the mounted drive from Spotlight, and then they are able to unmount it. (Open the Spotlight preference pane, click the Privacy tab, and drag the volume into the “Prevent Spotlight from searching these locations” area.)
Failing that, logging out of your OS X account and back in should clear the state, allowing you to unmount it. And if that doesn’t work, a full restart should help.
I’ve discovered in El Capitan, unfortunately, that even in 10.11.4 it retains a few bugs that degrade the experience until rebooted, notably the “items disappear from my sidebar” bug. I documented it back in November 2015, and subsequent release of El Capitan (10.11.2, .3, and .4) seemed to reduce the frequency with which it occurs. But I have heard from readers that they are still seeing this disappearance as well.
Because some sidebar items derive from Spotlight searches, it’s possible that Spotlight is the culprit behind both disk unmount and the temporary loss of sidebar items.
If you want to dive down into the command-line level, launch Applications > Utilities > Terminal, and type precisely:
lsof | grep "/Volumes"
The “list all open files” (lsof) command combined with grep to filter lets you see all open files on attached drives.
The lsof command is short for “list open files,” and sending the results via a pipe | to the grep pattern-recognition command and using /Volumes as the match shows only open files related to items on externally mounted drives. You can look through this list of files, and see if there’s a frozen program or something you need to uninstall that you didn’t realize was active.
Connecting to wireless networks is pretty much mandatory these days, particularly now that most Macs only have wi-fi cards and no built-in ethernet, and so it can be incredibly frustrating to be unable to join a wi-fi network. Typically when you can’t connect to a particular wi-fi router on a Mac, you’ll see the error message “A connection timeout occurred” or “Failed to join network – a connection timeout occurred” either when trying to join a network or when the Mac is attempting to auto-join a wifi router and it fails.
If you see that error message, you should be able to resolve the connection timeout issue by following the steps outlined below.
The troubleshooting steps covered here apply to any and all Macs using nearly any version of Mac OS X, whether it’s on a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, Air, or whatever else you’re using. Note you’re going not be removing wireless networking preferences as part of this sequence, that alone can reliably resolve stubbornly problematic wi-fi issues, but you will lose customizations to wireless settings in the process, so if you set custom DNS or specific DHCP or TCP/IP settings, be prepared to make those changes again.
How to Resolve Mac “Connection Timeout” Error Messages with Wi-Fi Networks
Before anything else, you should reboot the wi-fi router that is having a hard time connecting. Sometimes just turning a router off and back on again is sufficient to resolve connection difficulties.
Turn off wi-fi on the Mac by going to the wireless menu and choosing “Turn Wi-Fi Off”
Eject and disconnect any Thunderbolt or USB drives or disk peripherals that are attached to the computer (I know this sounds weird, just do it)
Next to to the Finder in Mac OS X and create a new folder, call it something like “backup Wi-Fi files” so that it’s easy to identify and put it on the Desktop or another easy to access location
Open a new Finder window, then hit Command+Shift+G to bring up “Go To Folder” (you can also access this from the Go menu), entering the following path:
Select the following files in this directory, and copy them to the “backup Wi-Fi files” folder you made in the third step by using drag and drop:
Back at the “SystemConfiguration” folder with the aforementioned files selected, delete those files by dragging them to the Trash (you will need to authenticate to make this change)
Now reboot the Mac as usual by going to the Apple menu and choosing “Restart”
When the Mac boots back up, go to Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and select the “Network” preference panel
Choose ‘Wi-Fi’ from the side menu, and click the “Turn Wi-Fi On” button, then pull down the “Locations” menu and choose “Edit Locations”
Click on the + plus button to create a new network location, name it something obvious, then click “Done” and using the Network Name menu item choose to join the wi-fi network as usual
Authenticate and login to the router as usual, the wifi network connection should establish without incident and without a connection timeout error
Close out of System Preferences (Choose Apply when asked about network settings) and enjoy your wi-fi connection
Once you have established a wi-fi connection, you can reconnect any USB drives, Thunderbolt drives, USB flash disks, or other peripherals back to the Mac again – why this sometimes impacts wi-fi connections is unclear but for whatever reason, perhaps due to a bug, disconnecting them as part of the sequence usually resolves any connection failed and connection timeout issues.
After the wireless connection is shown to be working as intended, you can trash the ‘backup Wi-Fi files’ folder that was created in this process – the reason we kept those is so that if there is a problem and things are somehow worse (which is incredibly unlikely), you can quickly swap the files back into place again and at least return to the prior point. Of course if you regularly back up your Mac like you should with Time Machine, that’s less of a necessity, but it’s still good practice.
Did this resolve your Mac connection timeout problems? Do you have another trick to fix the issue? Let us know in the comments below.
It’s often only a matter of time before Mac users wind up seeing the dreaded “startup disk almost full” warning message in Mac OS X, which often leads to a frantic dash around the Downloads folder as users trash unnecessary files to attempt to free up disk space. While there’s nothing wrong with going on a manual mission of tracking down where your disk storage vanished to, there are an entire category of disk space analyzer apps available which make the job easier, offering a visual experience that is quickly scannable and actionable.
We’ll cover three of the best and most popular disk space analysis tools available for the Mac, each of which is either free or offers a free trial version to give a good test run with.
A big thing to remember with using these disk analyzer apps is that if you shouldn’t delete anything without discretion, as they sweep the entire drive and inevitably display system files, system folders, and other necessary components of Mac OS X and apps, along with personal documents and accumulated cruft. It’s a good idea to back up the Mac with Time Machine before using these apps if you’re planning on performing some mass file removal, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and lose files or have to reinstall Mac OS X if you deleted critical system files willy-nilly.
DaisyDisk is by far the most attractive storage analysis utility, with a beautiful and intuitive interface that makes finding disk clutter a matter of navigating an interactive colorful wheel. In terms of visualization of your file data, DaisyDisk is superior to anything else available, and it’s also very fast.
Get Daisy Disk from the developer here (free trial available, otherwise $10)
The free version of DaisyDisk is highly functional and will sweep your drive and allow simple quick access to any files or folders found (right-click on anything and choose ‘Show in Finder’), and you could get away with just using the free version if you wanted to, but if you enjoy DaisyDisk enough and find it to be a helpful companion to your Mac experience, the full version is money well spent.
OmniDiskSweeper is great and the interface is quite similar to using the Finder in Column view, making it very easy to navigate to large files and folders throughout the file system hierarchy. The files are shown in descending order by size, so it’s very easy to figure out what’s eating up storage space.
Get OmniDiskSweeper from the developer (free)
OmniDiskSweeper has long been one of my favorite free utilities available for the Mac, and I use it often for my own computer and when trying to figure out what’s eating the disk space of other Macs I may encounter. We have discussed using OmniDiskSweeper before here on multiple occasions, it’s a great tool.
Disk Inventory X
Disk Inventory X has been around on the Mac for quite some time, it is an oldie but goodie. Though the interface could use some updating, the functionality remains high and the app works great for discovering large blocks of data (for example, a gazillion photos or zip archives). Perhaps the only issue is that in modern versions of Mac OS X, files can be assigned to the app they open with rather than their file type, which may lead to some confusion. Nonetheless, Disk Inventory X is free too, so if you decide it’s not your cup of tea you’re out nothing but a few mb of bandwidth.
Get Disk Inventory X here from the developer (free)
A significant perk of DiskInventoryX having been around for ages is that it’s widely supported on much earlier versions of Mac OS X, so if you’re working on an older Mac with earlier system software, this may be the solution you’re looking for.
Bonus: The Finder!
If you don’t want to download any third party utilities, or perhaps you can’t for whatever reason, the Mac search function within the Finder is able to find large files in Mac OS X too. You’ll just need to set a minimum file size to look for, and away it goes.
The Finder search function works reasonably well for this purpose, but for many Mac users they will find one of the above third party utilities to be easier to quickly scan for large groups of files on a drive with.
Know of any other great utilities to analyze disk storage space and files on a Mac? Let us know in the comments!