Secrets of OS X Mavericks: What You Really Need To Know

Justin Pot 01-11-2013

You probably already know about the major features of the latest, free upgrade for Mac OS X Apple Makes New OS X Mavericks Available for Free in Mac App Store Apple's latest OS X upgrade, Mavericks, is available for free download, and users can upgrade from previous OS X versions, starting with version 10.5. (Back up your Mac before you begin the upgrade process.) Read More . Here are the hidden ones.


You’ve kept up with the news, and you know about Finder’s tabs, Safari’s new list of shared links and the fix Apple finally provided for users of multiple monitors. You read about App Nap and the other tricks Mavericks uses to extend the battery life of your MacBook, and know that the skeuomorphic tendencies have been stripped from Calendar and Contacts.

“But wait…there’s more”, as Steve Jobs loved to say. Here are the little-known Mavericks features users can start using right now.

Offline Dictation

Many users haven’t noticed, but since Mountain Lion OS X has included dictation. The hitch: users needed to be online to use it.

Not so in Mavericks. Download a 785 MB file and your words will no longer be sent to Apple’s headquarters before being converted to text. The service starts as it did in Mountain Lion – by pressing the Fn button two times:
mac dictation
In addition to not being offline, dictation now happens in something approaching realtime. This means you can see your words show up as you talk, and even make changes with your keyboard without turning off dictation.

As Bakari demonstrated, Apple’s dictation feature needs some work Can You Write A Whole Article Using Voice Dictation on the Mac? Well I Just Did (And This Is It) What you're reading right now is an example of Apple's dictation and speech program in action. It may be useful for short passages, but can you write a whole article with it? Read More compared to Dragon Naturally Speaking. Still, it’s not terrible – and free – so try it out.


Quick Responses

With Mountain Lion, Apple introduced a native notifications system – something previously only offered by third-party program Growl.

Mavericks brings interactive notifications to this system, meaning you can respond to IMs (via Messages) and emails (via Mail) directly from notification notifications:


It’s not exactly hidden, but if you don’t use Mail or Messages you probably haven’t noticed it. As of this writing, few third party programs have taken advantage of the feature (I hope that changes). Responding to tweets or Google Voice like this would be awesome, and I’m sure you can think of a few more potential uses.


Do Not Disturb

Trying to get some work done? A good information diet Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Clay Johnson compares this to a bad diet. "If you only... Read More demands that you eliminate distractions while doing so, and Mavericks understands this. A “Do Not Disturb” function in the Notification Center lets you turn off all pop-ups until the next day, just like the feature does on iOS. Get to it by opening the Notification Center, then scrolling up:


Alternatively, you can Option-click the notification center icon on the menubar to turn off notifications for the day. This isn’t entirely new: a similar function in Mountain Lion was called “Turn Off Notifications”.

Spot Energy Sucking Apps

Heres a feature you may not notice right away. Click the battery, and your Mac will tell you which apps are using up “Significant Energy”:



This is part of Apple’s efforts to extend battery life on Macs. This effort also includes App Nap, which puts apps you’re not currently using to sleep, and a new Activity Monitor that includes a tab dedicated to monitor energy usage per-app:


With these two tools you’re empowered to stretch your battery’s life for all it’s worth. Close programs that are sucking up juice, favour those that aren’t.



From the “Not sure why” department: your Mac now has system-wide Emoji. Yes, you read that properly. Just press Control, Command and Space to see this box:


Useless? Probably. Cool? Kind of.

Special Characters

And now, a hidden feature hidden inside another hidden feature. The seemingly useless emoji menu also gives you access to special characters. So next time you need to Trademark Something™ or request proper recycling (?), you need only press Control, Command and Space, then click the icon to the right of all the happy faces:

mavericks-special characters

Put The Dashboard Wherever You Want

Not a huge deal, but nice. When Misson Control was introduced with Lion, the Dashboard moved from an overlay to a separate space, to the left of all workspaces (you can bring back the overlay option in the settings). With Mavericks you can put the Dashboard anywhere you like: to the right of your workspaces, or between any two. Just drag it where you want it.

Post To LinkedIn From The Notification Center

To most LinkedIn is a spam machine, but to a few it’s a functioning social network. If you’re in the latter, and like to post from the notification center, add LinkedIn to the “Web Accounts” section in OS X and you’ll find a form for posting messages in the notification center.


Is There More?

Of course, if you’re upgrading from Snow Leopard, you might not know about features introduced in the relatively new Lion and Mountain Lion releases. Lucky for you, we’ve got a Mountain Lion manual A Complete Beginner's Guide to macOS: Get Started in Just 1 Hour Our complete guide to macOS will show you everything you need to get started and comfortable with a brand new MacBook or iMac. Read More and a Lion manual A Complete Beginner's Guide to macOS: Get Started in Just 1 Hour Our complete guide to macOS will show you everything you need to get started and comfortable with a brand new MacBook or iMac. Read More that go over everything new in those systems – all of which you’ll find in Mavericks.

Or, if you don’t want to upgrade but want some of these features, you should know that Simon outlined how to get Mavericks features without upgrading Don't Wait! Get These Mac OS X Mavericks Features Now Mac OS X Mavericks isn't anything like the big reboot we're seeing in iOS 7, but this update brings a lot of long overdue features to the Mac, like tabs in Finder, better multiple monitor... Read More , so check that out first if you’re nervous.

Are there any hidden gems I’ve neglected to mention here? Please let me, and everyone else who reads this, know about them in the comments below.

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  1. Brian Smith
    November 4, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks for the info. Being a new Mac user every little but of knowledge helps.
    ???? and emoji works (vbg)

    • Skye
      November 5, 2013 at 1:49 am

      I moved from windows to mac Dec 2012 and feeling like a pro doesn't take long, truthfully there are just so many great articles and tips ( like this & others). That I found it fun becoming a mac user, and I learnt/ learn so much from MUO too! GoodLuck

    • Justin P
      November 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      It means a lot to me and the other writers that you'd take the time to say that, so thanks.

  2. Mike
    November 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Nice, useful article, I'm forwarding it to my Mac-using friends...

    Oh, one more thing...

    I'm not a huge Jobs fan - or even a Mac user - but even I know that Jobs' famous quote was not "but wait... there's more"... ;-)

  3. Miriam
    November 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I discovered you can exempt an application from AppNap: in the finder bring up the Information window and tick "Prevent AppNap".

    • Justin P
      November 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Nice one, and useful if you've got apps you don't want taking breaks on you.

  4. Ex2Bot
    November 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Emoji are apparently huge in Japan.

  5. Denis Kharin
    November 4, 2013 at 7:17 am

    You forgot about JAVA=) download JAVA manually , it wasn't included in mavericks.

  6. Nick
    November 1, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Why is everyone reporting the do not disturb is a Mavericks feature? This existed in Mountain Lion too.