Top 12 OS X 10.11 El Capitan Tips and Tricks

BY Kelly Hodgkins

Published 1 Oct 2015

OS X El Capitan logo

OS X El Capitan is a solid update that improves upon the changes Apple introduced with OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If your Mac is running Yosemite, the update is a must-install as it improves the overall performance of the operating system. It also includes a handful of new features such as an improved Spotlight search, a new Mission Control interface and a new split-screen view that lets you work with two windows in a side-by-side orientation. To help you get started with OS X El Capitan, we have prepared a list of tips and tricks.

#1. Auto-hide the menu bar

Just like the dock at the bottom, you now can auto-hide the top menu bar in OS X El Capitan. Here’s how:

  1. Open the System Preferences.
  2. Select General.
  3. Click the checkbox next to “Automatically hide and show the menu. bar” at the top.
  4. Close the System Preferences menu.

Once auto-hide is enabled, the menu bar will disappear until you place your cursor at the top of screen.


#2. Rename files from the contextual menu

Now in El Capitan, you can easily rename files and folders using the contextual menu as follows:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Locate a file or folder that you want to change.
  3. Control-click on the file (or right-click) to open the contextual menu for that item.
  4. Choose “Rename” from the contextual menu.
  5. Type in the new name.
  6. Hit the Return key to make the name change permanent.


#3. Use Split View mode to work side-by-side

You can easily work with two apps in a side-by-side orientation using the new split view in OS X EL Capitan. Here’s how:

  1. Click and hold the green fullscreen button in the upper left corner of an application window until the window shrinks and one side of your screen is highlighted.
  2. Drag the active window to the left side or right side of your screen depending on your preferences.
  3. Open the second app by clicking on one of the app thumbnails that appear in the opposite pane.

Once you are working in split screen view, you can use the black border in the center to adjust the relative sizes of the windows. You also can use the “Esc” key or select the green fullscreen button at the top to exit split view mode.


#4. Enable Split View from Mission Control

You also can use Mission Control to quickly enable split view on your Mac as follows:

  1. Make sure the apps you want to use in split screen mode are open.
  2. Open Mission Control using the icon on the dock or by selecting Launchpad and then the Mission Control icon. You also can use a four-finger drag up gesture on your trackpad.
  3. Drag one app to the top of the screen to create a new desktop. NOTE: if you already have an existing desktop, you can just drop the app to the existing desktop app and skip the next step.
  4. Drag and drop the second app onto the desktop at the top of the Mission Control screen.
  5. Click on the desktop at the top of the Mission Control screen that has both apps running to open those apps in split view mode.

When you are done working split view mode, you can use the Escape button or click on the green full-screen button to exit.


#5. Resize Split View Windows

When you are working in split view, you can easily adjust the sizes of the two windows. Here’s how:

  1. Place the cursor in the middle of the two split view apps until you see the divider resize icon appear.
  2. Click and hold on the divider.
  3. Drag to resize the windows until they are the size you want.

#6. Bypass the Trash and delete files immediately

In OS X El Capitan, you can delete files immediately without sending them to the trash first. Any file that you delete using this method is gone forever and cannot be restored easily as this method bypasses the trash. Here’s how to delete a file immediately and permanently:

  1. Open a Finder window.
  2. Select the file you want to delete.
  3. Hold down the Option key on your keyboard.
  4. Select the File menu at the top of your screen while still holding down the Option key.
  5. Choose “Delete Immediately” from the file menu.
  6. OS X will ask you if you want to delete the file and will remind you that the deletion is permanent.
  7. Click “Delete” on the confirmation box to delete your file or “Cancel” if you have changed your mind.

As an alternative, you can skip the file menu and use the Option-Command-Delete keyboard shortcut instead.


#7. Locate your cursor by shaking your mouse or trackpad

With all these windows, desktops and apps, it’s easy to lose track of your onscreen cursor. Here’s how to find it in OS X 10.11:

  1. If you have a mouse, grab it and shake it vigorously.
  2. If you have a trackpad, tap and hold on the surface of the trackpad. Then move your fingers back and forth quickly.
  3. As you move your mouse or fingers, your cursor will grow in size until you can easily find it on your Mac’s display. The cursor gets very big, so big that you cannot miss it.

#8. Use a gray background in Safari Reader

Safari Reader is an option within Safari that takes a web page and removes all the superfluous content, With all the advertisements, banners and other clutter gone, the web page becomes  very easy and enjoyable to read. To further improve the experience, Apple has added support for a gray background in Reader mode. Here’s how you can activate it:

  1. Launch Safari and open the web page you want to read.
  2. Click on the Reader button (series of lines) located on the top left side of the URL address box.
  3. Select the font button (the letter aA) on the top right side of the URL address box.
  4. This opens the font and color selection menu.
  5. Tap on the new gray color choice that is available between sepia and black.


#9. How to Pin a tab in Safari

In OS X El Capitan, you can pin a tab in Safari where it will sit in alongside your other open tabs. These pinned tabs stay open, always updating their information and available with a single click. The feature was designed to be a quick and easy way to access your most frequently visited websites. Here’s how to pin a tab and save it for easy viewing:

  1. Open the site you want to pin in a new or existing Safari window.
  2. Right click on the tab that contains the site and then click on “Pin Tab.” Alternatively, you can grab a tab and drag it all the way to the left of the tab bar, where it will automatically turn into a permanent Pinned site.
  3. The pinned sites always will appear to the left of your tabs in Safari.
  4. When you want to read a pinned site, simply select one to open it in a full page view.

You can easily unpin a site in Safari by right clicking on a Pin and selecting “Unpin.” You also can grab a pin and drag it back to the other tabs to remove if from your list of pinned sites.

image Safari pinned sites

#10. Mute all tabs in Safari

Safari in OS X El Capitan has a handy one-step feature that allows you to mute all browser tabs that are playing audio. Here’s how:

  1. When audio is laying in the browser, simply find an existing tab or open a new tab in Safari that is not playing any sound.
  2. Click the Mute All Tabs button in the URL address bar of this new tab to silence the entire browser.

This action will mute the sound from all the tabs that are open in Safari. To restore sound, you can click the “Mute All Tabs” button again to unmute all of your tabs.


#11. Mute individual Safari tabs

Besides muting all the sounds in Safari, you also can mute individual tabs that are source of any background sound as follows:

  1. Find the Safari tab that is playing music .
  2. Click the sound icon on the tab you want to mute
  3. Click the sound icon again to unmute that tab.

If you have multiple tabs with sound, you can click the sound icon in each one to mute and unmute them individually.


#12. Where do we find the three-finger drag gesture?

In previous versions of OS X, Apple provided a three-finger drag gesture that was used to select text as well as drag items on the screen. This gesture was especially popular among people with carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand and wrist problems because it was easier to use than the comparable two-finger version.

In OS X EL Capitan, Apple has moved the settings for this gesture from the Trackpad settings to the Accessibility settings. Here is where you can enable this three-finger drag:

  1. Open the OS X System Preferences.
  2. Select Accessibility.
  3. Find the Mouse & Trackpad settings on the left.
  4. Click on Trackpad Options.
  5. Click on the checkbox for “Enable Dragging.”
  6. Click on “Three Finger Drag” in the dropdown menu.


Share your OS X El Capitan Tips and Tricks

Do you have your own El Capitan tips and tricks? Or maybe you have found some interesting features that were not publicized by Apple? Please share them in the comments.