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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Use modifier keys for screen corner hotspots

I thought my MacBook was on its way out and was developing a serious fault. I would be using it normally and it would be working fine, but then all of a sudden the display would go black. After hitting a few keys it would return. It was very strange. After several weeks of this I eventually realised that I had turned the screen corners into hotspots that instantly put the display to sleep to conserve power. I must have been accidentally activating this feature by putting the mouse cursor into a corner and the Mac was simply doing what it had been configured to do. Setting up the screen corners to automatically activate the screen saver, put the display to sleep, access the Dashboard or Spaces is easy. The way to avoid accidentally triggering these features is to use a modifier key, but it's a hidden feature that is not obvious.

Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click Expose & Spaces and then select the Expose tab. At the top of the window is the ability to define Active Screen Corners. Click one of the four pop-up menus - one for each corner - and you can select from a menu of actions that will be performed when the mouse is positioned in the corner. You can define a different action for eacch corner, such as to put the display to sleep in one corner and to start the screen saver in another corner.

screen corner hotspotsThe problem is (well, my problam was...) that it is easy to accidentally activate an action by putting the mouse in the corner. For example, go to the Apple menu in the top left corner and you could move the mouse just a little buit too far and activate the screen saver, or go to Spotlight in the top right corner and you could put the display to sleep. The solution is to use a modifier key.

Click one of the four pop-up menus to choose an action for a screen corner and then press the Shift, Ctrl, Option (Alt), or Command (Apple) keys. Press them one at a time or two or more together. You'll see that the menus change according to which keys you press. If you select an action with the key pressed, such as Shift, then the action will only be carried out if you park the mouse in the screen corner while that key is pressed. So to activate the screen saver or put the screen to sleep, you would hold down Shift as you move the mouse to the screen corner. That's something you aren't likely to do accidentally. So the screen corner hotspots only work when you want them to work and that's much better.



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