MacMost Now 822: Quick Access To Displays Preferences

Mountain Lion took away quick access to your Displays preferences by removing the menu bar icon that was in previous versions of OS X. But you can still get to Displays preferences quickly using a keyboard shortcut, the Dock, or an AppleScript. You can also get a third-party app that adds the handy menu bar icon back.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 822: Quick Access To Displays Preferences.

Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's talk about quick ways to get to your display preferences in Mountain Lion.

Now one of the changes that came with Mountain Lion was the removal of the little menu bar icon in the upper right that allowed you to quickly access your display preferences. You could change the resolution of your display, you could set mirroring on and off, things like that. We don't have that anymore but it is still easy to get to your display preferences if you need to.

So the typical way to get to your display preferences is to go to your Apple menu and go to System Preferences and from there click on displays. Now that is a lot of steps so it would be nice to have a shortcut. In fact there is a keyboard shortcut to get there.

Now if you notice on your Apple keyboard at the top where you have the function keys you've got special functions that can perform. For instance the volume key is usually around F10, F11 and they control volume going up and down. F1 and F2 are brightness controls which are display controls. The cool thing is that if you use the Option key with one of these you can get directly to the System Preferences that match whatever the function is. So for instance if you wanted to get to your sound system preferences you do Option and then the volume up or volume down or mute keys at the top of your keyboard. Likewise if you you hit Option and F1 or F2 which are brightness and instantly go to the system preferences for the Display.

Now if you've got things toggled so those keys are actually F keys, F1, F2 rather than the brightness control keys then you need to hit the fn key on your keyboard. There is a fn, sometimes at the bottom left or sometimes near the upper right, you hold that down, then hold down Option, and then hit one of the two brightness control keys at the top and that will instantly launch system preferences and go right to Displays. Really quick, the quickest way to get there.

You may already have System Preferences here at the bottom in the Dock. If you don't it is easy to get it there. You go to System Preferences and then you see it appears on the right side of the Dock. Drag it from the right side over to the left side, anywhere that you want, and now when you quit System Preferences it will stay there. Now you can access it quickly by clicking on it and it goes to System Preferences. But if you Control click on it you actually get a list of all your system preferences and you can quickly access Displays that way.

Here is something else you can do. You can use Automator or the AppleScript editor to create a simple Apple script. Using Automator I use the Run AppleScript command here, dragged it over to this side and I added this to the middle of it basically tell application System Preferences to activate set current pane to pane to "" end tell. So you can see the complete script right there. Pretty easy. I created this as an application and now I can save it and I'm just going to save it to my desktop here and I've got it here as this just I'll quit Automator and when I run you will see that it will launch that preference pane. I can now add this to the Dock if I wanted to and have an instant way to get there.

You may have noticed that I have up here a Menu icon that looks like it might be the Displays menu. In fact it is! The way I've got this is I haven't brought it back from line or anything like that I've just added a third party app that adds this icon here and all sorts of controls for your Displays. You can see I've got two displays. I can set them. I can turn mirroring on and off. I can use Detect Displays just like you could before Mountain Lion.

So how did I get this? It is pretty easy. Just go to the Mac App store. It is call Display Menu. It is free and I'm sure there are other ones that do this as well. This is just the first one I came across some time ago and I've been using it ever since.

So one final tip. If you do go to System Preferences and go to Displays one thing that we had before that was very useful, especially if you are somebody that makes presentations all the time using all sorts of different projectors and displays hooked up to your MacBook say, was a Detect Displays button. This was helpful when you had say an old projector and that just for some reason you hook it up to your Mac it didn't recognize it right away. So you had to sometimes disconnect and reconnect or hit the very handy Detect Displays button. You can see that it is not there. But actually it is. If I hold the Option key down, you can see I'm holding the Option key down here and the Gather Windows button changes to Detect Displays. So you still have that button there. It is very handy for sort of jump-starting a presentation hooked up to a projector. You still have that you just have to remember to hit the Option key.

So the reason the Display Menu icon isn't there anymore is for most Mac users if you are using an iMac, if you are using a MacBook you don't need to mess with displays. You are only ever using your main display. That's probably 90% of all Mac users. But if you are somebody who gives a lot of presentations or you have a monitor at your desk or someplace you usually go to that you sometimes connect to it can be handy to have quick access to this so you can check or set your display settings.

I hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 3 Responses to “MacMost Now 822: Quick Access To Displays Preferences”

    6 years ago

    Hi, just wanted to ask if there is a way to disconnect or to blank the projector without having to unplug the cable form my Mac.

      6 years ago

      I can’t think of one. If you have it mirrored, maybe you can get a similar result by turning mirroring off to display something else there.

    6 years ago

    These were really great tips. I do several presentations and knowing these shortcuts will definitely be beneficial. Thanks again!

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