macOS: Finding the Hidden Advanced Display Preferences

Display Preferences

Apple continues simplifying our System Preferences options in macOS, seemingly removing features we were accustomed to. One of those is the Detect Displays button, which appears missing from macOS Sierra 10.12. It turns out that option is still there, and many others, with a simple keystroke.

Display Preferences
The Display Preferences in macOS have more options than you might realize (Image Credit: Unsplash)

Modifier Keys Are Nothing New to macOS

It’s not unusual for modifier keys to open up new options in OS X and macOS. That’s typically how Apple “hides” things the developers and engineers think non-power users shouldn’t have access to. We’ve learned quite a few of these hidden options, though.

Press the Option key before you click the Volume icon, and you can see both your output and input devices. Holding the same key before clicking the Wi-Fi icon gives you lots of details about your wireless network. And, of course, pressing the option key from Finder’s Go menu shows some hidden folders.

Using the Option Key in Display Preferences

There are a couple of things the Option key does in Display Preferences. For reference, here’s what Display Preferences looks like on my Mac Mini, before I press the Option key.

display preferences
The default Display Preference options in macOS Sierra

If you press the Option with the Display Preferences window active, you’ll see the Detect Displays button show up. This is nice if your Mac has somehow “lost” one of your attached monitors or projectors, and I’m not really sure why Apple hid it this way.

display preferences
When you press Option, you’ll see the Detect Displays button appear

Another feature you can take advantage of lies in setting the resolution for your display. With the Scaled option selected, you’ll see quite a few native resolutions for your monitor and graphics chip. However, if you press the Option key as you click the Scaled radio button, you’ll see even more resolutions for you to pick from.

display preferences
Additional resolutions, like 1920×2160, appear when I Option-Click Scaled

Good Options for Advanced Users

The Option key combination provides great choices for advanced users. This is as true in Display Preferences as anywhere else. Just be careful with the resolution choices, as some of them might not be native to your display or Mac. That means they might not work out for you, even though they’re listed.

2 thoughts on “macOS: Finding the Hidden Advanced Display Preferences

  • This only works on external displays – it is broken on internal displays, at least on a “retina” MacBook Pro.

    For some stupid reason, Apple seems to have decided to disable this functionality for internal displays.

  • If only it were so easy on Windoze 10, two displays, can only get one working at once, DOH!.

    One of them is a 20 inch Apple Cinema Display through a DVI / ADC convertor.. gorgeous, pin sharp resolution. Still.

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