How to Avoid Losing Sight of Your OS X Cursors

| How-To

Let's talk cursors. Actually, it's the old-timers who say "cursors" while everyone else calls them "pointers." Apple uses both terms interchangeably in their documentation (yes, Apple does provide documentation, which can be found at 

Pointers are the endearing little on-screen indicators designed to provide feedback to users. According to the latest revision of Apple's Human Interface Guidelines document, there are eighteen system pointers in OS X.

OS X System pointers

A few of the typical OS X system pointers

The two system pointers we're most familiar with are the "mouse pointer" – "arrow" is it's official moniker – and the “I-beam." The latter is used to indicate the text insertion point wherever you need to... you know… insert text. And then, there is the dreaded "Spinning Pizza of Death.” Well, that’s what I call it, anyway.

The spinning wait cursor

The Spinning Wait Cursor (that's Apple's terminology

For the sake of accuracy, let's call it what Apple deems to be the official name: the "Spinning Wait Cursor." On second thought, "Spinning Pizza of Death" is more fun. And tasty, too, come to think of it. You don't want to see this one often. The details as to why we see it on occasion, as well as how to avoid it, are subjects reserved for future discussion. Suffice it to say that you want to minimize the appearance of this pirouetting pinwheel, which basically indicates that OS X is commandeering the system for its own needs and may be a harbinger of serious system maintenance.

Next: Resizing the Pointer

Popular TMO Stories


Melissa Davis

Walt as in Disney? I’m curious about the name now.
I use this feature with my seniors who have macular degeneration all the time. They find it so helpful. It’s also a good refresher on the proper vocabulary terms. Thanks!


“Walt as in Disney? I’m curious about the name now.”

That would be “wait” cursor. Zoom your screen and you’ll see the dot over the “i”.


The new bug is frustrating where the cursor just plain disappears completely in some Adobe Apps. If you hit the tab key sometimes it comes back, if you quit and relaunch the app it always comes back. But in either instance it disappears again after a period of time. Very frustrating and frequently occurs in Photoshop.


I’m looking for an app or some way I can also make the cursor red, or some other color. Suggestions?


I want an app to change the arrow color red or something.
Any ideas?

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account