OS X El Capitan: How to Optimize the Cursor Size and Shakability

OS X El Capitan introduced a long-awaited feature. That's the ability to shake the mouse to magnify the cursor and make it more visible. But there's more you can do with the cursor, and I am abashed that I didn't find this trick earlier.


One of the most overlooked System Preferences in OS X is, in my book, Accessibility. It sits out there in the nether regions beyond Time Machine and looks like something only people with certain handicaps would be interested in. Even its icon could be off-putting.

Easy to overlook or dismiss.

However, the Accessibility preferences can go a long way towards customizing the Mac to suit your visual preferences in ways that you may not have explored. As I found out.

For example, the current trend is towards displays with much higher resolution than we've ever had: 4K and 5K displays. I myself have transitioned from a display that I thought was adequate (2560 by 1440) to one that is 3440 x 1440. With resolutions like this, it's all to easy to occasionally lose track of the cursor whether or not you have El Capitan's "Shake Mouse Pointer to locate" enabled. (It's found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. See below.)

The reason you may want to tweak things here is because there's a very short delay, about a second, from when you start shaking the mouse until the cursor is fully magnified. If the cursor were a bit larger to begin with, you may not have to shake the cursor so vigorously or so often.

And that's the interesting visual balance I've been overlooking since El Capitan shipped last September. This notion works because the default, it seems, is still the smallest possible cursor. By making the cursor just a bit bigger to begin with, one doesn't have to engage quite as often with that (delayed) magnified cursor.

Making the cursor a bit bigger can complement the Shake setting nicely.

Of course, the balance here may be different for different users. Those who do a lot of fine detail work may want to have the smallest possible cursor. Others with older eyes and big displays may want a cursor that's always larger than the tiny, what Apple's labels, "Normal" default.

Finally, it's nice to know where to turn on/off the new El Capitan "Shake mouse..." feature.

In any case, there's a visual trade-off to be made here between the default cursor size and that time delay. In other words, if the cursor starts out larger, shaking need not be so frequent. I'm happy to have found this interesting trade-off in testing. This seemingly small adjustment has pleased me greatly. I hope it helps you as well.


Cursor icon via Shutterstock.