How to Enable a Hidden Debug Menu in Photo Booth for Mac OS X

May 23, 2013 - Leave a Comment

Photo Booth icon Photo Booth is the goofy picture taking application in OS X that can take normal shots or apply a bunch of weird effects to distort faces. It’s not the most complex app in the world and that’s by design, but if you like to dig into things a bit more than the average Mac user, you can enable a hidden debug menu that can adjust some behavior of Photo Booth.

This won’t give you any new effects (though you can reveal some hidden ones separately if you’re into that sort of thing), but it does offer a few features that may help performance on Mac models.

Enabling the Debug Menu in Photo Booth

Launch Terminal and enter the following defaults write command:

defaults write com.apple.PhotoBooth EnableDebugMenu 1

Relaunch Photo Booth to reveal the debug menu on the right side of menus:

Photo Booth debug menu in Mac OS X

Pulling down the menu reveals the following options:

  • Show FrameMeter – this displays the frames-per-second (FPS) of the active Photo Booth session
  • Preprocess Full Previews on GPU – this offloads processing to the Macs GPU, turn this off and CPU will be used instead, this does cause a significant increase in CPU usage
  • Preprocess Mini Previews on GPU – offloads processing of the thumbnail effect previews to the GPU or CPU, depending on the setting
  • Use CVOpenCLTextureCache – determines whether or not to use CoreVideo texture caches, you can read more at Apple’s developer library if you are curious
  • Bypass QC for no FX – Determines whether to bypass Quartz Composer or not, QuartzComposer is used to create the funky face effects
  • Enable Reflections – shows reflections on the Photo Booth borders when in full screen mode, enabled in windowed mode adds weird reflections into the video frame itself

For the most part, these options aren’t too useful for the average user, and this was clearly included for the developers of Photo Booth. That said, seeing the framerate and toggling CPU or GPU usage can be helpful if you’re trying to make the app perform better on some older Macs. The frame rate data and video processing options are shown in the lower left corner of the Photo Booth app:

Photo Booth debug menu and frame rate shown

Because the FPS data is shown all the time when it has been enabled, it’s probably not a good idea to leave this on all the time since it overlays a stored image thumbnail.

Hiding the Debug Menu in Photo Booth

Decided the debug menu isn’t for you? It’s easy to hide again, just toggle it off with another defaults command:

defaults write com.apple.PhotoBooth EnableDebugMenu 0

Relaunch Photo Booth app for the menu to disappear, back to its default state.

You can enable similar debug menus in a variety of default apps, including Safari (by far the most useful), Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Apple Remote Desktop, the Mac App Store, amongst others. The defaults command is always the same, just change the com.apple.* string to include the application name: com.apple.Safari or com.apple.Reminders, etc. If you poke around and find something new, be sure to send us an email or let us know on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

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