7 of the Biggest Mac Annoyances & How to Fix Them

May 30, 2017 - 75 Comments

Fixing some frustrations on the Mac

The Mac is a fantastic platform that is intuitive, user friendly, easy to use, powerful, and comparatively free of problems and nuisances. But that’s not to say that Mac OS doesn’t have some frustrating aspects or features too. This post aims to address some of the bigger annoyances that may be encountered on a Mac, with easy solutions on how to adjust them and fix the perceived hassle.

We’re covering some common complaints with mysterious gestures, nagging alerts, sound effects, eye candy which can be visually challenging, unexpected click behavior, constant password entry, and more.


And yes, most of these tricks apply to all modern versions of Mac OS and Mac OS X, though which pertain to you, your Mac, and what you find annoying or not is going to entirely be subjective to each user.

Where are my scroll bars? Constantly Show the Scroll Bars

Many computer users like to have scroll bars always visible, rather than only when they are scrolling or based on the input method. This is easy to change in Mac OS.

This is easy to change by going to the  Apple menu > System Preferences > General > Show Scroll Bars > “Always”

Show the scroll bars on the Mac

What’s with all these Notification alerts? Disable the Constant Notifications Nagging & Alerts

Do you hate the endless stream of alerts and notification badges popping up in the corner of your Mac screen constantly? You know… new message, software updates available, iCloud photo posted, new text message, new email, your browser needs updating, disk not ejected properly, password required, new Calendar invite… etc etc, Notification Center can be an endless stream of distraction for some Mac users. If you’re annoyed with all that, you can use a workaround to disable the notifications completely by having perpetual Do Not Disturb mode enabled. Sure, you can manually toggle various Notification Center alerts off and on too, but that’s a lot more work, so here’s how to just turn on constant Do Not Disturb and get some peace

Go  Apple menu > System Preferences > Notifications > toggle “Turn on Do Not Disturb” from “12:01 am” to “12:00 am” to never see a pestering alert badge again (unless you turn off Do Not Disturb anyway).

Turn off constant Mac notifications and alerts

Why does a click not work as expected sometimes? Turn Off Force Click on Trackpad

The Force Click trackpad on newer MacBook models is an interesting idea, as it detects pressure on the trackpad and then triggers different actions depending on the pressure level. It’s current implementation has frustrated some Mac users who may find themselves accidentally enabling the feature or triggering an unexpected event without intentionally doing so, when all they want to do is click. Turning off Force Click prevents this confusion.

Go to the  Apple menu > System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click > uncheck “Force Click and haptic feedback”

Turn off force click

Why does my Mac quack or pop? Turn Off Popping Sound / Quack When Changing Volume

If you’d like to change your Mac computer volume in silence, you can turn off the auditory feedback on volume changes – a pop on modern Mac releases, a quack on older system software. This is one of those feature that’s either loved or hated, I personally like the volume feedback but I know some other Mac users who hate it. If you want to adjust this yourself, here is where to turn:

Go  Apple menu > System Preferences > Sound and turn off “Play feedback when volume is changed”

Stop the Mac quack or pop volume sound

How can I stop accidentally going back or forward? Disable the Sideways Page Swipe Gesture

Gestures can be fantastic, but not when you enable them accidentally or don’t know they work. I recently watched someone using a Mac and as they were swiping around on the screen they kept accidentally triggering the sideways swipe between pages gesture, which will go forward or backward in a web browser, move back and forth in pages and books, etc. They said it happened all the time and had no idea why…. this happens because a user has two fingers on the trackpad and a slight swipe left or right with two fingers on a trackpad defaults to going “back” or “forward”. This can be turned off if you find this to be cumbersome to your workflow:

Go  Apple menu > System Preferences > Trackpad > More Gestures > turn off “Swipe between pages”

Turn off swipe between pages gesture on Mac

How can I make things easier to see? Turn Off Visual Translucency Eye Candy Effects

The transparent effects through modern versions of Mac OS can look very fancy, but they can also make things a bit more visually challenging for reading and interacting with, and in some cases can slow down a Mac too. Transparency is easy to turn off on the Mac if you don’t like this sort of eye candy.

Go  Apple menu > System Preferences > Accessibility > Display > check “Reduce transparency”

Turn off transparent interface Mac

How can I stop typing my download password? Stop Entering a Password for Free Downloads

If you download free apps from the Mac App Store often, you may be tired of entering the Apple ID password constantly to complete a free purchase and download the app. This is an easy settings adjustment that lets you save the Mac App Store password for free downloads while still requiring it for purchases.

Go  Apple menu > System Preferences > App Store > Look for “Free Downloads” > Save Password

Stop entering a password for free downloads

Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any of your own to share? Do you have any other feature-related nuisances or annoyances with Mac OS that you’d like to figure out? Let us know in the comments!

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

75 Comments

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  1. David says:

    Also click ‘differntiate without color’ and increase the contrast a little bit, then it is more obvious what is a button and what is just text

  2. Ogles of Kansas says:

    Good list, I have some of this turned off on my Mac. My biggest issue with Mac is software quality and how macOS is just buggy and slow now compared to what it used to be. I also hate the touch bar and want abnormal keyboard again.

    I have some annoyances for iPhone

    – no headphone jack

    – alerts notifications for useless stuff

    – background activity drains battery

    – the new lock screen is still swiped constantly

    – keyboard clicks

    – iCloud

    – storage issues

    • DCJ001 says:

      All iPhones have headphone jacks. iPhone 7/7 Plus uses the Lightning port with an adapter.

      Notifications for useless stuff can easily be turned off.

      Background activity that drains the battery can be turned off.

      Lock screen?

      Keyboard clicks can be turned off.

      iCloud is great!

      Storage issues?

  3. Jim Parr says:

    I’d like to turn off the swiping gestures in Apple Mail. I often find myself about to delete an email or mark it read or unread when I don’t want to. It’s useful on the iPhone and I expect it there, but there’s no need for it on the Mac.

    • Sue D. says:

      I concur!

    • Wm Magill says:

      The Swiping features are inherent with a touchpad input device.

      Don’t use the touchpad and you won’t have those issues.

      • mishendr says:

        Not true, with my Mac I use a Magic Mouse, and the swiping-issue is there as well. Scrolling is nice, but scrolling through your list of emails and then constantly getting the “remove etc” options is an annoyance. I however conquer with DCJ001, most of the mentioned annoyances can be tweaked.

  4. Dieter Schaffner says:

    Re the annoying notifications that appear in the top right corner. Is there a way to change the location to another corner? Particularly the notifications about Security updates, and no option to turn off completely. If I’m not ready to install the update (I usually wait and read up about it, check for user comments etc) I can only delay the notification for 24 hours (Remind me tomorrow). I find this very annoying and pushy by Apple!

    • Kevin says:

      You can switch off notifications by turning on Do Not Disturb in notifications. For software update notifications you can turn that off in System Preferences/Appstore. Nobody is pushing anything onto you. If you took the time to understand your OS you’d know about all these things.

  5. Nomi Kluger-Nash says:

    The spell checker is not good at all. How to improve it? Problems: 1) the vocabulary is very limited, 2) it does not accept (as Microsoft does) my own words in their checker.

    Hoping there is an answer to this.

    • Kevin says:

      You can. Right click on any word you want added to your preferred spelling and select “Learn Spelling”, and it will be added, much easier than MS, or you can add specific words in the keyboard settings in system preferences.

      • Fnordmeister says:

        Better idea: Rewrite the spell checker so that if a certain word shows up N times, it’s automatically put into the dictionary. (If the programmer wants to remain a control freak, he/she can provide a pop-up to change the value of N.)

      • Art Adelman says:

        Sorry, but when I open TextEdit, I do not find the facility to add words to the spell check.

        What am I missing?

  6. Nomi Kluger-Nash says:

    The spell checker is not good at all. How to improve it? Problems: 1) the vocabulary is very limited, 2) it does not accept (as Microsoft does) my own words in their checker.

    Hoping there is an answer to this.

    Another comment; I was sent back to put in my name, and the the comment wasn’t sent due to so-called duplication of comment!

    • Anne says:

      The spelling checker deteriorated seriously in the last iOS upgrade.

      It “forgot” some of my spellings and had to be retrained. Other thinks I cannot train. It used to complete “blockquote” at “blockq”. Now I not only have to type the whole thing in, I have to override the choice it’s offering.

      It now capitalizes certain words. I write a lot of photo captions and if a particular word frequently comes first, it starts thinking that say, “sunset” should ALWAYS be capitalized (had to retype it there).

      Its vocabulary seems lower than before. I could go on and on.

      I notice a complete useless (for me) feature where it suggests emoji.

      Just awful.

  7. Cheri Sandall says:

    I would like to be able to alphabetize bookmarks.

    • Jay VerLinden says:

      YEEEEEEESSSSSS!

    • Jay VerLinden says:

      And, while we’re making suggestions, I’d like to see a more robust method of using color to identify different files. There was a time when a user could essentially “fill” the title of a file which made different types of files easy to find. Then someone decided it would be better to use little colored dots on most files and “flags” in mail that are difficult to see and use. That was not an improvement.
      While that was not something that was available for bookmarks, it would also be very useful there, too.

    • Karen says:

      But you can move them to put them in your liked order.

    • Ian T says:

      There is a free app called SafariSort App which does this for you – including favourites and all your Folders.

    • sara says:

      That would be SO HELPFUL!

  8. Ellen says:

    java….
    every time I turn on the computer, it keeps hogging the resources anywhere from 1x to 6x telling me that I have to download the program. I did that some time ago to no avail. Also asked a question to other Mac users about it and followed someone’s fix. It did not fix it.

  9. Jay VerLinden says:

    My MacBook Pro (Sierra 10.12.5) keeps randomly jumping to different places on documents as I type. It doesn’t seem to matter what application I’m on (mail, excel, word are all affected) but in the middle of a word I’m suddenly typing on a different line than I was on. Is there a solution to this?

    • Mike says:

      Be careful about lazy-typing – if you brush the touchpad, typing will jump to wherever the cursor is.

    • Bill Walker says:

      Apple tested and replaced my trackpad, under warrantee, which requires a whole new top with keyboard. Although this improved it was still jumpy. I then covered my trackpad with poster board which makes it a lot less touchy. It doesn’t look very classy.

    • Michael says:

      This happens to me, too. A lot.
      Drives me nuts.

    • michael p says:

      JV: there may be accumulated crud underneath where the trackpad meets the keyboard top, which has the effect of pushing down on the trackpad. If you’re capable, take the back off the computer, remove the trackpad, and clean the flange/edge, and underneath. It will take running something like a thin paper towel or a sheet of paper in between some of the parts.

      If that doesn’t work, my similar problem was solved with a new battery – the old one had swelled to the point where it was pressing the trackpad up and causing the effect you describe. If you have an older battery this may be a solution.

  10. Aifixfan says:

    To Nomi Kluger-Nash on spellcheks:
    Ther seems to be no spell checker on Firefox. I have to go throuhgh “seacrh on Google.” :-(
    The one that came with my Mac OSX 10.7.5, in particular in Safari and Mail, is superb, imho. And it will let me add my own words. :-)

    To Cheri on alphabetical Boolmarks:
    —A little work-around to alphabetize bookmarks (and many other items):
    1. create a temporary folder and copy all bookmarks to it. 2. use the Finder’s options under View to organize the items in this temp folder.
    3.Happy and sorted? OK!
    4. Now, copy all Bookmarks back into their sidebar or “All Bookmarks” folders. They should hold the order you commanded.

    Note: Firefox alphabetizes bookmarks automatically.

  11. Airfixfan says:

    Jay VerLinden: I agree. Coloring titles and icons (more on those later) was far better than it is now. But OK, I can live with the dots and flags —except that I run out of colors in no time!
    I want many more colors and/or the possibility to create my own; and it would be really nifty if I could use a combination of colors to denote a 2- or more categories item.
    Remember the many colors of riders on the old paper folders, and th epossibilty to attach a load of ‘m to one folder? If we still use that paper folder for an icon, why not give users teh old-school choice of more and combined colors?

    As for icons: when I save a web adress to my desktop and folders, they appear and are sorted as “documents”—which —clearly, right?— they are not.
    That’s a reat hassle. They’re more like aliases, I’d say. At least, that’s how I use ‘m.
    Is there no visual way to clearly and intuitively discriminate between real, written documents and web addresses?
    PDFs are documents and they get their own icon, so…? n dI already mentioned the Alias, which has a more-or-less cear variation on the kind item it leads to.

    • Kevin says:

      You can add more than one coloured tag to a file, but agree not being able to edit tag colours is a bit backward.

      As for webpage aliases, they actually are a document of sorts. I use the reading list in Safari. No need for messy @ web docs littering my desktop.

  12. Sandy says:

    Years ago someone outside of Apple figured out how to create a “lefty” cursor, which pointed the arrow toward the right. I’d love to have it back again! Is there one?

    Is there a way to copy just the Safari bookmarks on my iMac to my iPad? I have them organized just the way I want them.

    • Kevin says:

      There are third party cursor apps like Mousecape.

      As for safari bookmarks, why don’t you use iCloud? Select Safari in iCloud settings in system preferences and as long as your iPad is also logged in to the same iCloud account and safari bookmarks selected, your devices will match each other.

  13. NanG says:

    YES! To Jay VerLinden’s comment/request to be able to color highlight the title of a file rather than have to use the dots and flags, which are useless to my work. At least provide an option so users can choose which option best fits their work needs, PLEASE!!!’

  14. Mary B-J says:

    Jay V, I too have a jumping cursor, and am not brushing the track pad. Tech support has not helped. There’s a lot of complaining about this on the web, but no fix that’s worked for me yet.

    • Fnordmeister says:

      That also happens to me sometimes, especially on Finder when it’s slow. If I type abcdef, it sometimes comes out as cdefab.

      It reads in the ab, then moves the cursor to the left of the text field (which is probably programmed), then starts typing cdef in front of the ab.

      • Stogy says:

        I am getting this problem too, but it isn’t a hardware issue. It happens when I select text from the middle of a sentence to type over it. After typing one letter, the cursor jumps to the end of the paragraph, and from there on, I am typing in the wrong place. It only happens when I am using web-based inputs, such as blogs/news comments.

        It is something that suddenly started a month or so ago – after a mac OSX update. It’s very irritating and means that I have to change the way I type/think.

    • michael p says:

      See my response to JV above.

  15. Colin Reid says:

    Hi. I often send photos via the Mail application. One complaint I get back is the photo is embedded in the mail, it’s not an attachment, increasing the size of the email itself. Is it possible to make it an attachment, like Microsoft, rather than trying to send a huge email? I’ve tried some solutions and can send a Excel file (I use this in preference to Numbers because historically I’ve used Excel) as an attachment, but I can’t seem to manage the photos the same way? Cheers.

  16. Justin Greer says:

    Is there anyway to get full track pad gestures on my new Mac mouse? it seems to me this could and should be available.

  17. Emilio says:

    The permanent scroll bars are very useful, but plenty of bugs, for instance: in column view the bottom end of vertical bars where scroll bar shoud be, lacks the horizontal-displacement part, this one with two small vertical bars. It appears only if it has been previously clicked. Is is a bug since begin of the new scroll bar graphic method and never corrected.

    Apple now develops ONLY OSes (gradually abandoning other SWs), but quality is progressively worse. Is not to understand… the bigger and richer Apple is, the worse it does things (but Aple is yet the ‘less worse’ in the ‘computerscape’).

    • Kevin says:

      Seriously?! macOS is the most stable operating system bar none. Ask a pc user about windows 10 then get back to us. Apple do gradual incremental changes to their os’s so people don’t get IT shock when a new os comes out. MS completely changes its windows versions and it pisses its users off big time. Apple do it much better.

      I’m sorry progress doesn’t agree with you. You’re welcome to stay on whatever os you feel happy with.

  18. Robert Barzelay says:

    I have an odd issue with Mail.app. Some messages flash on & off. Not only that particular message, but also all answers and followup replies to that message flash on & off. It happens in about 1 of 20 messages. Yet, it is still annoying and I have no idea why this happens and how to stop it. Any suggestions?

  19. amnon zamir says:

    I type a text, then the cursor “jumps” to another place in the text and typing continues from there.

    this happens a lot.
    is there a way to avoid this?

    • Palu says:

      You might be accidentally brushing the trackpad as you type on the Mac keyboard of a Mac laptop, and if you have ‘tap to click’ enabled then it’s easy to accidentally cause the cursor to fly around like that.

      This can also happen if the tracking surface is dirty.

      Finally, if you use an external mouse or external trackpad which has something obstructing the sensor or is touching the surface, causing the cursor to fly around erroneously.

      Those are the most likely causes of such an issue, check into them and report back if you have better success.

  20. Atul says:

    Is there a way I could minimise an application by clicking on the icon? Just the way it is done on windows.

  21. Joe says:

    I use to like Apple but their OS has become slow, buggy, and they have added many stupid features for both the user and developer. I now only use OS X 10.6.8. It’s fast and stable. The only other version would be 10.8.5. This (MacBook Air) may be the last Apple product I use unless they get their crap together.

  22. dave says:

    i keep getting these annoying pop-ups telling me what to do.try to cancel them and they come right back.i don’t know if they are part of apple or some other add on help

  23. RM says:

    LOL at all of these comments. It only goes to show that Apple has to get their crap together – they are killing their own OS by bloating it the heck up with arguably beneficial features whilst crippling useful aspects of the OS. For shame, Tim Cook.

  24. Mark says:

    I appreciated the comment about the swipes on trackpad, but you might also want to include the Mouse preference to turn it off for some mice (mouses?). I don’t use a trackpad, but I frequently accidentally swipe on my mouse.

    Thanks for the great tips!

  25. tom duffey says:

    I need to enter my email address quite often. Is there a shortcut?

  26. Ted says:

    WOW! I never knew there were so many crybaby, whiney Apple users….

  27. SCR says:

    The biggest problem I’ve had is the Number-Lock on a MacBook Pro,WTF. My kids managed to enable the NumLock, which meant I couldn’t log back in to my laptop (as password contained a number), even Apple store didn’t know about this and how to fix. Managed to re-boot in a mode which allowed me to eventually turn of the Num-Lock (Function + F6), what a pain. Why is this even an option, such a problem.

  28. Fnordmeister says:

    Re: Why does a click not work as expected sometimes? Turn Off Force Click on Trackpad

    The instructions say: Go to the  Apple menu > System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click > uncheck “Force Click and haptic feedback”

    I’m running El Capitan, and there is no “Force Click and haptic feedback” option in the pop-up.

    • Doogan says:

      If you do not have a Force Click trackpad you will not have that option in the settings, it is a hardware enabled feature like 3D Touch on iPhone. It is limited to modern MacBook hardware and the latest touchpad maybe magic thingy.

  29. Cynthia R Smith says:

    I am not able to use the email on my Mac. I just use gmail. Why is the email set up so difficult?

  30. Justin Matteson says:

    I’ve got over 360 gigs on my MacBook Pro and I am having problems with new operating system sierra .. constantly freezing up and getting the spinning ball. I’ve updated to Sierra. It seems like pretty much since then it’s constantly locking up you know with the spinning ball. I’ve emptied the caches and most of the time I can’t even force quit. I’ve also tried some of the other tricks that they people have said still having issues. Anyone please help?

    • Le Tim says:

      You should open Activity Monitor, go to “View” menu and choose “All Processes” and then sort by CPU to see what is consuming system resources. It is likely you have an errant process running in the background slowing things down.

      Mac OS has turned into a very inefficient operating system in my opinion, very resource heavy for no obvious reason. I always have activity monitor running and am killing processes constantly that go haywire, it feels like Windows 98 or something with constant task management fiddling.

    • Al says:

      If you upgraded in place, rather than doing a clean install of Sierra, it’s likely that there are gremlins from the upgrade process, especially if you jumped more than one version (i.e. 10.8.5 -> 10.12 is going to be much less stable than 10.11 – 10.12).

      I’d suggest running First Aid in Disk Utility to see if that helps.

      If it continues to be too glitchy to use, make a full backup of your system (Time Machine, bootable clone, or similar), and do a clean install of Sierra.

  31. Klaymen says:

    These features are a perfect part of macOS, I would never switch them off.

  32. Posnovis says:

    While Finders implementation of merging folders has improved, it is still garbage compared to the Windows behavior. I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost files as a result.

    I want to merge folders with subfolders without having to move all the subfolders first.

    The current implementation merges top level folders but REPLACES subfolder’s content.

    Dumbest thing about OSX/macOS.

  33. wildcatherder says:

    I just upgraded all our Macs to Sierra. Our administrative assistant pointed out that the Right-click option for “Learn Spelling” is no longer there. I found this to be the case on other machines, as well. Upon further inspection, I find that there is now a Show Spelling and Grammar entry. When that window opens you have to “Find Next” until it hits the word you want, THEN the Learn button is enabled. We agreed that this is NOT an improvement.

  34. george Haling says:

    I have always kept my list of categorized radio stations
    in a format much smaller than the size of my Mac computer screen. I kept it at the bottom, nearly tucked away…yet there when I wanted to change stations.

    Somehow, this afternoon, I pushed something and that same screen suddenly enlarged to exactly the same dimensions as my computer screen….. effectively covering and making invisible whatever I have been working on at the time.

    What to do to reduce the radio station panal down to small again? Nothing I do seems to work.

    Grateful for advice in advance,
    George Haling

  35. Steven Sunday says:

    I was hoping very much that the latest Mac OS Sierra update, 10.12.6, would finally resolve the ongoing problem of not recognizing my WD My Book USB drive after I have attempted to eject the drive and I have received the message “Drive not properly ejected”, and I have been forced to use Force Eject. There appears to be no fix for this bug. I would very much like to be able to use my My Book drive again for manual backups when I want. I had no problem with this until I upgraded to Mac OS Sierra. Apple SHOULD give this bug priority for the new High Sierra OS coming Fall, 2017!!

  36. Jean-Marie says:

    The top and bottom bar keep disappearing. What can I do to stop that. I know they re-appear when I move the cursor at the top or the bottom for the screen but I would rater have them stay visible

  37. Mike says:

    I’m wondering why, although offered, I cannot email a webpage or Pages document from the open document. I click on the upper right “share page button” and select Email and the Page or Website freezes. Now I have to Force close, closing everything I’m in.

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