How to adjust your Mac brightness or volume in smaller increments

By , Mar 5, 2016

fine tune brightness controls on mac

Have you ever wanted to try and adjust your Mac‘s volume only to find that one volume setting was too high and the next step down was too low? In these situations, it’d be nice to get the volume level somewhere in the middle of those two presets.

Although it never seemed possible before, there is a little-known way to adjust your Mac’s volume and brightness levels in even smaller fine-tuned increments, and in this tutorial, we’ll show you how it’s done!

Adjusting the volume or brightness in smaller increments

Typically when you want to adjust the volume or brightness up or down, you’ll tap on the volume up/down or brightness up/down keys on your keyboard. The only downside to this is the preset settings aren’t always convenient.

To adjust your volume up/down or brightness up/down in quarter increments instead of full increments, simply hold down the Shift (⇧) + Option (alt) keys on your keyboard as you press on the volume up/down or brightness up/down keys on your keyboard.

As you do this, you’ll notice only a partial step in the heads up display (HUD) incremental indicator rather than a full step, as shown below:

fine tune volume control on mac

Indeed this is a very small, but very useful feature of OS X that is not very well known. It can come in handy when you want to get down to the absolute lowest screen brightness without installing third-party software like Shady, or getting your Mac’s volume at just the right level so you can hear it comfortably without disturbing others.

Note: Adjusting your display brightness in this way will not lower your display brightness below the smallest full increment in the brightness HUD, but it will adjust your display brightness throughout the rest of the remaining increments.

Wrapping up

It’s incredibly easy to adjust your Mac’s volume or brightness level in even finer increments than you’re used to adjusting with. This is a useful function that isn’t very well-known about OS X, and now that you know how to do it, you can set your brightness and volume levels to more comfortable levels.

These hidden OS X gems may also interest you:

Did you know you could fine-tune your Mac’s volume and brightness levels in quarter increments? Share in the comments below!

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  • Chris Ryan

    awesome, thanks for this, i do a lot of work at night and this will help set things as to not disturb others around me

  • Romi

    THANK YOU !!! My amp is too loud and I was constantly struggling with the last volume increment ! You made my day.

  • :D

    Helpful to know, especially for volume.
    However, it doesn’t really lower the brightness any more than with the regular increments, since the first 4 quarters of the first regular increment seem to all be the same. You might want to change that paragraph.

    • ready1take1

      Correct. Only change for brightness is in the HUD. It doesn’t affect the actual brightness of the display.

    • So, I noticed that it won’t lower the brightness after the last increment, but on my MacBook Pro, it actually does adjust the brightness in quarter increments for the rest of the HUD incremental indicators.

  • David Diaz Escandon

    WOW, I’m amazed, I never tought about it, and now it became a must

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    I use this trick quite a bit. Especially the volume increments. Though for brightness, if set at minimum, I could never really notice a difference if I go down to the left-most quartile of the last increment. As in, I don’t notice it getting any darker if it’s just at a quarter brightness. Nonetheless, highly useful.

    • You are right. After the last increment, display brightness doesn’t lower in 1/4 increments. It works solidly for any other setting above 1 increment however! 🙂

  • Not sure if this is the best place to ask this actually. But is it possible to make this the default or swap this function? so the standard volumes buttons are small increments and the alt + shift option is the larger increments? Like a Terminal script or something?

    • Great question – if there is, I wish I knew it!

    • Ed

      Maybe with BetterTouchTool

  • Mark S

    What a GREAT tip!

  • Nolan I.

    I find this insanely useful. Often I need to adjust the volume frequently and this is the perfect solution.

  • JRDN

    Thank you – much appreciated info.