Like the thousands upon thousands of games it hosts, Steam has secrets.
Steam is, on one hand, a brilliant thing, more feature-rich than just about any other gaming platform on the planet. However, as it’s expanded over the years it’s also taken on an infernal-machine-like quality; it’s become this cacophonous conglomerate of bells and whistles, many of which are buried under other bells and whistles. It’s hard to know everything Steam is capable of, is what I’m saying.
[This post originally ran on March 30, 2015. Update 9/18/15: Added more features.]
- The search bar on your friends list isn’t just for people. If you search a game’s name, it will pull up people playing that game, making it easier for you to jump in with them.
- The big ol’ box at the top of the Steam store front page? You can customize what appears in it. Used to be that you had to right click on it to pull up options, but now mousing over the box makes a “customize” tab appear.
- Have a friend who changes their Steam handle a lot? If you go into their profile and click the arrow next to their name, you can see nicknames they’ve used in the past. That’s right, Tupac and famed children’s fantasy author Brian Jacques. I know who you really are, and I know that you play Borderlands 2 together every Tuesday, and you call it Borderlands Tuesday, because of course you do.
- Want to know when friends changed their names? Use this URL: http://steamcommunity.com/id/[insert user name here, no brackets]/namehistory
- Want to know all sorts of fun info about your graphics card, including exactly how much dedicated video memory it has? Open up Steam Big Picture Mode, then go to settings. From there, select “system.”
- If you block a friend, their Steam friends list tells them you’re offline. However, if they check Steam groups and things of the like, they’ll be able to see your actual status. That really sucks and I hope Valve changes it. For now, though, you’ve been warned.
- Want to step behind Steam’s vaunted bluegray curtain? Find your Steam icon and right click it. Go to properties and add “-dev” and “-console” to the text in the field titled “target.” That will add a “Console” tab to the top of Steam alongside things like Steam, Library, Community, and whatnot. It opens a command-line-based developer’s console.
- Here are a bunch of commands you can use in dev consoles, some with Steam itself, and some in Source games (Half-Life 2, etc).
Bonus features, as suggested by readers
- You can hide games in your library, to cut down on clutter and/or shame. Right click a game’s title, go to “set categories,” and check the box marked “hide this game in my library.” (Thanks, Aaronc53.)
- Friends change their Steam names a little too much? You can give them nicknames on your friends list. Just click the triangle next to their name on your friends list and select “add nickname.” Ka-boom. Now you’ll never forget which friend is your weed dealer and which is your parole officer ever again. (Thanks, BarreDeFaire.)
- You can make your screenshots not suck. Just select “settings” from the “Steam” drop-down menu in the top left corner, hit the “in-game” tab, and choose “save an uncompressed copy” under screenshots. Goodbye, blurry grossness. (Thanks, Rathorial.)
- You can save your favorite servers from various games. If you want to access them quickly, just select the “view” drop-down menu near the top left corner followed by “servers.” (Thanks, ZexMaxwell.)
- You can open Steam store pages in new windows. Just click your mouse wheel on the link you want to access and—praise the gods of basic goddamn multitasking—a new window will appear. THANK GOODNESS. (Thanks, piccolo113.)
So there are some lesser known Steam features you might find handy. Are there any others you can think of? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list.
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