Here are the macOS tips and tricks you should know about
Apple products are known for their durability, power, and minimalism. When it comes to the Mac, the company has managed to create a device that is both so complex, yet simple to use. You can do a lot on macOS, if you’re a power user. And if you’re a beginner who only wants it for fundamental needs, then worry not — the OS is intuitive to use, and you’ll find your way around. macOS has plenty of lesser-known features that not all users are aware of. They’re sometimes very basic, yet make a difference when incorporating them into a person’s workflow. Here are the macOS tips and tricks you should know about.
Navigate this article:
- Unlock your Mac with Apple Watch
- Use Spotlight Search for quick calculations
- Split the screen between two apps
- Create several Desktops
- Assign Hot Corners
- Use your Mac as an AirPlay receiver
- Bulk rename files
- Automatically hide/show the Dock and/or Menu Bar
- View saved WiFi passwords
- Set a Dynamic Wallpaper that changes throughout the day
- Use Dictation instead of typing
- View all open windows with a single swipe
- Easily switch between open apps
- Force quit an app
- Instantly delete a file
- Take a screenshot without using the dedicated app
- Define a word with a single click
- Open the Notification Center with a swipe
- Quickly enable/disable Focus
- Save space by converting images into smaller versions of them
- Use the color picker when annotating a document or a photo
- Drag and drop a fresh screenshot’s thumbnail for quick sharing
- Change the icons of apps and folders
- Select text found in a photo
- Elongate the battery life
- Copy and paste between Mac and iPhone
- Paste text without the pre-formatting
- Do a wide range of actions using your keyboard only
Unlock your Mac with Apple Watch
This is one of the first tips that I recommend to friends and family when they buy a Mac. If you have an Apple Watch, you can use it to unlock your Mac instantly, instead of inputting a password or using Touch ID. We’ve prepared a detailed guide for you on how to enable this handy feature.
Use Spotlight Search for quick calculations
Unlike iPadOS, macOS has a built-in Calculator app. However, there’s a faster way than launching it and typing the numbers. Spotlight Search can do mathematical calculations just fine. You only have to invoke it using the Search button on your keyboard or by holding on the command button then hitting the space bar. Afterwards, type the equation, and it’ll display the results instantly. It also supports unit conversion — try typing 25C in F, for example.
Split the screen between two apps
As an ex-translator, I used to depend on this feature every day. Going back and forth between two apps or windows wastes a lot of time. And I needed to have both the original text and the document where I’m typing my translations open at the same time. In the top left corner of a window, hover over the green circle with your cursor. This will bring up a small menu. Click on Tile Window (to the left or right of screen). You’ll then get prompted to choose another open window for the other half of the screen. Choose one, and voila! You can work with both windows open simultaneously.
Create several Desktops
If you’re the kind of person who works several jobs or likes separating work and personal digital environments, this one’s for you. Click on the Mission Control (F3) button on your keyboard or swipe up on the trackpad using three fingers. Click on the plus sign (+) in the top right corner, and it’ll create a new desktop. You can access opened desktops from the Mission Control view and switch between them. Each desktop can have a different layout, wallpaper, and more.
Assign Hot Corners
Hot Corners allow you to execute certain actions by moving the cursor to one of the four corners of your Mac’s screen. To set it up, go to Mission Control settings in the System Preferences app. Then click on Hot Corners in the bottom left corner. There you will be able to assign the action you want for a certain corner. I use this to open the Launcher, lock my Mac instantly, view my desktop, and show the Notification Center.
Use your Mac as an AirPlay receiver
Thanks to macOS Monterey, you can now use your Mac as an AirPlay receiver. The process is simple and straight forward — all you have to do is nothing. Just use an iDevice that is on the same WiFi network and is connected to the same Apple ID to mirror your favorite series and/or music. If you’re not sure how to get started, we’ve prepared a guide for you.
Bulk rename files
Got a long list of files that you want to rename based on a certain pattern? Or maybe you want to replace a certain, common term in a long list of folders? macOS is here for the rescue, as you don’t have to do that individually. Just select the files/folder you want to rename in bulk. Then right click on them, and hit Rename. You will be prompted to choose whether you want to replace, add, or format text. The process is straightforward and saves you precious time and sanity.
Automatically hide/show the Dock and/or Menu Bar
The Dock and Menu Bar occupy your screen’s real estate, especially the former. The good thing is you can hide them on macOS! They’ll reveal themselves when you hover the cursor over their respective locations. To do that, go to Dock and Menu Bar settings in the System Preferences app, and enable Automatically Hide and Show the [Dock/Menu Bar], depending on your preferences.
Personally, I only hide the dock, as I frequently use the Menu Bar and would rather have it visible at all times. Additionally, it’s a thin strip that doesn’t occupy a lot of the screen’s space. The thick dock remains hidden at all times, until I move the cursor to the bottom of my Mac’s screen.
View saved WiFi passwords
Forgot your house’s WiFi password and want to share it with a guest? There’s a way to view it on your Mac, assuming you’ve connected to it before. All you have to do is launch the Keychain Access app, hit on iCloud in the sidebar, and scroll to find the network’s name. Once you do, double click it, and press Show Password. You will be prompted to type your Mac user’s password. When you do, it’ll be revealed in plaintext. That’s it!
Set a Dynamic Wallpaper that changes throughout the day
You’re probably aware that some of the wallpapers on macOS adapt to Dark/Light Mode and change accordingly. However, plenty of users don’t know about Dynamic Wallpapers. These adapt to the time of day where you’re located, rather than Dark Mode’s state. So, for example, the wallpaper’s sun would shine during the day, change its position in the sky depending on the time, and disappears during nighttime.
To set a Dynamic Wallpaper, go to Desktop and Screen Saver settings in the System Preferences app and choose one from the Dynamic Desktops section. The latest build of macOS Monterey has eight different ones to choose from.
Use Dictation instead of typing
Tired of typing long articles, essays, or reports? Are your hands occupied by something else? macOS supports Dictation. Just hit the Microphone (F5) button on your keyboard and start talking. Your Mac will type everything you’re saying instantly. This feature saves you time and effort, assuming your speech is faster than your typing speed.
View all open windows with a single swipe
Want an overview of everything you’re working on? Mission Control is the answer. With a single swipe on the trackpad using three fingers, you can view all open windows and hop to a different one. You can even drag one of the windows and drop it in the top left corner to create a new desktop. You can also drop it in an existent desktop, assuming you’ve already created more than one. An alternative to the three-finger swipe is hitting the Mission Control button (F3) on your keyboard.
Easily switch between open apps
Do you have plenty of open apps and you need to switch between them frequently? If you’re in fullscreen or split-screen mode, the Dock is hidden. And even if you’re not in either modes, finding the right open app can be time-consuming. Fortunately, there’s a shortcut for that. Hold on the Command button and click Tab to show open apps. Keep holding Command and click Tab again to move the selector to the second open app. Release your fingers if you want to switch to the second app. If not, keep on clicking Tab, until the selector reaches the app you want to switch to, then finally release your fingers. It sounds confusing, in theory, but once you try and get used to it, it becomes a time-saver.
Force quit an app
Is an app not responding? Are you primarily working on your keyboard and don’t want to move the cursor to the top left to hit the red circle? Tired of apps just minimizing when clicking the red circle instead of completely shutting down? This one’s for you! Just hold on the Command button and click Q. Careful, though — if you have unsaved changes in the app, you will most likely lose them if you quit using this method.
Instantly delete a file
The Trash on macOS exists for a reason — retrieving files we accidentally delete, or in case we change our minds. However, sometimes we’re pretty sure we don’t want a certain file to stick around, such as embarrassing photos. So instead of moving to Trash then permanently deleting it, you can just hold Command and Option, then click the Delete button on your keyboard, after selecting the file. This will permanently delete it after confirmation, so make sure you’ve selected the correct file. It’s worth mentioning that holding on just Command (without Option) then clicking Delete will move a file to the Trash. Additionally, holding Command and Option, then clicking Delete will empty the Trash. They’re handy shortcuts that I use frequently.
Take a screenshot without using the dedicated app
There’s a Screenshot app on macOS that allows you to customize the way you take a screenshot or record a video of your screen. We’ve prepared a guide for you on how to use it, in case you’re looking for more than just a basic fullscreen screenshot. However, if you quickly want to take one of your entire screen, you can just hold Command and Shift then click 3. A thumbnail of the screenshot will appear in the bottom right corner. You can click that to edit, delete, or share it.
Define a word with a single click
You’re probably aware of the Dictionary app on your Mac. This trick will save you plenty of time if you often find yourself defining words in the app. You can right click a selected word and click Look Up to view the definition. However, if you’re Mac has a force-touch trackpad, you can just force touch a word — without even selecting it — and the definition window will pop up.
Open the Notification Center with a swipe
The Notification Center can be accessed by clicking on the date/time in the top right corner. However, there’s a way to invoke it without moving the cursor all the way up. Just swipe left from the right edge of your Mac’s trackpad, and the Notification Center will appear. Swipe right from any part of the trackpad or left click anywhere on the screen to dismiss it.
Quickly enable/disable Focus
Focus is Apple’s upgraded Do Not Disturb (DND) mode. If you’re not familiar with the feature, there’s a complete guide on it. To quickly enable/disable Focus without going through the Control Center, you can just hold on the Option button and left click the date/time in the top right corner.
Save space by converting images into smaller versions of them
Are your photos unnecessarily large and taking too much space on your hard drive or iCloud storage? Go to Finder, select the image(s), right click, and then hover over Quick Actions in the menu. This will reveal a Convert Image button. This will prompt you to choose the new qualities you want and the estimated size of each quality. Choose what works best for you, and hit Convert. The new image(s) will appear in the same folder. You can then proceed to delete the original(s).
Use the color picker when annotating a document or a photo
Are you using the Markup tool in macOS? You can choose any color you want when doodling, typing, or inserting shapes. When you’re choosing a color from the default ones, click on the Show Colors button at the bottom of the color palette. This will bring up a color picker, so you can choose a color from the photo or document you’re editing. You can even set the RGB values if you have a specific color in mind that isn’t present in the file you’re editing.
Drag and drop a fresh screenshot’s thumbnail for quick sharing
When you take a screenshot, a thumbnail of it will appear in the bottom right corner of your Mac’s screen. Hold on it, drag, and drop it in the app or field where you want it inserted. It’s as simple as it gets, and the screenshot will get automatically deleted from your files afterwards. It will only remain in the app or field where you’ve dropped it.
Change the icons of apps and folders
Some apps still have ancient icons, other ones have pre-Big Sur designs. macOS Big Sur completely redesigned the operating system, and stock apps now have more uniform shapes and styles. Plenty of apps have adopted this change, but plenty of others haven’t. To change an app’s icon, just go to Finder, navigate to the Applications folder through the Go menu in the Menu Bar. Right click the targeted app and hit Get Info. Drag the new icon and drop it over the old app icon in the Get Info window. You might be asked to Touch ID or input your Mac’s password. Do so. Voila! The process for changing folder icons is exactly the same. just drop an icon in a folder’s Get Info window.
Select text found in a photo
macOS Monterey brings Live Text support. This allows you to select text on photos, both online and in your files. The feature even recognizes handwriting, but that doesn’t always work reliably. Just click and drag on the pictured text — the way you’d select any other text — and that’s it! The system detects it by default, and after selecting, you can do your typical actions, such as copying, looking a word up, and more.
Elongate the battery life
The latest macOS release also brings Low Power Mode to the Mac. Click on the battery icon in the Menu Bar, then tap on Battery Preferences. From the sidebar, click on Battery and enable Low power mode. This will slightly reduce your Mac’s performance for the sake of a longer battery life. It’s perfect for when you’re working outdoors with no access to a charger. You can also enable this mode when connected to a charger from the Power Adapter section in the sidebar. However, there’s no point in doing that.
Copy and paste between Mac and iPhone
If you have a an iPhone and a Mac, you can copy from either device and paste it in the other, and this includes photos as well — not just text. All you have to do is have WiFi, Bluetooth, and Handoff enabled on both while using the same Apple ID. Copy the info on one device, and just paste it like you’d normally do on the other.
Paste text without the pre-formatting
If you’re copying text from a document or Wikipedia, for example, it sometimes gets pasted with the original formatting. So you end up with bullet points, links, large headers, or other unwanted formatting. To paste something as plain text, hold on Option, Command, and Shift, then click V. This will paste the text and match its style to the current document you’re working on, while disregarding the original formatting. If the key combination is too hard for you to memorize, you can alternatively click on Edit in the Menu Bar, followed by Paste and Match Style.
Do a wide range of actions using your keyboard only
One of the aspects that make macOS so powerful is keyboard shortcuts. You can control almost anything using them, without needing to right/left click and hop between endless menus to get a task done. We have prepared for you a complete guide to keyboard shortcuts on a Mac. It includes commonly used, power, Finder, and system ones.
These macOS tips and tricks will change the way you interact with your Mac. Once you get used to and integrate them into your workflows, you will find yourself saving a lot of time and effort. Personally, I take advantage of most of them almost daily, and they never fail to impress.
Which of these macOS tips and tricks is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.