Mac users are spoiled with a lot of features and functionalities.
Let’s see what your Mac can do and you may have forgotten about. If you wish, comment with something we may have missed.
The version of the OS you are on may affect which functionalities are available. Mojave and Catalina have introduced some changes.
Who’s Ready at Log-in?
There are apps that you run all the time and you can decide to have these start when you log in. Choose wisely because it affects the performance of your Mac.
In System Preferences -> Users and Groups, select your account on the left and then click on Login Items. You can add and remove applications. Of the ones selected you can also decide to hide them.
Siri and Spotlight are usually available at Login.
Talk to your Mac
With the launch of the macOS Sierra, your Mac conquered the ability to listen through Dictation.
This has been improved with the arrival of Siri in the macOS upgrades. Just tap command + space, or simply click the Siri button on your Dock or Menu Bar to start.
From 2018 versions you may just say “Hey Siri”.
Apart from the classical questions, Siri can search files on your unit based on what you ask and even toggle some functionalities like the Bluetooth or the Wi-Fi.
Spotlight is an indexing app that is available in macOS not limited in searching your system for files and apps it has many other functions.
To activate Spotlight you can press the icon that looks like a magnifier glass in the upper-right corner of the Menu Bar, or press Command + Space Bar.
A search bar will appear in the center of your screen and you can start typing what you want to find. You can search “Apple Store” or “emails from Ray”.
On the list of the results just double-click the one you want to open. Or if you want to browse just use the Up and Down Arrow keys to quickly check each result.
Search by file type or location
Use the word “kind” with the file type. For example “kind:folders” or “kind:word”.
In the list of files that come up, you can see where is the location on your Mac, by selecting the file and pressing and holding the Command key. The location is shown at the bottom of the preview. If you want to open the location, press Command + R.
At the bottom of the results list, you can double-click “Show all in Finder” to see all the results from your Mac.
Get definitions, calculations, and conversions
Spotlight can show you dictionary definitions just entering the word or phrase and then click the Definition section.
If you would like to complete a calculation, enter something like “1250+45.2” in the search field.
Spotlight can do basic calculations, but beginning with macOS HighSierra you can now do unit conversions.
You can use Siri and just say “13 kilograms to pounds” or type the amount and unit you want to convert. In this case, you will receive suggested alternatives.
You can also type something specific you are looking for like “$1,499 to EUR”.
Find movies showtimes, weather, and nearby places
Just entering “showtimes”, “weather” or “places to eat” can provide the information you are looking for.
If your Mac is running slow and is acting like you are launching a rocket to space when you seem to be doing nothing… you can check the Activity Monitor in the Utility/Other folder to see if you can identify what is causing the issue.
Activity Monitor shows how your Mac is using resources like the CPU, the memory, the disk, the network, and energy.
You can pick each tab and see if there is any process that is using, for example, the CPU or the RAM intensively. If you think this is not normal you can select the process and use the Quit function.
Some System Processes you may not be able to Quit. If different processes are eating up resources you may evaluate a Restart of the System.
Once in a while, instead of setting the unit to Sleep is a good best practice to Shut Down and Restart your Mac. This also is useful to be sure Updates are correctly applied and installed.
Cure an Insomniac Mac
On some occasions, you may experience that your Mac will not go to sleep when you close the lid or pick sleep from the Apple Menu.
After macOS Yosemite in the Activity Monitor in the CPU tab you can go to View -> Columns and add “Preventing Sleep”. You can identify if anything has a Yes value and eventually quit if necessary.
Keychain Access is the app that gives you access to keys, certificates, password, account information, notes or other information stored in a keychain.
This is useful to find a lot of access information, including Wi-Fi passwords you may have forgotten, even your home one.
Open the Keychain Access app on your Mac. You can use Spotlight to locate it. Search the name of the connection and double-click the corresponding iCloud chain that matches the SSID you are looking for.
This is just an example to show that the keychain app stores your information and so you can check them if needed.
There is a Time Machine included in your Mac.
This is a useful App that can backup your Mac to an external Hard Drive. We have a lot of our folder, files, and pictures stored in iCloud or other Cloud Service.
Time Machine makes a snapshot of your entire system so you can restore it in case of a crash or loss of your unit.
Working with two windows side-by-side has become easy starting with macOS El Capitan, thanks to Split Screen view.
In Mojave or older versions, you can just hold the left click on the green maximize button on the top left side and drag the window to be positioned on the left or right side of the display.
In macOS Catalina, you simply left-click and hold the green maximum button and a drop-down menu will be available to choose different options.
In both macOS, you will then need to pick a second window to place in the other part of the screen. You can drag the line between the windows to resize based on needs.
Split Screen will also remove distractions by hiding the Menu Bar and obscuring the launcher.
This is one of the most under-appreciated apps on macOS. Instead is powerful and can crop, resize and tweak images pretty easily.
Open an image with Preview and check out the menus and interface to see the different options.
For example, to crop an image you can draw a rectangular selection and then either hit Command + K or choose Crop from the Tools menu.
Alternatively, show the Edit Toolbar and make a more complex selection with the Instant Alpha tool or use the Smart Lasso.
Use Automator and Services
Automator is a tool available in OS X, that enables you to build your own workflows of commands to automate complex tasks and make them much easier in the future.
You can use Automator to build your apps that perform specific tasks or workflows or to create a new Service.
Open Automator and you can choose what type of “thing” you want to create. Every option is useful in different situations.
Start adding steps to your workflow by dragging Actions from the left side to the empty space on the right. You can search for actions to add at the top of the screen.
Once you built the steps you can test and debug your flow to get it completed.
Type Exotic Characters
In most cases, if there are variances of the same letter, just hold the key down and the options will be displayed.
Try holding down the “e” or “a” keys for example.
Besides, if you check the Edit menu of most applications you will see an “Emoji and Symbols” option that has plenty of different ones. Most follow the Unicode standard so are cross-platform, but there may be exceptions.
Rename Files in Groups
Before macOS Yosemite, renaming a group of files at once required a third-party software or some custom script.
With the new releases, just select the group of files you want to rename and select Rename either from the right-click contextual menu or the File menu option in the Finder window.
When you do so, you get an options window that lets you replace text, add text or create a custom format.
Make a Keyboard Shortcut
Keyboard shortcuts are great for saving time. You are not limited to the system ones. If there is a particular menu option that you use all the time you can create one yourself.
Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> App Shortcuts. Click the + button to add a new shortcut. You can choose the app, but you must know the exact name of the menu command to include in the next box. Lastly, choose a unique key combination and click Add.
Manage Your Mac Windows Like a Pro
Since macOS Yosemite, clicking the green maximizing button brings the window to full screen. Prefer the old behavior? Hold ⌥ as you hover over the green button.
Not enough? Hold the Option ⌥ as you resize one side of the window and the other side will resize as well.
Hold Shift ⇧ and the window resizes proportionally on all sides.
If you hold ⇧ and ⌥ while resizing the window, it will shrink down proportionally to the center.
If you want to move a window that is in the background without bringing it to the front, hold the Command key.
Paste text without formatting
Using Command + C and Command + V will bring all the formatting with it. What you copy may look out of place.
Use Option + Shift + Command + V and this will do the “Paste and Match Style” action.
Snapshot of the Screen
This is pretty easy on macOS, just press command + shift + 3 to take a screenshot of the entire desktop.
If you wish to take a screenshot of just a portion use command +shift + 4 and select the area to capture. Or click the space bar to then click on the window you want to take the screenshot of.
In both cases, the file will be saved to your desktop.
Starting in macOS Mojave in the bottom right corner you will have a preview of the screenshot. If you click on it you can make edits and notes. A function that enhances productivity.
Hide and Show the Menu Bar Automatically
In System Preferences go to General and click “Automatically hide and show the menu bar”. As simple as that. This option is available since macOS El Capitan.
The menu bar will be hidden and reappear as you glide your mouse arrow towards the top of the screen. This removes some distractions when you are working on something and want to focus.
Menu Bar Options
Some apps have more menu bar options that you can handle and keep track of.
Instead of looking at all the menu options, head to the Help menu and use the search box. The results pop up and you can see in what menu are in just hovering over a result or click on the one you want to select it.
For Apple fans, this may sound not something they need, but is a function that can come handy if you need to run Windows software that has no comparable version for macOS.
You can run windows in a Virtual Machine with software like VMWare or Parallel Desktop or partition your hard drive to run one or the other based on your needs.