With the macOS updates, like macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra bringing some great hidden features. In fact, over time I have built a list of Mac tricks which are not only cool but also practical when it comes to regular day-to-day use. Welcome to our roundup of 18 Best Mac Tips & Tricks. In this article, we cover the best new features in macOS Sierra along with some of the most useful features that have been introduced to the Mac operating system over the years.
Cool Mac Tricks You Should Know
1. Create Smart Folder To Automatically Categorise Files
Smart Folders are a feature that most of the Mac users know about but rarely use. However, I would argue that they can be very useful if you know how to utilise them. For example, I have a Smart Folder which pulls all the written documents created in the last week and keep it there. Thus, my writing folder is not cluttered while still giving me access to previous weeks files. In the same way, I have a folder which saves all the pictures (screenshots) taken in the last 24 hours. You can design the Smart Folder as per your work type.
To create a Smart Folder, open Finder, click on the file menu and select “New Smart Folder”. You will see a folder open where you can set rules as per requirement. To add rules click on the (+) icon. For example, I have my rules set to show all files which have been created in last one week (1st rule) which are documents (2nd rules). It might take a little time to utilize the Smart Folders but once you do you will never go back.
2. Do unit conversions in Spotlight
As well as being able to do calculations in Spotlight, in Yosemite it gets an extra trick: unit conversions. You can do specific unit conversions if you need to – “13 stone in lbs”, say – but it’s also intelligent enough that in many cases if you just give it the amount and unit you want to convert, it will suggest not just the likely conversion but also plenty of alternates.
Type in ‘$1299’ and you’ll immediately be told what that is in Sterling (based presumably on what’s set as your native currency in the Language & Region pane of System Preferences), and then when the window folds down to show more results, you’ll see Euros, Yen and so on.
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3. QuickType on your Mac
You know how when you are typing on your iPhone or iPad you can see three suggested words you might be intending to type next? You can get a similar QuickType function on your Mac in certain apps.
If you use TextEdit or Notes, it is possible to hit Esc+Alt while typing a word and see a number of guesses at to which word you might type next.
The list of suggested words will appear and you can select by clicking one of them.
For example, type “hello”, then space, and then hit Alt+Esc (in some cases just Esc), and you will see a list of possible next words.
4. Quickly Type Emojis on Mac
Emojis are loved by almost everyone. This is a craze which is refusing to die. Although, you might have known that you can use emojis on your Mac, did you know that you could fetch them with a simple keyboard shortcut, I didn’t think so. To get to emoji keyboard, just hit the following key combo, “Control+Command+Space” and the emojis will appear out of nowhere.
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5. Talk to and listen to your Mac!
Before macOS Sierra, Mac’s ability to listen to you as well as the talk was already really impressed with its Dictation tool. But now, that’s been blown out of the water by Siri’s long-awaited arrival on Apple’s desktops and laptops.
By either pressing and holding the Command and Space or clicking the icon on your Dock or Menu Bar, you can summon the same Siri you’ve grown accustomed to on your iPhone. However, this version of Siri is, in ways, much more powerful.
Beyond the standard query that might give you the weather or who’s up in the in playoff game, Siri on macOS Sierra can toggle system functions like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or even pull up individuals files stored on your system based on what you tell Siri about the file.
Siri can even launch or close apps for you as well as store the results of your queries inside the Notifications area of the OS for later use. Just press Command+Space and get to asking.
6. Unlock your Mac with Apple Watch
If you have an Apple Watch you can set up your Mac so that you never have to key in your password again. You can use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac automatically.
If you’re wearing your Apple Watch, and both your Mac, and Watch are running the right version of their respective operating system (macOS Sierra, iOS 10.3, watchOS 3), then the computer should automatically unlock without requiring a password.
7. Enable Double Tap To Insert Period
Something which I like about smartphone keyboards is that they use unconventional ways to make your typing experience smoother and quicker. One of the features that help in doing that is the double tapping on the space button to insert a period. Well, if you wanted that feature on your Mac, there’s a way you can do that. Just go to, System Preferences->Keyboard->Text and enable the “Add period with double-space” option.
8. Run Windows
We know, we know – who wants to run Windows? But sometimes it’s handy, whether to play the latest games or run some niche piece of software that has no Mac equivalent.
You can either run Windows alongside macOS with a virtualization app such as VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop or VirtualBox, or partition your hard disk to install Windows on to run it full-bore on your hardware using Boot Camp Assistant (in your Utility folder).
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9. Take screenshots of any size
For Windows users, taking screenshots can be a chore. You can either use the PrtSc key to capture the entirety of your display or use the Snipping Tool to snatch but a portion. Of course, some keyboards aren’t compatible with the shortcut and opening a separate app to take a screenshot is a bit of a hassle. Luckily, on a Mac, the process is streamlined.
Simply put, to take a picture of your entire screen, press Shift, Command and 3 at the same time; the screenshot will then be stored on your desktop. For a portion of the screen, the shortcut is Shift-Command-4 with the same output directory. To only capture an individual window, you can press Shift-Command-4, hit the spacebar, then click the window you’re trying to capture.
Lastly, if you have a fancy new featuring the Touch Bar, press Shift-Command-6 to take a snapshot of that little OLED strip. No matter the case, taking a screenshot on a Mac requires nothing more than memorizing a few different keystroke combos.
10. Use Split Screen
Working with two windows or apps side-by-side became much easier since OS X 10.11 El Capitan, thanks to Split Screen view. By holding down a left-click on an app’s green maximize button in the top-left hand side, you can then drag it to be positioned on the left or right-hand side of the display.
You’ll then need to pick a second open window or app to snap to the opposite side. Split Screen obscures the launcher and OS X’s Menu Bar, so you get a bit more screen real-estate and fewer distractions.
Dividing the separating line between the two apps lets you make them smaller or larger, which can come in handy for keeping an eye on live information such as sports scores at one end while being productive on the other.
11. Sign Documents Using TrackPad
Did you know that you can easily sign documents on your Mac digitally? There’s no reason to print the whole document, sign it, scan it, and then uploading it. Just open the PDF in Preview and click on the markup button. Now select the signature option and then Trackpad. Here, you can record your signature and then drag and drop it in the signature field.
12. View someone’s screen remotely
One really easy way to view someone else’s screen or even control their Mac over the internet – which is invaluable if you’re helping troubleshoot a relative’s computer problems – is to launch Screen Sharing by searching for it with Spotlight then entering the Apple ID of the person you’re trying to contact. (If you or they don’t know it, just have them look in the iCloud pane of System Preferences. And while they’re there, make sure Screen Sharing is enabled in the Sharing pane of System Preferences.)
They’ll be asked to grant you permission to view their screen, and they can also then click on the screen sharing icon in the menu bar and grant you the ability to virtually, remotely control their mouse and keyboard too.
13. Send and receive SMSs on your Mac (and more!)
When someone sends an SMS – a text message in the original mobile phone sense – to your iPhone, it appears in a green bubble rather than a blue one, as would be the case if someone sends you an iMessage. Before Yosemite, SMSs would only appear on your iPhone where you’d have to peck out a reply, but now you can have them come into your Mac or other iOS devices when they arrive so you can reply to them from there too.
Your iPhone needs to be running iOS 8.1, but once it is, and once you’re signed into your iMessage account that also has your phone number linked to it both on your iPhone and on your Mac or other iOS devices, turn on the Text Message Forwarding option under Settings > Messages on your iPhone. Boom!
14. Connect to the internet through your iPhone
The iPhone comes with a feature that enables it to share its 3G or 4G mobile broadband connection with other devices (though this must be allowed by your network operator), making it perfect for getting your Mac online wherever you are. There are three ways to connect your Mac to your iPhone to share its signal: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB.
To begin, go to the Personal Hotspot option in the iPhone’s Settings menu, and turn it on. If you want to connect over Wi-Fi, find the Wi-Fi network created by the iPhone in your Mac’s Wi-Fi options, select it, and enter the password shown in the iPhone.
To connect using USB, plug your iPhone into your Mac and you should get a dialog that takes you to the Network section in System Preferences, from which you can select the iPhone. For Bluetooth, activate Bluetooth on both devices and pair them, and the connection option should again appear in System Preferences > Network.
15. Email huge files
Email isn’t really meant for file transfer, but – let’s be honest – we all do it. Problem is, many email providers flat-out won’t let you send attachments over a particular size (often only a few megabytes) so sending large files over email is usually a no-no.
With Mail since Yosemite, though (and in fact with the webmail version of Mail at icloud.com), you can email files up to 5GB in size. What in fact happens is that the attachment really gets uploaded to iCloud, and then a link is sent to your recipient where they have 30 days from which to download it.
(If your recipient is using Mail on Yosemite/icloud.com, they’ll probably just see the attachment in their email client as usual rather than being shown a link.)
16. Partition external hard drives in Disk Utility
One little known fact about Macs is that they use a different file system than Windows computers by default. That means, if you’re planning on sharing an external hard drive between both Microsoft’s and Apple’s operating systems, you have a few options. While you could format the hard drive to take advantage of the exFAT file system, you would thereby miss out on faster write times.
Luckily, in the Disk Utility app featured in macOS, there’s the option to partition hard drives. In doing so, you can theoretically divide the hard drive in half, with one volume being dedicated to macOS and the other to Windows. Take the hard drive over to your PC and you can format one of those volumes for NTFS, making it the perfect little hybrid device.
17. Know Which Apps Are Hidden
I always prefer the hiding function in the macOS over the minimising function as the hiding function allows me to bring back the app by just using the “Command+Tab” keyboard shortcut, something I cannot do if I have minimised the app. However, if you have kept a lot of apps on your dock, there’s no way to exactly know which of them are hidden just by looking at it. An easy way you can use to identify the hidden apps is by using the following Terminal command:
defaults write com.apple.Dock showhidden -bool TRUE; killall Dock
Now, whenever you hide an app’s window the app’s icon will be a little greyed out as shown in the picture. If you look closely you can see that the Terminal and the Safari icon are a little bit grayed out. To revert back, just replace the word TRUE with FALSE inside the code.
18. See your Mac activity with Activity Monitor
If you find your Mac is running slow, or the fans are kicking in when you don’t appear to be doing anything too intensive, you can see if you can identify what’s causing it. Activity Monitor in OS X and macOS shows you how your Mac’s resources are being used.
Launch Activity Monitor from the Utilities folder to see current processes, and the resources they take up. The columns show you things such as the CPU usage of a process or the RAM it’s taking up. If there’s a process that’s hogging resources and you’re confident it’s not needed, you can end it by selecting it, then be clicking Quit Process.
Use These Cool macOS Tricks to Enhance Your Mac Experience
Well, those were some cool Mac tricks that I use in my daily experience with macOS. I hope you found some new tricks which will help you to get the most out of your Mac. I would also urge you to share your favorite tricks which are not on the list to help the community. It’s always nice to see the community interacting in the comment section. Do tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
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