33 things you really should know

You might consider yourself a complete whizz when it comes to Apple’s Mac and you’re here wondering if we can teach you something you didn’t know. Or perhaps you would say you’re a complete novice and you’ve only recently bought a Mac because they look pretty but in reality, you have absolutely zero idea of how to use it. Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be alone.


Apple

Apple MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023)

The MacBook Air 15-inch is a truly superb everyday laptop, with a solid and premium build quality, a stunning big display, excellent performance and a great battery life. There’s nothing not to love here. It’s the everyday laptop dreams were made of.

Either way, we are hoping there will be at least one tip on this list that’s going to make your day-to-day use of your Mac that little bit more efficient. Whether you’ve used Macs for years, or you are new to macOS and all the features it offers – because there are loads just waiting to be discovered – we have compiled our favourite tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your MacBook or iMac.

Here are 33 tips for Mac you really should know about.

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1. Make a keyboard shortcut for anything

Mac has built-in keyboard shortcuts that developers have added – like Command + Space Bar to open Spotlight – but it’s possible to create a shortcut for anything you like from any app. The only thing you’ll need to know is the exact name of the menu command that you want to add.

To create a keyboard shortcut, open System Settings by tapping on the Apple logo in the top left corner and selecting it from the drop down menu, then tap on Keyboard. You’ll then need to open ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’ followed by ‘App Shortcuts’. You’ll need to hit the ‘+’ and select the application you want to create a shortcut, enter the menu command and enter the combination of keys you want to use for the shortcut.

2. Batch rename a group of files

If you have a group of files you want to rename, it’s very easy to do on Mac, as long as you are running macOS Yosemite or later. To batch rename files, you’ll first need to select the group of files you want to rename. You can click on one and then hold shift to highlight more.

Once you have your highlighted group, right click and select ‘Rename’. You can also tap on the circle with the three dots in the middle from the Finder menu.

You’ll then be able to Replace Text, Add Text or Format the names.

3. Take full page screenshots

Taking a screenshot on a Mac is super simple. You can either take a screenshot of your entire screen or you can take a screenshot of a partial area of your screen. Both will automatically save to your desktop and they will appear in the bottom right corner after you take them, which you can then click on to mark up.

To take a screenshot of your entire screen, press Shift + Command + 3.

To take a screenshot of part of your screen, press Shift + Command + 4, then draw the box around what you want to take the screenshot of.

4. Sign a PDF from Mail

While you might think you have to print out a document, physically sign it, scan it and send it back, thankfully there is an easier way. It’s possible to sign PDFs directly from the Mail app so there’s no need to waste any paper.

You’ll need to drag the PDF you need to sign into a new email in Mail first. You’ll then need to hover over it to see a small arrow button appear in the top right corner. From here, you can select ‘Mark Up’. The PDF will then open and you’ll see a signature option at the top – it’s the icon with a squiggle that looks like a signature with a cross to the left.

You can either select a signature you have used in the past, or you can create a new signature. If you choose to create a new signature, you can either use the trackpad on your Mac to draw one, your iPhone, or you can write your signature on a piece of paper and then hold it up to the webcam on your Mac.

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5. Turn on Stage Manager

If your Mac is running macOS Ventura, you can use a feature called Stage Manager to organise all your windows and apps and quickly multi-task between them. You’ll need to turn on Stage Manager using the Control Centre (icon with two bars and a dot either side of the bars). Launch Control Centre and then tap on the Stage Manager tile.

From here, different apps will appear on the left side, while the app you are working on becomes front and centre. Different windows of the same app will group on top of each other, and if you want use two or more apps at once, you just need to drag the other apps onto the app that is already open.

6. Open certain apps at login automatically

If there are certain apps you use every day and you always open them up, you can set your Mac up to open them automatically as soon as you login. For example, we always use Mail, Slack, Safari and Calendar.

Open up System Settings by tapping the Apple icon in the top left corner, and make sure your account is selected. You’ll then need to tap on ‘General’, followed by ‘Login Items’. To add an app, tap on the ‘+’ and search the Finder for the application or document you want to open on login. You’ll need to select the application or document from the list and then press ‘Open’ to add it to the list.

For a quick way to add an application to this list, right click on an application icon and select ‘Options’ from the pop menu, followed by ‘Open at Login’.

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7. Use Spotlight for unit conversions

Spotlight is an excellent tool. To pull it up, hit Command + Space Bar.

The search bar will then appear and you can use it to not only search for files, applications or a specific question, but you can also use it for unit and currency conversions. Just type what you want to convert directly into the search bar.

8. Use Mission Control to see all open windows

You might be surprised by how many different windows and applications you have open at any one time. If you’re anything like us, you’ll have no idea you had 15 Safari tabs open, along with Messages, Mail, WhatsApp, Photoshop and goodness knows what else.

To see all your open windows and apps, simply hit the F3 function button and you’ll see them all, allowing you to tap on any of them to switch.

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9. Add a Guest user to your Mac

It’s possible to add multiple users to your Mac, which is handy of you have several people in your home using one computer. It means everyone can set up their own wallpapers, layouts, preferences and apps how they like them. It’s also possible to add a Guest user so anyone borrowing your Mac can’t access your files or documents.

To add a new user, head to System Settings by tapping on the Apple logo in the top left corner. Scroll down to Users & Groups and select Add Account. If you want to add a Guess user, tap on the ‘I’ next to Guest User above Add Account and toggle on ‘Allow guests to log in to this computer’.

10. Get a Wi-Fi password for other devices

Apple Mac has an excellent feature called Keychain Access that remembers almost all passwords for whatever sites you might need to log onto, from Facebook to Marks & Spencer. It will also remember Wi-Fi passwords for locations though. While your Mac will automatically join a network it has stored, you might need to know the Wi-Fi password for another device, like your phone or tablet.

To find out any password you have stored, including Wi-Fi passwords, you’ll first need to open up Keychain. The quickest way is to hit Command + Space Bar and type in Keychain. You can then search in the top right corner for the Wi-Fi network or site you want your password for, tap on Show Password and type in your Mac password to see it.

11. Copy and paste without formatting

If you want to copy and paste from a website or document but you don’t want to bring the formatting – such as font and font size – you can copy and paste without formatting. This is handy if you are writing an email for example, and you’re copying something from a website.

Select the text you want to copy and hit Command + C. Open up where you want to paste the text, whether that’s Mail, Pages or elsewhere, press Command + Option + Shift + V.

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12. Use multiple desktops

Mac enables you to have multiple desktops open at once, allowing you to have your email on one desktop for example, Photoshop or another app on another. You can swipe between desktops by swiping three fingers across your trackpad.

To create a new desktop, you’ll need to open Mission Control first. The quickest way to do this is to tap F3. At the top, you’ll see the various desktops you may already have open, and you’ll see a ‘+’ in the far right of that top bar.

13. Turn on Do Not Disturb very quickly

There are a couple of ways to turn on Do Not Disturb, which will curb any incoming notifications and keep everything nice and quiet for a bit, but the quickest way to do it is the F6 function key. Tap it once to turn Do Not Disturb on and again to turn it off. When it is on, you’ll see a half moon symbol in the menu bar at the top. It appears to the left of the battery icon.

If you want something more granular, whereby you can choose what notifications and apps come through, you can set a Focus. To do this, open up Control Centre and tap on Focus in the top left. You can then follow the instructions to setup a customised Focus, such as Meeting.

14. Use AirDrop to share files and photos

AirDrop is absolutely excellent – when it works. It can be a little glitchy at times, but it’s a very quick and easy way to share files and photos between your iPhone or iPad and your Mac. You’ll want to find the sharing icon, which is traditionally a rectangle with an arrow coming out from the top, or select ‘Share’ from the option menu. You’ll then want to select AirDrop and select the device you want to share to.

If the device you want to share to doesn’t appear, open Finder on Mac and tap on AirDrop at the top – you may need to select to be discovered by Contacts Only or Everyone. On iOS, open up Settings, then AirDrop and then choose Contacts Only or Everyone.

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15. Check your notifications

Notifications will appear in the right corner of your Mac’s display and then disappear unless you hover over them. If you want to see a quick rundown of all the notifications you have had come through, whether it’s emails, Slack messages, Messages, or Find My alerts for example, tap on the date and time in the top right corner. You’ll see a list of your notifications and you’ll be able to click on them to expand them and select what you want to do from the option drop down. You can also swipe across with two fingers on your trackpad to launch your notifications.

16. Make sure your Mac sleeps

If you have found that when you shut the lid on your MacBook or try to put your iMac into sleep that it just doesn’t fancy it, there might be an app stopping it. Thankfully, there’s a very quick way to check what applications are running in the background which may be preventing your Mac from shutting down.

Search for ‘Activity Monitor’ using Spotlight and select ‘Columns’ from the View menu at the top of the screen. There’s a column that says ‘Preventing Sleep’, which will show a yes if the application listed is causing an issue.

The menu bar appears at the top of your Mac screen by default, but you can choose to change this so it only appears when you hover over the top of your screen with your cursor. It’s good for those who want their entire screen to be uninterrupted for example.

To hide the menu bar, open System Settings by tapping on the Apple in the top left corner. You’ll then need to tap on ‘Desktop & Dock’ and choose between the various options on the drop down menu next to ‘Automatically hide and show the menu bar’.

18. Use your phone as a Hotspot

If there isn’t Wi-Fi available but you have cellular connectivity on your phone, whether that’s an iPhone or another phone, you can connect to the phone’s hotspot to get onto the internet. You’ll need to know the phone’s hotspot password, which on iPhone you will find in Settings and then Personal Hotspot. You’ll then need to head to the Wi-Fi logo on your Mac and select your phone from the drop down list, tap in the password and you should be good to go.

It’s worth mentioning you can also connect to your iPhone using Bluetooth or USB to share its signal.

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19. Change the hot corners

Mac has a feature called Hot Corners, which allow you to do quick actions, such as put your device to sleep, depending on what you have setup. To access Hot Corners, head to System Settings by tapping the Apple logo in the top left corner and then scroll down to ‘Desktop & Dock’. From here, you’ll see Hot Corners at the bottom, where you can select what you want each of the four corners of your Mac screen to do when move your cursor into them.

For example, you could have the top left corner sending your Mac to sleep, the top right showing Application Windows, the bottom left opening a Quick Note and the bottom right launching Mission Control.

20. Split your screen for better multitasking

With Mac, you can of course have multiple windows and apps overlapping each other but it’s also possible to use a Split Screen View, as you can on iPad, in order to make multi-tasking a little cleaner looking. You could have Mail open on one side of your screen and be writing a document on the other, for example, allowing you to keep an eye on your emails, whilst also doing your work.

To enter Split Screen View, you’ll just need to hover your cursor over the green icon in the top left of whatever application you want on one side of your screen. Three options will automatically appear: Enter Full Screen, Tile Window to Left of Screen and Tile Window to Right of Screen. Choose either the left or right option, and then you’ll be able to select a secondary app to use on the opposite side. To exit Split Screen View, just tap on the green button in the top left corner of the app you want to close.

21. Change your folders and files icons

The default Mac interface is pretty great without you needing to change anything, though if you want to have specific logos or images for files, instead of the default preview or blue folder, you can. And it’s pretty easy too.

You’ll first need to create the image you want to use in whatever default image editing app you like to use. Once you’ve done this, select the image, press Command + C and copy it. You’ll then need to right click on the file or folder you want to change the icon of and select ‘Get Info’. Select the preview image in the top left of the info card that pops up and press Command + V to paste in your custom image.

22. Close Safari tabs on other Apple devices

It’s possible to close open Safari tabs on other Apple devices signed into your Apple ID from your Mac. It’s handy if you want to make sure all your tabs are closed on your iPad before handing over to your kids, for example. To do this, open up Safari and tap on the Cloud next to the search bar. Any Safari tabs you have open on any of your Apple devices will appear here.

23. Switch your audio output

A pretty simple tip but one that is definitely useful to know. If you have headphones connected to your Mac and you want to switch audio between your headphones and your Mac speakers, you’ll need to tap on the sound icon at the top of your menu bar. You will then be able to select any headphones that you have connected, as well as choose whether to use the input device.

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24. Type special (and fun) characters

There are quick ways to access various special characters when typing, such as holding down a character for more options. For example, if you were to write café, you would hold down the ‘e’ in order to get the options with the accent. You can also type fun characters too, like emoji. Yep, that’s right, you do not need a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar to type an emoji. If you click on the Edit menu in an app, there is usually an option called ‘Emoji’s & Symbols’, if the app supports it. You can also press the fn key in the bottom left of your keyboard to access the various symbols. You can use the search bar to search for a certain character symbol, or you can filter through various categories by tapping on the rectangular icon in the top right corner.

25. Get screenshots to save in JPEG instead of PNG

Apple automatically saves screenshots you take on a Mac as PNG, though that’s not always great, depending on what you want to do with the screenshot after you’ve taken it. To change the default file type, you can use Terminal to write a section of code. Don’t panic, it’s not as scary as it seems.

Use Spotlight to find Terminal on your Mac. You’ll then want to type ‘defaults write com.apple.screencapture type JPG’ and press enter. Once you restart your Mac, the effect will take place. If you don’t want to restart, type ‘KillAll SystemUIServer’ and tap enter. To revert back to PNG, you’ll need to type ‘defaults write com.apple.screencapture type PNG’ and enter, followed by a restart or ‘KillAll SystemUIServer’ and enter.

If you want to quickly copy a link in Safari, just press Command + L, followed by Command + C. It will highlight the entire link straight away, which is much quicker than manually dragging your cursor to the end.

27. Talk to Siri

Siri was around quite a while before the likes of Alexa and it’s pretty funny too. You can use Siri for a range of tasks, such as setting reminds and alarms, as well as asking various questions. To start talking to Siri on your Mac, hit the Siri icon at the top of your menu bar.

28. Switch between apps

We love this one. It’s so simple but so effective when it comes to moving between apps. Just hit Command + Tab and you’ll see the App Switcher appear. You’ll need to hold down Command and then you can switch between apps using the Tab key. Once the app you want t open is highlighted, let go of Command and Tab and it will open.

29. Unlock with Apple Watch

If you have an Apple Watch and a Mac, you can set your Mac up to unlock when you are wearing your Apple Watch. It saves you having to type in your password, though if you have a newer Mac with Touch ID built into the keyboard, it’s pretty quick to unlock your Mac anyway. To setup automatic unlocking with an Apple Watch though, open System Settings by tapping on the Apple in the top left of the display and selecting it from the menu. You’ll then want to head to ‘Touch ID & Password’ and toggle on your Apple Watch from the list.

30. Record your screen quickly

We’ve mentioned how to take a screenshot and a full screen screenshot, but it’s also possible to quickly record your screen too. You’ll want to press Command + 5.

31. Close apps from App Switcher

You might find when you open App Switcher that you a lot more apps open than you thought. If you want to close an app down, you can do it from App Switcher by simply pressing ‘Q’ when the app you want to quit is highlighted.

32. Use Trackpad or Mouse gestures

There are a number of gestures on the Trackpad and Mouse that give you quick access to various features on Mac. The trick is remembering them all. Some of our favourites include swiping across to the left with two fingers to launch the notification centre, clicking with two fingers to perform a right-click and zooming in or out by pinching with two fingers. There are plenty though, including swiping up with four fingers to launch Mission Control and showing your desktop by spreading your thumb and three fingers apart.

33. Use Universal Clipboard to copy and paste between devices

Universal Clipboard lets you copy text, images, photos and videos on one Apple device, like your iPhone for example, and then paste it on another Apple device, like your Mac. Both devices need to be signed in with the same Apple ID, have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on and have Handoff turned on. Once that’s covered, you just copy on the first device and paste as you normally would on your Mac.

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