Mac users often know the ins and outs of their gear – after all, we’re generally talking about a passionate bunch who love their machine – but like most technology, it’s estimated we only use a small fraction of what a Mac can do.
If you’re like most, you stick to what you need, and don’t venture much outside of your comfort zone.
But what if you’re not taking advantage of some productivity-boosting features? Who wouldn’t want to get more done in less time? What about squeezing the most out of the macOS High Sierra operating system, along with little-known shortcuts and touchpad gestures?
Whether you use your Mac for work or play – or, in all likelihood, a bit of both – the following are some tips and tricks to getting the most out of your MacBook (from $1299), MacBook Air (from $999), or MacBook Pro (from $1299).
Talk to your Mac
Depending on how well you type, talking to your tech could be two to three times faster, and more accurate.
By either clicking the icon on your Dock or Menu Bar or pressing and holding Command + Space, summon your personal assistant to ask a question or give a command. Along with sports scores and music, Siri can help you launch apps, pull up specific files, and enable or disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Sign PDFs in Mail
If you had to sign something received by email, you might think you had to print, sign, scan, and email back to the sender. Instead, you can sign the document right in the Mail app, and send it off.
Simply drag and drop a PDF into an email message and hover your mouse pointer over it. In the top right you should see a little button to click, which gives you a few Markup options. One is to sign documents. Sign your name on your trackpad or hold a signed piece of paper up to your Mac’s webcam, and it’ll import that for you.
Create your own shortcuts
Many seasoned Mac users rely on shortcuts to shave off time, but did you know you can also create your own shortcuts?
To do so, head over to System Preferences > Keyboard > Application Shortcuts. Now click the + button to add a new shortcut and use the drop-down list to choose the app you want to apply it to. Now, choose a unique keyboard button combination to invoke the command, followed by Add. That’s it!
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Help your mom, remotely
If you know anything about technology, you’re likely the go-to person in the family when things stop working (believe me, I can relate). And is there anything more frustrating – for both parties – than trying to walk through instructions with a tech-shy person, over the phone?
Instead, your Mac can view and take control over someone else’s Mac over the Internet.
In Spotlight, launch Screen Sharing and then type in the Apple ID of the person you’re trying to help remotely. They’ll receive a notification and must grant you permission to let you in, so you can see their Mac, and also take control over their trackpad and keyboard.
If it doesn’t work at first try, be sure Screen Sharing is enabled in the Sharing pane of System Preferences.
Send and receive text messages on your Mac
Why should you need multiple devices to read different kinds of messages? If you’re sitting in front of your Mac, you can read and respond to text messages and instant messages.
So long as you an iPhone (running iOS 8.1 or newer), enable the Text Message Forwarding option under Settings > Messages on your iPhone. Make sure you’re signed into the same account on both your Mac and iOS device, you’re good to go.
When someone sends a text, it will appear as a green bubble, while an iMessage will appear as blue.
Email ridiculously huge files
There are two problems associated with sending large files over email: you risk upsetting the recipient because it could jam up their inbox, or the message is rejected altogether.
This could be a thing of the past if you use Apple’s own Mail app, or the webmail version at icloud.com.
Since Yosemite, you can email files up to 5 gigabytes (GB) in size, as the large attachment is automatically uploaded to iCloud, and then a link is sent to the recipient, where they’ll have 30 days to download it. If they’re using icloud.com to read their mail, the recipient will likely see the attachment rather than a web link.
Get more ports (or power)
The one downside to Macs getting thinner and thinner is the lack of space to plug everything in.
The good news is this could be resolved with a small accessory that acts like a hub, such as Nucleum ($79) from Kingston.
This 7-in-1 Type-C hub works with newer MacBook notebooks, with ports for: USB-C (power input), USB-C (data), HDMI, two USB-A, SD (SecureDigital) cards, and one for MicroSD cards. And yes, all 7 ports can be used at the same time, plus it supports “pass through,” meaning you can charge your MacBook through Nucleum, while simultaneously using all ports.
Another accessory tip: With some high-capacity back-up batteries, you can charge up newer MacBooks that have a USB Type-C ports – so you don’t need to plug it into an AC outlet in a wall or power strip.
Multitask like a pro
Ever since El Capitan debuted, working with two apps side-by-side became much easier to pull off.
Aptly called Split Screen view, simply click and hold the mouse cursor over an app’s green-colored maximize button (top-left hand side of an app window), and then drag it to the left or right side of the screen. Now, pick a second open app to snap to the other side.
Be aware, this feature obscures the Menu Bar, which will return when you close one app.
Stop annoying web videos from auto-playing
With the new Safari 11 web browser, you can choose which websites can auto-play videos when you visit them — or block all of them, if you prefer.
For individual websites, go to a website that auto-plays videos and click Safari in the top menu bar, followed by Settings for This Website (or right-click the URL box and select Settings for This Website). A pop-up box will appear and hover mouse cursor over Auto-Play (the last option on the list) and it will turn into a menu with three choices: Allow All Auto-Play, Stop Media with Sound, or Never Auto-Play.
Safari will remember your settings for that site going forward.
To stop all videos from auto-playing in Safari, to go Safari > Preferences > Websites. Choose the option called Auto-Play on the left, and then Choose settings for all websites.
Run Windows 10
You’ve got a Mac, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run Windows 10 on it. Cue the song “Best of Both Worlds” by Hannah Montana. OK, maybe not.
But it’s true you can run the world’s most popular desktop operating system – finally eclipsing Windows 7, according to Microsoft – to take advantage of all its benefits, such as wide-ranging support for all kinds of software (including computer games), and hardware.
You can toggle between Windows and macOS using a virtual machine program, such as Parallels or VMWare Fusion — though performance may not be the best for demanding applications (like gaming). Alternatively, you may choose to start the MacBook into a desired operating system using Boot Camp, located in the Utilities folder (but you won’t be able to run macOS apps alongside Windows apps).
However you choose to install and run Windows, you’ll need a Windows license.
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Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at www.marcsaltzman.com.