Mac Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts in easy steps (2015)
Tips & Tricks for Common Apps
Most OS X apps work fine straight out of the box but you can improve productivity hugely by exploring the options available for these apps. In this section we will look at the common built-in OS X apps such as Mail, iTunes, iPhoto, Safari, Reminders, and others.
Make Mail work for You!
Apple’s mail program is a great Mail client but it is set up fairly simply by default. There are several things you can modify to make it more powerful:
•Customize the Toolbar
•Use signatures for your accounts
•Set up email rules to filter items
•Use Smart Mailboxes to store specific types of email
Customize the Toolbar
There are more items you can add to the Toolbar but these are not shown by default because many people would not want to use them. To beef up the Toolbar:
Open Mail, right-click on the Toolbar and select Customize Toolbar... Drag the items you want to add to the Toolbar and click Done
Using Mail signatures makes a more professional impression, especially if you are using Mail for business purposes.
These are small pieces of text that appear in your emails saving you having to type out your contact details, or paste in your company logo each time. Once you have set up a few signatures (personal, work-related, etc.) you can drag-and-drop these onto the accounts that you want associated with each type of signature:
Go to Mail > Preferences > Signatures
Click the + symbol and add your signature
Drag the signature to each account with which you want to use that signature
Rules can streamline your email. By telling Mail what you want to do with incoming email you can save yourself the hassle of filing each one individually. For example, emails from your friends can be targeted to a Personal email folder:
Go to Mail > Preferences > Rules
These are like smart playlists in iTunes where you can set up a smart mailbox to store, for example, all emails containing attachments, or emails containing only presentation files created within the last 12 months, and so on.
Quickly enable Private Browsing
Private browsing lets you view websites without leaving any trace of your visit. There will be no temporary cache files and your history will not show where you’ve been. This is useful if you are using a Mac other than your own:
Go to Safari > File > New Private Window (slow method, gets tedious)
Speed up Private Browsing by using a keyboard shortcut: Type Cmd + Shift + N
Make new Safari tabs immediately active
Hold down Cmd + Shift while clicking a link. This brings up a new tab that becomes active straight away.
Merge windows into tabs
Sometimes you have numerous Safari windows scattered across your screen. You can merge these into one Safari window with all the pages now converted to separate tabs:
Go to Safari > Window > Merge All Windows
Show all tabs instantly
Go to Safari > View > Show All Tabs
Or use Cmd + Shift + \
Getting more out of Preview
Merge two or more PDFs into one
Merging PDF files is useful but not intuitive. You can drag one PDF onto another which is open in Preview but when you close the PDF you find they have not merged into one. Here’s how to do it:
Open the first PDF in Preview
Make sure you can see the thumbnails on the left hand side
Click the triangle at the top left to hide the pages in the first PDF. Drag the second PDF below the first
Click on both PDFs in the left pane and save the file
Here you can see the first PDF with its pages hidden (the triangle was clicked to hide the pages).
Here is the resulting merged PDF document.
Reduce PDF file size
PDF files containing lots of images can be huge. It is easy to reduce the file size:
Open the PDF to be reduced
Go to Export > Quartz Filter: Reduce File Size
The PDF will now be very much smaller than before
Stop iPhoto opening when you connect a camera
Open iPhoto > Preferences and under the General tab click the menu Connecting camera opens: Make sure it says No application
You may have to open Image Capture as well. When your camera is connected, click the triangle at the bottom left of the screen and make sure it says Connecting this iPhone opens: No application
Move your iPhoto library to another drive
Locate your iPhoto library (in your Pictures folder) and copy to your drive of choice
Double-click the library file and iPhoto will remember where it is
Set up multiple iPhoto libraries
You can add two or more additional libraries by holding down the Option key when you launch iPhoto.
You can now share your Reminders with other people.
Share a Reminder
Open the Reminders app
Select a reminder or create a new one
To the right of the reminder title you will see a Wi-Fi symbol
Click this and add a name or email address
You have now shared your reminder
Backup your iTunes library
Hard drives often fail so it is worth backing up your entire music library in the event of a hard drive disaster:
Go to ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music
Drag this file to the backup drive
Your music and other media will be copied across to the backup drive
Moving your iTunes library
If you have a lot of music on your Mac you may want to move the music folder to another location. iTunes will become confused since it will not know where the music folder has moved to so you need to tell it the location of the Music Library:
Locate your iTunes files by going to ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music
Drag this folder to its new location
Open iTunes and go to iTunes > Preferences > Advanced. Under iTunes Media Folder Location you will see the path of your media folder. To let iTunes know the new location, click Change... and navigate to where the media folder is located
Then click Open
Create additional iTunes libraries
Start iTunes while holding down Option
Create a new library (similar to iPhoto, see here)
Use iSight Camera for Notes
If you jot things down on post-it notes or scraps of paper you may lose them somewhere. Why not try photographing the bit of paper and uploading to Evernote or dropping into Apple Notes?
Taking a picture
Launch Photo Booth
Hold your note up so the iSight camera can see it and take a picture
Drag to the Desktop
Or use a smartphone, or iPad to take a picture and move it to the Desktop so you can access it
Open Notes and drop the picture onto it (or drop it onto Evernote where the OCR software will actually make the text searchable so you can find it easily later)
Alternatively, drop it into Word or some other app
Convert DVDs with Handbrake
You can use your Mac to put movies onto your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV and other devices very easily. This works with standard DVDs, but not Blu-Ray DVDs:
Download Handbrake (free) from http://handbrake.fr
Install and launch the app
Put the DVD you want to convert into the CD/DVD slot of your Mac, and Handbrake will ask you choose the Source
Choose the DVD and Handbrake will analyze the files on the DVD and will configure itself so that the largest file (the film) will be at the top of the dropdown menu
Choose the output format and click Convert
Handbrake will convert the film and save to the Desktop
Drop onto iTunes or wherever you want to store it
Sync with your mobile device
Image Capture App
Most people don’t use Image Capture much. This simple app will mount your camera, iPhone, iPad or any other device with images or videos and display these in its window.
Viewing your media in Image Capture
You can delete photos from your iOS device, drag them to the Desktop or copy the iPhone’s entire camera roll to a folder for editing or viewing:
Attach your camera or iOS device to your Mac
Open Image Capture
Your photos (and videos if you have any) should all display in the window
You may need to click the black triangle on the left to select your device, especially if you have more than one device plugged into your Mac
To delete an image, click it to select it then click the Delete icon at the bottom of the Image Capture window
You can tell Image Capture never to open when a camera or other device is connected.
Explore your iOS Device
iOS devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches are essentially hard drives which can be plugged into a Mac or PC and mounted. This lets you view all the files on the device.
The iExplorer app works with both Mac OS X and PC. It lets you plug in your iOS device and your folders and files show up ready for deleting or copying to the Desktop. You can even listen to voicemails and download your text messages as a PDF!
Warning: be very careful when it comes to deleting files from your device. It may never work again if you delete a critical file. It is probably wisest simply to use the app to view your photos and videos.
Download iExplorer 3 from http://www.macroplant.com/iexplorer/
Plug in your iPhone or other iOS device
Launch iExplorer 3
You will see the directory structure listing everything on your iPhone or iOS device including music, videos, books, text messages, voicemails, etc.
Click the white triangles to view files within folders
Annotate PDFs with Skitch
Annotating PDFs is not only for the business world. The free app Skitch (http://skitch.com, now owned by Evernote) lets you drop images or PDFs onto the app and you can add text, shapes and do other cool things.
Another cool thing about Skitch is that it’s totally free!
Here I have opened a PDF file (Skitch restricts you to the first page only) and you can see the number of different save formats Skitch has.