Want to know a secret? I look up how-to videos and instructions for my Mac all the time. I don’t remember them all, and I don’t expect you to either. So I decided to put a few of the most basic Mac tricks into this one article as a sort of refresher both for myself and for people who never learned them.
If you’re a Mac owner, these six tips will help you make the most of your machine. Note that while this article does not cover the rudimentary difference between Apple’s OS X and Microsoft Windows, like the fact that Mac uses the command key whereas Windows uses control (Ctrl), it does hit on some of basic functions everyone needs.
If you’re a Mac expert, this article is not for you. If you’re new to the Mac or even a longtime Mac user who never mastered keyboard shortcuts or customized your settings, you may find a few quick and helpful tips.
1. How to Open Programs and Files Faster
Spotlight search is the search window in Mac, and it is a productivity dream come true because it very quickly opens apps and opens files that you find with it. Learn the keyboard shortcut for reaching the search bar, and watch saved seconds add up to minutes and hours.
How: Press Command-Space Bar to launch Spotlight Search. Type in the first few letters of app or file you want to open, and when it appears in the dropdown menu, arrow down to it and press enter.
2. How to Force Quit Apps
When an app is pinwheeling (i.e., stalling, which you’ll know because the spinning pinwheel won’t go away), you need to know how to force-quit it. This function is the same as Ctrl-Alt-Delete on Windows.
How: Press Command-Option-Esc. A list of running apps appears. Choose the one you want to quit. Note that you cannot quit the Finder, although you can relaunch it.
3. How to Take a Screenshot
Sometimes you need to take a picture of what’s on your display, or a screen capture as it’s sometimes called. There are a few ways to do it on a Mac.
How: Command-Shift-3 takes a picture of your full screen.
Command-Shift-4 puts crosshairs on the screen that you drag to the frame the part of the screen you want to capture. The image saves to the desktop, or whatever location you’ve specified in the System Preferences. Add the Control key (Command-Control-Shift-4), and the image copies to your clipboard.
Command-Shift-4 followed by the Space bar changes the pointer to a camera icon, and if you hover it over any one particular window and click the mouse or tap the trackpad, you’ll get a screenshot of only that window.
4. How to Speed Up a Slow Mac
When a Mac start to lose its pep, there are many ways to try and breathe some life back into it. We at PCMag recommend using a tune-up utility, such as CCleaner for Mac (free). I use CCleaner to uninstall apps, clear out the cache on all my browsers, and otherwise spruce up my Mac under the hood.
How: Download CCleaner for Mac from Piriform. Install it, launch it, and explore the basic interface. I recommend navigating to the Cleaner tab and selecting Run Cleaner with the default settings first. Then navigate to Tools and select Uninstall to fully delete any programs you no longer need. And finally, for security reasons, I recommend selecting Erase Free Space (also under Tools).
5. How to Automatically Launch Frequently Used Apps, Files, and Server Connections
You can save time by making your Mac automatically launch the programs you use every time you log in.
How: Go to System Preferences and choose Users & Groups. Select your account, and choose Login Items. Use the plus sign to add apps, folders, files, and even disks that you want to automatically launch when you start up your Mac. Hit Add to save. You can also use the minus sign to remove apps and other things that automatically launch when you log in.
6. How to Use All the Functions of the Trackpad and Magic Mouse
You know how to move the cursor around the screen using the trackpad or Magic Mouse, right? But there are many more ways when you learn the multi-touch gestures. You can find some diagrams provided by Apple here, and in Yosemite, there are helpful animations right in the System Preferences under Trackpad and Mouse (as long as you have a Magic Mouse).
Learn at least these basic two- and three-fingers gestures:
- Swipe up and down with two fingers to scroll.
- Swipe left and right with two fingers to go backward and forward in Safari.
- Double tap with two fingers to zoom.
- Pinch as you would in iOS to zoom in and out of photos and Web pages.
- Swipe left and right with two fingers to move between desktops and full-screen apps.
- Pinch your thumb and three fingers together to open Launchpad.
How (Magic Mouse):
- Swipe one finger up and down the mouse to scroll.
- Swipe one finger left and right on the mouse to move backward and forward in Safari.
- Double tap with one finger to zoom.
- Double tap with two fingers to reach Mission Control where you can see all apps that are running.
Bonus: Enable Tap to Click in the settings for trackpad, and then gently tap the pad without fully pressing it to make a selection.