50 best Mac tips, tricks and timesavers

24th Dec 2013 | 10:00

50 best Mac tips, tricks and timesavers

All the awesome things you forgot your Mac could do

Your Mac can do millions of things, but sometimes even the best of us forget some of the cool stuff it can do - so we're here to help jog your memory.

Some of these tips need recent versions of OS X, but not all of them do. In some cases, some are little features that Apple has sneaked into upgrades that you might have totally missed, and some might be a classic lightbulb moment of "I'd totally forgotten you could do that!"

This is neither a formal nor an exhaustive list; we've just put our heads together to gather the fifty tips we think are awesome.

1. Control a Mac remotely

Remote

There are dozens of ways of controlling a Mac across the internet, which you might want to do to schedule a recording, start a download and so on. You could try LogMeIn, or share a desktop using Google Hangouts and Skype; you could try port forwarding the built-in VNC client in OS X, but our favourite - and the easiest - is Back to My Mac, managed through iCloud.

So long as the remote Mac is on, logged into an account tied to your iCloud login (through System Preferences) and connected to the internet, it should appear under Shared in your Finder sidebar. (If it doesn't, hover over Shared and click Show; if Shared isn't there, look in the Finder's preferences.)

Click Share Screen… to control the Mac over the internet, as if you were sitting in front of it. (It might make more sense to go Full Screen to stop yourself getting confused!) Check out the options in the menus and toolbar.

Alternatively, click Connect As… to log into the Mac to copy files from and to it. If you have a recent AirPort Extreme with a hard disk attached, or a Time Capsule, then you can access those files similarly; make sure your router is logged into iCloud using AirPort Utility.

2. Talk to and listen to your Mac!

Talk to your mac

In OS X 10.8, the Mac's ability to listen to you as well as talk is really impressive. Although these are sometimes framed as being accessibility features, they can be useful for everyone. For example, it's a good idea to read through any important text before you send it off, but it's easy to skip mistakes when you're reading your own work. Instead, select the text and go to Edit > Speech > Start Speaking. You can control the speed and pick from a range of different voices (our favourite's the Scottish 'Fiona') in the Dictation & Speech System Preference pane.

If you find you use the feature often, you should enable the option to trigger speaking aloud using a keyboard shortcut - the default is Option+Esc, which you can change in the Dictation & Speech pane. (If you do have restricted vision, investigate the VoiceOver feature in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences too; this can read aloud buttons and other on-screen items, and more.)

Your Mac is just as good a listener as it is a talker, though. Not only can you control your Mac using Speakable Items (check the Accessibility pane) but in OS X 10.8 you can also dictate text anywhere you would type. By default you just press the Function key twice and then start talking.

3. Run Windows

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 OS X with a virtualisation 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 Utilities folder).

4. Add clips from websites to Dashboard

Dashboard

Remember Dashboard? Introduced with 10.4, this overlay holds 'widgets' that can perform handy little tasks - Apple still hosts a catalogue of them at apple.com/downloads/dashboard. One oft-forgotten trick is that you can make your own widgets by clipping from web pages. The best bit is that the web page remains live. Here's how to do it (we're going to clip out some cricket scores, but it will pretty much work for any part of any site).

1. Navigate to the page you want to clip a section from in Safari. (It has to be Safari, not Chrome, Firefox or whatever.) You can clip out information that's essentially static - say, a list of keyboard shortcuts you want to refer to - or stuff that's changing all the time.

2. Go to the File menu and choose Open in Dashboard…; now you can mouse over sections of the web page, and it's usually smart about snapping to appropriate areas. If not, just click then drag the handles. Once you're done, click Add at the top right.

3. Once the clipping has been added to your Dashboard, you can click the i at the bottom right to flip it round. Here you'll see options for the frame; pick the one you like. The web clipping should update anyway, but if you need to force a manual refresh, click it, then tap Command+R.

5. Type exotic characters

Characters

As well as letters and symbols you see on your keyboard, you can type a bewildering array of special characters. You may already be familiar with typing accents such as for café (in that case you either type Option+E then E again or, on OS X 10.7 or later, hold down the E until you get extra options) but you'll find there are many more.

Go to the Edit menu of most apps and you'll see Special Characters at the bottom. This panel gives you access to a huge range of symbols you can drag into your documents. Not all apps or operating systems support them, but these are mostly part of the cross-platform Unicode standard. There are probably more than you see at first, too; click the cog to reveal more.

Emoji (those fun, colourful characters available in OS X 10.7 or later) are a notable exception to this cross-platform world. They're not Apple-only, but your recipient might not be able to see them.

6. Record screencasts

You can record videos of your screen; you might want to record a problem or make instructional videos about using apps on your Mac. Open QuickTime Player and from the File menu choose New Screen Recording. Click the little drop-down arrow to pick the audio source and to choose whether or not to show mouse clicks in the recording. Now you can pick to record either the full screen or just a selection, and once you're done, you can do the usual things - trim, upload to YouTube, AirDrop it to another Mac, or import it into iMovie for more precise editing.

7. Zoom into the screen

Want to see something up close? Hold the key and scroll up with your mouse or trackpad. If that does nothing, check the option is enabled in Accessibility, where you will also find options for smoothing and whether you want the whole screen to zoom in or just show you the zoomed area in a little window within your Mac's screen.

8. Slow down animations

Lots of visual effects on your Mac can be slowed down either to help you better understand what's going on, or just so you can go 'oooooh, pretty!'. Hold down Shift when, for example, minimising windows, triggering Mission Control or Launchpad, and you'll see the effect.

9. Use custom icons (plus, exporting icons to use elsewhere)

Icons

Back in the day, we all seemed to be adding custom icons to every folder on our system, but it appears to have fallen out of fashion a bit. But it shouldn't have, because it's a great way to personalise your Mac and makes it easier to identify folders and other stuff at a glance. Below, we'll show you how to do it, but here's a bonus tip as well.

If you want to copy icons to use them in documents, for example, it's really easy with Preview. Select the item with the icon you want in the Finder and then tap Command+C. Switch to Preview and tap Command+N (which is New from Clipboard) and you'll see the icon appears in all the different sizes. Pick the one you want (usually the biggest) and then export it to whatever format you need - PNG is often best as it retains the transparency - and drop it into your document.

1. The first step in changing a file or folder's icon is to find what you want to change it to. Search the web (try interfacelift.com). Go to /System/Library/CoreServices and then right-click CoreTypes.bundle and choose Show Package Contents; you'll find great system icons including Apple hardware in Resources.

2. Once you've found the item whose icon you want to copy - whether it's a file, folder, app or whatever you like - you need to get further information on it; either go to the File menu and choose Get Info or just hit keys Command+I. Now, click on the icon and tap Command+C.

3. The next step is to paste the icon onto the folder or whatever it is you're personalising in a similar way. Opt to 'Get Info' on it, select the icon and then tap Command+V. If you later want to clear the tweaked icon, then you can select it in this Get Info window then tap .

Discover the power of Preview

Crop and tweak images, annotate PDFs, and a whole lot more…

10. Quickly, smartly and elegantly import with Image Capture

Preview

If people sometimes overlook Preview's power features, they almost always ignore Image Capture completely. Before you clog up your system with bloatware apps and drivers for digital cameras and scanners, though, try Image Capture - it's in your Utilities folder. With this you can control most modern scanners (or the scanners in multifunction printers) both wired and wirelessly, and import from digital cameras, including iOS devices.

Pop up the panel at the bottom-left for extra options; it's here, for example, that you tell your Mac what app should launch when you connect each of your devices (including 'none') so you could launch Aperture when you connect your SLR, say, but launch nothing when you dock your iPhone.

11. Annotate PDFs and images

Annotate PDFs

Preview has some fantastic tools built into it for annotating images and PDFs. And, what's best of all is that the annotations it adds to a PDF are based on a standard that's compatible with Adobe's PDF app, Acrobat, which is used by Windows users and companies - so it's easy to share annotated documents with colleagues.

Make sure the Edit Toolbar is visible (from the View menu) and you'll see you've got options for drawing shapes, arrows, speech and thought bubbles and more. There's also the option to highlight text in different colours, strikethrough some text, add notes and type some text into boxes.

12. Sign your documents

Sign documents

In OS X 10.7, Preview gained the ability to add your signature to documents. To get started, go to the Signatures tab in Preview's preferences and then click the +. Now, sign your name in black ink on a small piece of white paper and hold it up to your Mac's webcam. Line it up and click Accept (making sure the 'Save this signature' option is checked if you want to use it in the future).

Now open a document you want to sign, pop up the Edit Toolbar and click the signature icon - it looks like an S on a line next to a tiny x. Draw a box to add your signature on the form. You can scale and reposition it afterwards too.

13. Crop, resize and tweak images

Crop images

Preview is one one of the most underappreciated apps on a Mac; especially in later versions of OS X, it became hugely powerful, and even for us at MacFormat, it does much of what we'd traditionally use a more elaborate and expensive application such as Photoshop for. Do yourself a favour: open an image in Preview and poke around the app's menus and interface to see what it can do.

For example, you can crop your image. Draw a selection with the regular Rectangular Selection tool then either hit Command+K or choose Crop from the Tools menu. Alternatively, show the Edit Toolbar and make a more complex selection either with the Instant Alpha tool (like in iWork) or use the Smart Lasso. With this tool, you draw as carefully as you can around the outline of the object and then Preview works out as closely as it can where the edges are. In either case, cropping will, if the image isn't already a PNG, convert it so that you can have the thing you're cutting out on a transparent background. (You might need the Invert Selection command, too!)

You can also resize images, and even do some tweaks to the colours with the Adjust Color pop-up. Select Adjust Color… from the Tools menu, and you get some handy sliders and a histogram to help you tweak things. Plus, hit the backtick symbol (to the left of Z on a UK Mac keyboard, and to the left of 1 on a US Mac keyboard) to bring up a loupe so you can see what's happening at 100% as you make changes.

Quick timesavers

Cut to the chase and avoid stress on project deadlines

14. Edit videos in QuickTime Player

If you've recorded a fun little video and it needs just a small amount of tidying at the start and end before it goes online, there's an easier way than delving into iMovie. QuickTime X can trim the start and ends of videos if you go to Edit > Trim… in the menu, then drag the handles at the start and end of the timeline that appears to set a new beginning and end of the clip. Click Trim when you're happy with it.

If you want to take a section out of the middle of a clip, you can use the Split Clip menu option. You can split your video more than once and remove sections you don't want, and you can even insert other videos where the splits are.

15. Make a keyboard shortcut for anything

Keyboard shortcut

Keyboard shortcuts are great for saving time, but you're not limited to just the shortcuts put in by developers; if there's a particular menu option you use all the time that doesn't have a shortcut, you can create it yourself.

Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Application Shortcuts. Click the + button to add a new shortcut. You can choose which app you want to apply it to from the drop-down list, but you must know the exact name of the menu command to type into the next box, including the correct case and any special characters such as ellipses. Lastly, choose a unique key combination to invoke the command, then click Add.

16. Use Automator and Services for speed

Automator

Automator is a tool built into OS X that enables you to build your own workflows of commands, making complex tasks much easier in the future. Use it to build your own little apps that perform a specific task, to make a workflow to modify batches of files, or to create new Services, which are functions you can access from a right-click. You could use Automator to rename a large number of files, to convert images to a different file type, to turn text files in a folder to audio files, and much more.

1. To create something in Automator, open it, then choose what type of thing you want to create: each is useful in different circumstances, so click on them to see descriptions. Select the one you want and click Choose (or open an old Automator file).

2. Start creating the steps of your workflow by dragging Actions from the left-hand side of the screen to the empty space on the right-hand side. Actions are categorised by application and file type, or you can search for something at the top. Just click an Action's name to see what it does.

3. Once you've built up your workflow, you can click Run in the top-right corner to test it (though you won't be able to fully test everything this way). If there are any problems, the part where it failed will have a red cross next to it, and the log underneath will explain any warnings.

17. Use the app switcher to do more

App Switcher

Most Mac users will be used to using Command+Tab to switch applications, but this little interface is more flexible than it seems at first. For a start, if you bring it up, then keep holding Command and hover your cursor over the icons (or press the " and ' keys), whichever app is highlighted when you release Command is the one you'll switch to.

Also, when you've got an app highlighted, you can do a few other things: press Q to quit an app instantly; press H to hide an app from view; or press the up or down arrows to see the highlighted app's open windows in Mission Control. Finally, if an app has windows that have been minimised, switch to it, but hold Option when you release Command - the minimised windows will all reappear back from the Dock.

18. Do quick sums with Spotlight

If there's a very quick calculation you need to do when working, but you don't want to break your flow by opening the calculator or bringing up the dashboard, you can use Spotlight instead. Just hit Command+[space] to open Spotlight, and then type your sum - you can even use brackets for more complex maths. The answer will appear where Spotlight's results usually come up, and you can copy the results with Command+c.

19. Upload movies to YouTube with QuickTime

There's an easier way to get your movies online than going through YouTube's web interface. Double-click your movie on your Mac to open it in QuickTime Player, then click on the Share icon in the player and select YouTube (though you can choose other services). The first time, you'll have to log in, but after that you'll be taken straight to options for giving your video tags, a description and categorising it. You can also make a movie personal, so that it's not immediately visible to the wider world.

20. Speed up the Bookmarks bar

Safari's Bookmarks bar is a great way to make your favourite sites easy to access, but you can actually speed things up even more! When you place a site in the bar, it's assigned a keyboard shortcut based on its position - just press Command+1 to access the first site in the bar, Command+2 to access the second, and so on.

21. Close many windows quickly

Sometimes, working at your Mac for a while can leave you with a lot of open windows - lots of Preview images, for example, or Finder windows. Rather than closing them individually, you can close all of an application's windows at once by pressing Option+Command+W. It only closes windows from the currently active app, so your other work is safe.

22. Hide apps quickly

Full-screen apps make it easy to focus on something, but that's not the only way to clear yourself of distractions: if you want to hide all open applications except for the one that's currently active, press Option+Command+H and they'll disappear - you can show them again by selecting them in the Dock. Conversely, to hide only the active application, just press Command+H. If you click the desktop while holding Command+Option, you'll hide all application windows except for Finder.

23. Open a file's location in Finder from Spotlight

When you don't know where a file is, Spotlight is the easiest way to find it, but you won't always want to open the file: you might just want to see it in Finder. To do this, highlight the result you want in Spotlight, but hold Command when you click on it. This will open the file's location in Finder. You can also use this trick with files displayed in Stacks on the Dock to open them in Finder.

24. See hidden options

Holding Option actually lets you get to more options in the menu bar, as well as in the menus themselves. For example, the Restart…, Shut Down… and so on options in the Apple menu are followed by an ellipses to indicate that they'll bring up a dialogue when selected, but if you hold Option when clicking them, you can skip this dialogue and immediately perform the action.

Hold Option while looking through other menus and you'll see more options change, such as 'Add Link' becoming 'Remove Link' in Mail. Similarly, try holding Option while clicking the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi icons in the menu bar to see more details and options for your connections.

25. Rename, duplicate and revert files easily

Rename

In OS X Lion, Apple introduced some new features for working with files, and a new hidden menu to access them. When you've opened a document, move your cursor over its name to bring up a small black arrow just to the right. Click this arrow and you bring up a menu with some of these new options. The most useful are the ability to rename and duplicate files, but you can also lock a file to prevent further editing, change it so that the file is stored in iCloud instead of only on your hard drive (though only in compatible apps), or move the file.

The flashiest feature is the ability to revert to a previous version of a file, though: you can choose an older version from what's listed in this menu, or click 'Browse All Versions…' to enter a Time Machine-like interface, where you can scroll through older versions of that file and compare them to the current one.

26. Switch audio source/output from the menu bar

Audio menu

If you have headphones or speakers set up with your Mac, and if you have a headset or microphone connected, you might find yourself wanting to switch between different inputs or outputs, but this doesn't have to mean a slog to System Preferences every time: hold Option and click the volume adjuster in the menu bar and it'll bring up a list of audio inputs and outputs. You can then select the ones you want (though it can't display too many, so might be limiting for complex set-ups).

Working with text

These tips work in most apps on the Mac - big, legacy apps such as Word or InDesign often do things differently, though

27. Quickly type out the phrases you regularly use

If you find yourself regularly typing the same things - whether that's a single Unicode character that doesn't have a keyboard shortcut, or an entire chunk of text such as an email signature or even just an email address - the built-in Text Replacement feature in OS X is a boon.

Go to the Text tab of the Language & Text pane of System Preferences and click the +. Put the shortcut you want into the left column and the text you want it to expand to in the right. (One idea our friend Craig Grannell had is to preface all these shortcuts with '[[' so that you don't accidentally mistype something to trigger a macro) You then have to make sure Edit > Substitutions > Text Replacement is checked in each of the apps you want this to work in.

28. Quickly and perfectly select chunks of text

Sure you can use the mouse to click and drag over a section of text, but you have to be quite precise to position the cursor perfectly - which slows you down - and you can often capture rogue spaces and punctuation that you then have to edit out if you're copying and pasting. But there is a quicker way!

1. To select a word, position the mouse cursor anywhere along its length and then double-click. To select an entire paragraph, position the mouse cursor anywhere inside the paragraph and then click three times. But wait, there's more!

2. Let's say you want to select three words in a row. Position the cursor somewhere on the first word then double-click, keeping your finger pressed down on the second click. Now drag left or right to the last word - you'll see you're now selecting a word at a time.

3. Not quite selected everything you wanted? Hold Shift and then click beyond your selection to add the text in between to the selection. Alternatively, to make a selection, position the cursor where you want the selection to start, scroll to the end then click while holding Shift.

29. Select text in non-standard layouts

If, though, the text you're selecting isn't in a neat paragraph, you might think you can't select it. But actually, that's not so! Holding down Option brings up crosshairs to let you select a rectangle of text, which is ideal for copying columns of numbers, for example. Alternatively, holding down Command will let you select non-contiguous bits of text.

'Non-contiguous' might be a phrase you've never come across before, but in this context it just means bits of text that aren't next to each other in a sentence or paragraph. Let's say we wanted to select the first sentence of this tip and this paragraph at once; we can easily do that by selecting the opening sentence then select this paragraph while holding down Command. Best of all, you can combine the previous tip with this one, so you could click and drag to select the first sentence and then triple click the paragraph while holding Command.

30. Zap your cursor around the text for easy editing

You waste a lot of time switching from the keyboard to the mouse to move your cursor around text. Force yourself to learn these text navigation shortcuts, though, and you'll be zipping around your words in no time!

Option+Left Move one word to the left
Command+Left Move to the start of the line
Replace " with the other arrow keys and see what happens!
Add Shift to these commands to select text as you move
+T Transpose (swap) the two letters either side of the cursor

31. Get in-line synonyms, definitions and more

Sometimes when you're writing, you might not always be able to reach for that perfect word. Or maybe you're not even sure if you've used the right word and need to check, just in case. Or maybe you just want to do a bit of research for an essay, for instance.

Happily, the built-in Dictionary in OS X puts synonyms, definitions and even Wikipedia within easy reach. Select a word or phrase with your mouse or using keyboard shortcuts and then either right-click the selection and click Look Up or tap Ctrl +Command+D.

In the pop-over window that appears, simply click the headings to open the standalone Dictionary app in that mode, and you can click the ellipsis to see more entries. Best of all, you can change the order that the dictionary, thesaurus and so on appear in the Dictionary app's preferences, so if you're always reaching for synonyms but never use Wikipedia, say, you can move the thesaurus to the top and even disable Wikipedia entirely.

Working with other devices

Get connected with your other gadgets to work better and smarter

32. Connect to the internet through your iPhone

Connect Mac to 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.

33. Share a DVD drive with Remote Disc

Remote disc

Remote Disc enables you to effectively share a DVD drive between multiple Macs, letting you, say, use an older iMac's SuperDrive with a MacBook Air to install software. To activate this on the Mac that has the disc drive, go to System Preferences > Sharing and check 'DVD or CD Sharing', then insert the disc you want to share. Make sure the other Mac is connected to the same network as the disc-laden one, then open a Finder window and look in the sidebar for Remote Disc in the Devices section. Click it, then double-click the computer you want to connect to.

34. Print to the next available printer

It can be annoying having to wait for someone else to print out large documents when you're in a hurry, so use this tip to minimise the wait if you have access to more than one printer. In System Preferences > Print & Fax, you can select multiple printers and create a Printer Pool. You can then select this Pool from the print dialogue in apps instead of your individual printers, and if one printer is in use, your Mac will automatically send the document to one that's free instead - no waiting!

35. Use Home Sharing to share your iTunes library

home sharing

It's pretty common for members of a family or a shared house to want to share their music or movies with each other, and you can do this easily with iTunes. Go to iTunes > Preferences > Sharing, and then check the box labelled 'Share my library on my local network'. If you want to limit who can access your library, set a password in the box near the bottom, otherwise everyone will be able to access it.

You can also limit sharing to particular areas or playlists in your iTunes library. Once Home Sharing is turned on, other iTunes users can see your library by clicking the Library drop-down menu in the top-left of iTunes. iOS device users can also access libraries through Home Sharing by going to the More tab in the Music or Videos apps.

36. Share a printer with other Macs

Share a printer

Network printers are massively useful, letting anyone on your network print wirelessly, but if you've got a great printer already connected to one Mac and don't want to replace it, you can still get the same convenience. Go to System Preferences > Sharing and check the Printer Sharing service. This will bring up a screen where you can select the printer to share, and specify who can use it, if necessary. Once this is set up, any Mac on the network can access that printer from the print dialogue, though the Mac the printer is connected to must be turned on.

37. Get wireless audio and video with AirPlay

Airplay

AirPlay is Apple's technology for streaming audio and video around your house, and it's available on both iOS devices and Macs. Most Macs can stream audio to AirPlay speakers, while newer Macs can also mirror their displays to an Apple TV, letting you show something on the big screen.

For basic AirPlay output from iTunes, you just need to click its symbol - the rectangle with the triangle cutting into it - next to the volume bar and choose where you want to send the music. If you want all of your system audio to come from the speakers instead of just music, though, hold Option and press a volume control key to open the Sound preferences, where you can choose an output (or use the Menu bar tip we already mentioned).

If an Apple TV is on the same network as your Mac, an AirPlay icon will appear automatically in the menu bar. To start mirroring your screen, select it, then click on the name of your Apple TV.

Keep your Mac secure

Make sure your machine is safe from prying eyes and sticky fingers

38. Add a Guest User account to your Mac

Guest

As you probably know, you can add multiple users to your Mac, so that every person in your home or office, say, can have their own space to work and to set things up how they like them. But there's another kind of account you can turn on: a Guest account.

Turn it on in System Preferences > Users & Groups, and now you'll be presented with Guest as an option at the login screen. Anyone can use it - no password needed - but once they're finished everything they do will be wiped. This is great not just for Macs in foyers or spare rooms, say, but it's also great for if a friend or colleague says, "Can I just borrow your Mac for a minute to do something?"

You probably should turn off Automatic login and set your Security & Privacy settings to require a password after, say, five seconds of sleep or screensaver time. That way you can be sure nobody will be able to access your stuff, but when they try to use your Mac they'll be offered the option of switching user and can then pick Guest.

39. Restrict what someone can do - and when!

Restrictions

The Parental Controls in OS X are simple, but there are plenty of options in there - some of which are useful for other things than preventing underage access. You can limit computer use to a certain length of time every day, set a 'bedtime' after which users won't be able to use the computer, limit the functions of the Finder, limit what apps that user can use and more. You could, for example, disallow a nervous computer user from modifying the Dock or changing their password.

40. Prevent malicious apps

If you're running OS X 10.7 or later, you have a feature called Gatekeeper. Configured through the General tab of the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences, this tells your Mac whether it can run only apps from the App Store, apps from the App Store plus trusted developers (those who have been given Apple's blessing) or from anywhere. That middle option is usually the best one - malicious apps should be prevented from running. If you have an 'unsigned app' (one not from one of Apple's trusted developers) that you're sure is safe, you don't have to switch to the least secure option in System Preferences. Right-click it, choose Open and then click Open in the dialog.

41. Avoid keyloggers

One method of attack is to capture what you type - with the intention to harvest passwords. To mitigate the risk of this, you can click letters using an on-screen keyboard. Go to Language & Text (or International on older systems) then Input Sources and check Keyboard & Character Viewer. Now launch the on-screen keyboard from the menu bar.

Fixing annoyances

Sort quirks in a jiffy, whether its connectivity glitches or resizing windows

42. Find menu bar options quickly using Help

Menu bar options

Some apps have more menu bar options than you can hope to keep track of, but instead of searching through each drop-down list manually, you can use the last Help menu to speed things up. It contains a search box, where you can type in the name of the option you're looking for. Results come up underneath it, and hovering over a result will show you which menu it's in, or you can just click the result to select it.

43. Set preferred Wi-Fi networks

If there are a few different Wi-Fi networks around that you connect to (and some in the same place), you can set an order of preference for your Mac, so that it will always connect to the one you want if it's available. Go to System Preferences > Network, click Wi-Fi if it's not selected, and then click Advanced… Here, you can drag networks up and down in the list to prioritise them, or select one and then click the minus button to remove it from the list altogether.

44. Retrieve your forgotten passwords

If you can't remember one of your login passwords for a website, you might be able to recover it from Keychain Access. Run Keychain Access from Utilities, then look in the list for the website you're after. Right-click on it and select 'Copy Password to Clipboard'. You'll then be asked for your user login password to prove that you're really you. Enter that and the missing password will be copied, so you can just paste it into the log-in field.

45. Take control of your windows

You can be quite flexible when it comes to windows in OS X - not only can you drag from any side to resize them these days, but you can also hold Option to resize them from two sides at once (the one you're dragging and the opposite one), or hold Shift to resize it while keeping it locked to the same proportions. And while we're talking about windows, if you want to move any that are in the background without bringing them to the fore, hold Command and then drag them around.

46. Paste text without keeping its formatting

When you copy text from some applications, and especially from the web, you tend to also copy its formatting, such as the text size, font choice and so on. When you then paste this into some text fields, such as in an email, it looks out of place, and can make things hard to read. To paste the text without its original formatting (so it just formats in the same way as the rest of what you're pasting into), instead of pressing Command+V, press Option+Shift+Command+V. Microsoft Word actually has a 'Paste Special…' menu option to do the same thing.

47. Change which app a file is opened with

Default programs

If you want a file to open in an app other than its default, select the file and press Command+I, to show its information. In the 'Open with:' section, use the drop-down menu to choose a new app. If you just close the window here, that change will only be applied to that one file; if you want other files of that type to use that same app, click 'Change All…' beneath the drop-down menu.

48. Have things ready at log-in

If there are certain apps that you'll always want to have open when you start up your Mac, you can set this up in System Preferences. Go to Users, make sure your user account is highlighted, then click Login Items. Click the + and you can choose an application, file server or pretty much anything else that should open when you log in. Once you've added something, you can use the checkboxes to opt to hide it, though it will still be running in the background. Having lots of these set up can make your Mac slower to start up, though, so if you need to speed things up and temporarily don't need them running, hold Shift while OS X is logging you in to suppress them.

49. See what your Mac's up to with Activity Monitor

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 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 clicking Quit Process. If you're just curious about how system resources are being used, click the tabs (CPU, System Memory and so on) to see graphs of your usage over time.

50. Back up your Mac

Okay, so we know that people haven't actually forgotten they can back up with their Mac, but we also know that so many people don't bother. Please do! Ever since OS X 10.5 Apple has made it easy to back up using Time Machine. Ideally you should be doing other things to back up as well, but at least do Time Machine; you can pick up a 2TB drive for less than sixty quid. Go on. Do it today!

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