Power Up Your Mac
Mac Life|April 2022
If your Mac’s not running as quickly as it should be, or you just want to squeeze every ounce of power you can from it, read on
By Kenny Hemphill

Whether you only use your Mac occasionally or you’re the kind of power user who spends hours sitting or standing in front of it every day, it’s likely that you sometimes become frustrated because it won’t run as quickly or as smoothly as you’d like it to or you think it should. It’s also likely that you’ve encountered the dreaded beachball, and that you know that there are things you could do differently that would make using your Mac more productive but haven’t got around to figuring out what they are.

That’s exactly what we’ll do over the next pages. From everyday housekeeping tasks that will keep your Mac running smoothly, to tips and tricks to make you more productive, to third–party apps that can do a lot of the work for you, we’ll cover them all. We’ll even suggest hardware that can boost your Mac’s performance.

If you’ve thought about creating keyboard shortcuts, investigating the new Shortcuts app in Monterey, or dealing with all those duplicate files that you know are scattered around your drive, now is the time to do it. Consider this your prompt and your guide on the journey to a more productive, and fun, experience with your Mac.

While some of what we cover here, like the Shortcuts app, is specific to macOS Monterey, most of it can be applied to any recent version of macOS. However, whichever version you’re running, you should make sure you have installed the latest available update. That way, you know that your Mac has the latest security patches installed. Consider that your first tip.

Optimize your inputs

The way you tell your Mac what you want it to do has an impact on the result

Technology has come a long, long way since the first Mac was launched way back in 1984. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is how we interact with it. While some people use voice commands and dictation software, for most of us, telling our Mac what we want it to do involves a keyboard and either a mouse or a trackpad.

When it comes to choosing which keyboard to use, most Mac users stick with the one that came with their Mac (unless you use a Mac mini or Mac Pro, in which case you’ll have to supply your own). But that’s not always the best idea. The same is true of your mouse or trackpad. For example, if you use a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air predominantly at a desk, you’d be much better off putting your laptop on a stand and using an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad. That way you won’t be hunched over the screen all day. Better still if you can hook up a larger display.

Even if you use an iMac, the supplied keyboard and mouse may not be the most productive for you. For example, if you’re a gamer, you might be better offwith a mechanical keyboard and a mouse with multiple buttons and a low response time. Choosing the optimal set–up for your situation will not only make you more productive and cause you to make fewer mistakes, it will also improve your posture and therefore your overall health.

SET IT RIGHT

Whichever keyboard, mouse, or trackpad you use, you should set it up in macOS so that it does exactly what you need it to do. We’ll show you how to do that in this section by using the options available in System Preferences. If you use a third–party mouse or keyboard, it may come with its own software, which you can use to customize how it works, so check out the literature for that device.

Check out our handy Shortcuts reference guide (left) for the keyboard shortcuts you should learn and commit to memory to help you get more done in less time when you’re in front of your Mac. Do that, and you have more time to take breaks. And that’s something else that’s good for your health.

Shortcuts

FINDER

Show and hide the Dock ...............Cmd+Opt+D

Show app launcher................................Cmd+Tab

Show Spotlight search ...........Cmd+Spacebar

Show Finder search .......Cmd+Opt+Spacebar

Mission Control ....................Ctrl+Up arrow key

SCREENSHOTS

Save image as file .............................Cmd+Opt+3

Save image to clipboard..... Ctrl+Cmd+Opt+3

Save image of selected area as file ........................Cmd+Opt+4

Save image of window as file ..............Cmd+Opt+4+Spacebar

View Screenshot and recording options .............................Cmd+Opt+5

OTHERS

Use app in full screen......................Ctrl+Cmd+F

Open new Finder window ............Cmd+Shift+N

Show character view to choose emoji......................Ctrl+Cmd+Spacebar

Open Preferences for front–most app ......................Cmd+Comma key

Invoke Quick Look for selected file.............................................. Spacebar

Close all windows in an app .....Cmd+Opt+W

HOW TO Customize your trackpad

1 Check your screens

Click the Apple menu and choose System Preferences. Select Trackpad. Choose Point & Click. Choose how you want to look up selected text. Repeat that process for the rest of the options in the Point & Click Section.

2 Scroll & Zoom

Now choose Scroll & Zoom. The options here are binary. The scroll direction can either be natural, where you swipe down to scroll down, or not. There are also options for Zoom and Rotate. Choose the options that suit you.

3 More gestures

Choose More Gestures. Work through each setting, clicking the down arrow underneath it to reveal the options. Note the difference between a swipe gesture and a scroll gesture. If that seems tricky, choose only swipe options.

HOW TO Customize your Magic Mouse

1 Scrolling

In System Preferences, choose Mouse. First, choose how you want the scroll ball to work. Natural means that when you push it forwards, it scrolls down. Check the box if you want that. Next choose Secondary click and left or right.

2 More Gestures

Click More Gestures. If you want to swipe to move between pages, check the box and choose an option from the menu. Repeat if you want to swipe between full– screen apps. Check the Mission Control if you want to use that.

3 Setup the mouse

If you need to set up a new mouse, or yours won’t connect, choose Set Up Bluetooth Mouse. Wait for the mouse to be found — you may need to press a pairing button. Click Continue and follow the instructions.

HOW TO Customize your Magic Keyboard

1 Choose repeat options

In System Preferences > Keyboard, choose the Keyboard tab. Use the sliders to set how long you must hold down a key until it repeats (Delay Until Repeat), and how quickly it repeats after that (Key Repeat).

2 Set function keys

By default, function keys are media keys. However, if you want to use them as function keys, check Use F1, F2 etc as standard function keys. Use the menu above to set what the Globe key does. Choose settings for the backlight.

3 Change shortcuts macOS has a number of standard keyboard shortcuts (see left), but you can change them. Go to System Prefs > Keyboard > Shortcuts. Choose a category, then a shortcut, click on the key combination and type a new one.

Make the Finder work your way

We all spend lots of time in Finder, looking for and working with files. Here’s how to get the most from it

Smart Folders

Smart Folders are a really useful way to keep track of files you regularly need access to. They update live, so as new files are created or edited and meet the criteria, they appear in the folder. Files aren’t actually moved or copied, they’re just referenced in Smart Folders. To create one, search for something in the Finder’s search box and press Return. Click the + to add more criteria for the search and use the options to filter the results. Then, click Save and choose where to save the Smart Folder.

The Finder is the Mac’s file manager. Everything you do with files — whether launching an app, copying, pasting or moving files, or using Quick Look to preview them — is done in the Finder.

There are a couple of improvements that have been made to the Finder in recent versions of macOS that are worth making a point of using regularly. The first is tabs. While the Finder still doesn’t have a proper dual– pane interface, tabs go some way towards that. They work in the same way as browser tabs in Safari (and use the same Cmd+T shortcut to create a new one) in that they enable you to open a different view without cluttering your desktop with windows. And you can drag and drop files from one tab to another one.

The other recent feature is Quick Actions. These enable you to perform actions on a file in the Finder. So, for example, you can rotate an image or trim a video. Dig a little deeper by clicking the More (…) button and you can convert an image to a different format. Dig deeper still by adding extensions in System Preferences and there’s a nifty tool to remove the background from an image.

If there are folders you access regularly, you can just drag them on to the sidebar to make them easier to find as soon as you open a Finder window.

Even better, tag files with meaningful tags and you can click that particular tag in the Finder’s sidebar to view all files that have been assigned with it — regardless of where they are actually stored.

HOW TO Customize the Finder

1 Tidy the sidebar

Too many things in the Finder sidebar? Click the Finder menu and then Preferences. Choose Sidebar. Uncheck the boxes next to those items you no longer want to see in the sidebar. Check any that you want to add.

2 Create tags

In Finder Preferences, click on Tags. Click the + and type a name for the tag. Press Return, then click on the circle next to the name and choose a color for the tag. If you don’t want it in the sidebar, uncheck the box.

3 Add tags to menus

Drag any tag you want to add to a contextual menu in the Finder into the bar at the bottom of Finder > Preferences > Tags. When you Ctrl–click on any file in the Finder, you will be able to apply that tag from the menu.

4 Specify preview details

To specify what is shown in the preview window when you select a file, Ctrl–click it and choose Show Preview Options. Check the box next to items you want to see without clicking More in the preview.

5 Customize the toolbar

In the Finder, click the View menu then Customize Toolbar. Drag elements you want to appear in the toolbar, into the toolbar at the bottom of the window. Choose whether you want to see the icon, icon and text, or just text.

6 Choose how to open

Continue reading your story on the app

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