10 amazing tricks to learn on your Mac

10 amazing tricks to learn on your Mac
Whatever Mac you have, here are some great tricks
Think you know your Mac? Think again: it's bursting with tons more awesome tricks, shortcuts and things that make you say 'Wow!' than you could possibly know!
Even the best of us can forget them from time to time, so check out these ten top tricks– taken from MacFormat's '50 awesome things you forgot your Mac could do' issue – and discover some amazing trickshots.
For more, check out the September 2013 issue of MacFormat – and you can get it completely free in the app edition with a trial subscription:

1. Endless keyboard shortcuts

The mouse is great and all, but don't be afraid to favour keyboard shortcuts instead of a series of clicks (don't worry, it won't get jealous). The developers have put in tons of keyboard shortcuts that will help you save time, and here's the best part: you can create your own custom ones too, for any of your commonly used menu options. Just go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Application Shortcuts and then pick your own selection of keys to replace the tiresome journey the cursor would have otherwise made.

2. Everything ready at log-in

Everyone's got their own set of 'evergreen' apps – those that are constantly open whenever they fire up their Mac, regardless of the activity they might have planned. Wouldn't it be great if said selection of apps automatically opened every time you switched on your computer? You can guess where this is going, can't you? That's right, the options await at System Preferences: select yourself from Accounts, and then visit Login Items.

3. Connect to the internet through your iPhone

Got an iPhone to accompany your Mac? Your mobile device 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. You can share the signal through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB. First turn on the iPhone's Personal Hotspot option in Settings. Then you can either pair them both over Bluetooth, manually connect them using a USB or select the Wi-Fi network created by the iPhone in the Mac's Wi-Fi options and enter the password.

4. Sign here, here and here

There's no need to feel restricted while using a Mac. Need to add a signature to an important document? Not a problem: in OS X 10.7 and later you can do exactly that using Preview. Within Preview's Preferences, go to the Signatures tab and then click on the +. Scrawl your name in black ink on white paper, hold it up to your Mac's webcam, line it up and click Accept. Make sure you save it so you can use it again in the future, whether it's for writing letters or answering fanmail…

5. Record screencasts

Question: what's the best way to record a problem you're experiencing on screen or to make an instructional video demonstrating the use of an app? Answer: record a video of your screen – after all, that'd be the most useful if you were on the receiving end, right? You can do so through QuickTime Player. In File > New Screen Recording you can chose the audio source and even whether or not to include the mouse clicks in the recording! To neaten any rough edges, you can tweak it in iMovie, and then upload it to YouTube or AirDrop it to say, a relative's Mac.

6. See the hidden options

It can be infuriating when trying to locate the right menu path, but not on the Mac's watch. Holding down the Alt key on your keyboard actually lets you get to more options in the menu bar, as well as in the menus themselves. It's a neat little time-saver; for menu options with ellipses for example, holding down Alt and then clicking them bypasses the dialogue that would have otherwise appeared and executes the command directly.

7. Restrict what someone can do – and when

With great power… well, we all know how that one ended. Yes, the Mac is incredibly powerful, but in the hands of younger children it can become a dangerous tool. It will relieve parents no end to see that the Parental Controls in OS X are simple to configure, and the range of options are pleasing to boot. Among others you can limit underage access and also computer usage to x amount per day, set a 'bedtime' setting that signifies the end of a browsing session and limit the functions of Finder.

8. Type exotic characters

Okay, we're just showing off, now! We're not just talking about an über-sized fry-up in a café here – accents and umlauts are bog-standard practice for any operating system. What we're getting it us the power of Emoji, the fun little characters available in OS X 10.7 and later. Take note though, that while you'll be able to enjoy these Japanese-originated smileys and other such animals and symbols on your screen, they're not entirely compatible on a cross-platform scale. Well, your pals will just have to get a Mac to read your coded messages then, won't they?

9. Quickly type out common phrases

In a similar vein to creating command shortcuts, you can do the same with words or even phrases, whether that's a particular piece of unicode or an email address. Just go to the Text tab of the Language & Text pane of System Preferences and click the + to add a shortcut and what it equates to. Don't worry: these are all perfectly editable once saved too, so you can delete that YOLO one in case your friends use your Mac…

10. Run Windows

Yep. It might seem nutty to want the old enemy running when you've got a perfectly lovely OS system, but perhaps you might want to play the latest games or run some niche piece of software that has no current Mac equivalent. You can either run Windows 7 or Windows 8 alongside OS X with a virtualisation app such as VMware Fusuion, 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). Just be grateful we didn't chuck a paneful pun in there to keep you on your toes…
These are just a fraction of the handy tricks that the Mac is capable of, mind: MacFormat has showcased a whopping 50 of them in its September issue. And the best news is that you can read the rest of them – along with the rest of the magazine – for free! All you have to do to grab the latest issue is get a trial MacFormat subscription to the app edition – visitmacformat.com/ipad to discover tons more brilliant tips from the world of Apple.

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