16 Ways To Be More Productive On Your Mac


Here are the cliff-notes!

1. Need a calculator? Use Spotlight.

Spotlight is easily one of the best features of OS X. Besides using it to search files on your computer you can use it to quickly launch apps, look up map locations, check the weather in any city and even see the stats of your favorite sports team or player. One feature we use all the time is the built-in calculator that lets you make quick calculations in Spotlight without having to launch any applications. Just hit command + space and do the math. The calculator trick works on iOS too.

2. Change audio output (fast)

You’re in a conference room trying to connect your computer to the Apple TV to share your screen with others, but you can’t hear any audio on the TV speakers. Happens all the time. Sure, you can go to System Preferences, navigate to sound settings and then output settings and change your output device there, but with a conference room full of people, you don’t want to keep them waiting. Just hold down the option key and click the audio icon in your menu bar and you can change the audio output with just one click.

3. Dashboard: Sticky notes, unit converters and more

Dashboard is an application that runs in the background and uses little apps called “Widgets” that you can access any time with a single click. Dashboard was first introduced in 2005 with OS X 10.4 and hasn’t been developed much since that, but it’s still very useful. My personal dashboard includes some sticky notes, the unit converter, clocks for different time zones and some weather info. Besides the pre-installed widgets also third-party widgets are available. My favorite is iStat pro for Mac, which is a monitoring tool for your Mac showing things like available disk space, CPU load, amount of memory used and even the temperature of your computer. 

Download iStat Pro for Mac: https://download.cnet.com/iStat-pro/3000-12565_4-71074.html

4. Copy & Paste (without ruining it)

You probably know how copying & pasting text on your Mac won’t copy only the text, it will also copy the font size and formatting. Sometimes this can be useful but most of the time it’s just annoying. Luckily there’s a keyboard shortcut to avoid this, just hold shift + option + command + V when pasting the text. It’s not the most intuitive or easy shortcut but ever since I found out about it I use it all the time.

5. Cluttered menu bar? Use Vanilla.

Depending what kind of applications you use the menu bar of your Mac can be extremely clean or very cluttered. My menu bar was getting more cluttered and messy year after year, and even though you can manually remove some of the icons by holding down the option key and dragging them out, some icons simply cannot be removed. Vanilla is a great free plugin that lets you hide any icons you want.

Download Vanilla: https://matthewpalmer.net/vanilla/

6. Cluttered desktop? Use Stacks.

Stacks is a very simple, but great new feature introduced in OS X Mojave. Enabling Stacks will literally stack the documents on your desktop based on file type. To take a closer look at the stack, simply click it and all the documents in that stack will be laid out on the desktop. Click again and they will stacked away.

7. Using Box through Finder.

We use Box.com at STN Digital for all file sharing and as great as Box is, the user interface using a web browser is not always the most efficient if you’re navigating between multiple folders. For a while, this was the only option until Box released their Box Drive extension. The great thing about Box Drive is that you can use Finder to access any file in our Box folders without having to sync & download the files on your hard drives, which would be impossible considering how many terabytes of data is in our archives.

Another great thing about Box Drive is that if your internet connection goes down or your computer freezes in the middle of uploading 200 files, you don’t have to start from scratch like you would using a browser. Once you’re online again the upload will pick up where it was left off.

Download Box Drive: https://www.box.com/resources/downloads/drive

8. Distracted? Do not disturb.

Most people are familiar with the “Do not disturb” feature on iPhones, but the same feature on a Mac can easily go unnoticed. Open your notification center, scroll up and you’ll see toggles for both Do not disturb and Night shift. Night Shift, also familiar from iOS, is designed to reduce the amount of blue light on your screen and help you sleep better if you’re working late.

9. Confidential files? Password protect them.

If you handle confidential files this feature will be very useful. There are different ways to encrypt files on a Mac but that often requires using the command line and typing commands that the average user cannot remember. An easier way is to use Disk utility to create a password protected disk image. Create the disk image and choose the encryption and password for it, drop your files on that disk image and then delete the original file from your hard drive.

The disk image works like external media, you mount it to access the files and eject it after you’re done.

10. Adjust volume (more precisely)

Sometimes you’re playing music in the background but can’t get the volume quite right. One notch down and it’s too quiet, one notch up and it’s too loud. Holding shift + option while adjusting the volume lets you adjust it by a quarter.

11. Track time with an easy stop/start shortcut

TimeTag is a great free application for time tracking. My favorite thing about it is how easy it’s to start & stop your timer by accessing it through the menu bar icon. I often find myself jumping from one task to another and having to navigate to a separate window or application to access your timer just isn’t convenient.

Download TimeTag: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timetag-manage-your-time/id402739073?mt=12

12. Rename multiple files

Another thing that easily goes unnoticed is the built-in feature in Finder for renaming multiple files. Select your files, right click and choose “Rename items…”.

13. Quick look multiple files

Quick look is also probably one of the best features in OS X - select any file and hit the space bar to get a full preview without having to launch any applications. Hit space bar again and the preview goes away. It also works for previewing multiple files at the same time. Just select all the files, hit spacebar and click the icon with the little squares on the top left corner. 

14. Check file size for multiple files

You might have done the mistake of selecting 99 files and hitting command + I trying to see the file size and info for all of them - just to realize you now have 99 separate windows open (if you do this, command + W is your friend when you’re trying to close those 99 windows). Option + command + I will show you the info for multiple files in one window.

15. Quick emojis

Hitting control + command + space will give you a quick access to emojis, but if you’re bad at memorizing keyboard shortcuts you can set up an emoji viewer in your menu bar by going to System Preferences - Keyboard and checking “Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar”. With that you always have a shortcut to all the emojis and you can open the emoji viewer with a single click.

16. Automate (almost) anything

With Automator you can let your Mac do repetitive tasks for you. There’s endless ways to use it, but some of my favorites are using it to export multi-page PDFs to separate still images, resizing a large amount of photos at once or as of lately, converting multiple PSD files to JPG.

Sam Howard