Sunday, 11 August 2013

10 Things You Didn't Know Your Mac Could Do

Everybody who has committed to owning an Apple Mac loves it. I've not met a single person who has owned a Mac and then gone back to Windows (or maybe I have and they won't admit it). The problem is, most people have learnt how to use a computer from a Windows machine and are familiar with the Windows features and quirks. When someone takes the plunge and gets a Mac, despite the slight learning curve, they tend not to make use of it to the full extent. 

This is a distinct shame as there's so many cool little things that a Mac can do that build upon what you already think a PC should be able to do. So here is 10 cool things I've learnt about a Mac that you can try on your own one. Providing you have a Mac that has Snow Leopard or above installed, you can do all of these things.

1 - Take screenshots.

Yes, I can hear you all moaning into your respective screens. Yes, all PCs have the print screen button, but not so many people know how to do it on a Mac as it's a key combination rather than a single button.

To take a screenshot, press ⌘, Shift and 3 at the same time. You'll hear a shutter sound and the screenshot will appear on your desktop. But that's not all, if you press ⌘, Shift and 4 at the same time, you get a set of crosshairs. This allows you to drag a box around the section of the screen you want to screenshot, meaning if you want just a little section of the screen, you can be specific and not need to crop the picture later.  Easy

2 - Use Spotlight as a calculator

I shit you not. If you need work out something quickly, say 874 + 478, just type it into Spotlight search and it will calculate it for you, without you needing to open the calculator app. 

3 - Quickly find out a file's properties

This is more of an absolutely laziness thing, but if you're clicking about and want to know about a file, just highlight it and press ⌘ and I together and the inspector will appear and give you all the information on the file/folder

4 - Play Tetris in Terminal

Do you remember when you were in school and someone pointed out that there were games in Microsoft Office applications. I believe there was some kind of flying game in Word if you typed in a certain word in a certain colour. Well, Apple have hidden a game within the Terminal of OSX. That's right. Open up Terminal:

Type in emacs and hit return
Then hit esc and then x
Then type tetris and prepare to while away the hours

5 - Make iPhone Ringtones

It's a pain that you have to pay for ringtones from the iTunes store, even if you already own the song that you want to use. However, if you use Garageband, you can make them yourself. 

Open up Garageband and create a new project. There is an option in the wizard for a Ringtone. Then all you need to do is import the song you want to use, cut out a 40 second section of it (I'm going to cover how to use Garageband in a future article) and save. Then from the menu bar at the top of the screen, click Share and select Send Ringtone to iTunes. Sync your phone, making sure you have Ringtones set to  sync, and lo and behold you have a ringtone on your phone.

6 - Transfer files between Macs quickly

Sometimes it can be annoying to pass files between yourself and a friend. If they're too big, you can't email them and what if you just can't find that damn memory stick again? Well, if you both have a recent Mac, running OSX Lion or above, there is a function called AirDrop. You've probably seen it when you've been moving around in the Finder. Well, turning AirDrop on allows you to send files over a P2P, ad-hoc wifi network. So you can directly send that awesome song you're working on to the singer so he can work on it at home, without having to screw around with exporting, saving, burning or any of that nonsense. All you do it sit in the same room, both turn on AirDrop and you literally just drop the file into his computer. Simple as.

7 - Automate your life

Using the bundled Automator tool, you can quickly and easily set up a script that will run functions on your Mac without you having to trigger all of the steps yourself. It takes a bit of work to get it perfect, but once you do, you'll wonder why you never thought of it before. The best example I can think for this is you're an amateur film maker and you have your favourite camera, but the filetype you record in isn't compatible with iMovie, so everything you film you have to convert before you can edit it. Well, with Automator  you can create a handful of scripts that will invoke a program like Handbrake and automatically convert your files once you drop them into a set folder, then send them to an output folder. This means you can come home from a hard day filming, hook your camera up to your Mac, drag all your files into an "Input" folder, go off and make your dinner, then when you come back the "Output" folder will be full of converted videos that you can get to work on.

8 - Share your iTunes library

We've all been there, we've had people around, your iPhone is handily providing the music, but folks don't like what you've got on your phone. No time to create a brand new playlist or resync a different 16gb of music to your phone, so what are you to do? Well, if you enable Home Sharing in iTunes, you can go through the Music app on the iPhone or iPad and access your entire iTunes library. Never be caught out at a party with just death metal on your phone again.

9 - Access your work on Windows

Slightly misleading title I know, but, for those of you out there who make use of the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), Apple has recently added an online version of them to use via iCloud. The most recent versions of iWork apps automatically save in the cloud as well as on your computer, so chances are, if you have iCloud enabled on your Mac, they're already up there. Go to and sign in with your Apple ID. You can then use those apps, in your web browser on any machine, be it Mac, Windows or Linux. So if you absolutely need your CV, but it's at home on your Mac, sign in on a machine at work and print it off from the internet. I've used this a couple of times while writing articles and it's astoundingly useful.

10 - Treat your Mac like an iPad

Lastly, for those of you who love the iOS interface on the iPad, you can run your Mac much like an iPad. Using Launchpad (located in the dock or by pressing F4), you get an iOS style interface. You can pick up and drag apps around like iOS, create folders and even uninstall apps in the same fashion. Sometimes, it can save you time hunting around for a specific app. Using the Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad you just swipe through the pages as if it were a tablet or phone.

So there you have it, 10 cool things that you can either do with your Mac, or that your Mac can do for you. Please feel free to leave a comment with any cool features you've found on your Mac, or if you've learnt something new, feel free to leave a thanks down there too.


Post a Comment