Blog Post

10 hidden things you can do on your Mac

Learning all of the ins and outs of an operating system takes time, and with each new upgrade comes an opportunity to change tired old habits and take on some new ones.  Whether you are upgrading from an older version of OS X, or you are switching from a PC to a Mac, you’ll want to know how to do each of the following 10 things once you have Apple’s new OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion(s AAPL) installed.

Add to Reading List

Access Safari’s Reading List with a keyboard shortcut

You may have noticed that the Safari browser no longer supports RSS feeds. A while back, Safari added the ability to create a special list of bookmarks of websites that you could quickly make note of and called it a Reading List. This was a disposable list of bookmarks for sites you wanted to get back to in a hurry, but not make part of your permanent set of bookmarks. With iCloud, iOS 5 and OS X Mountain Lion, you can now keep this reading list in sync across all of your Apple devices. On a Mac, you can quickly add the web page you are viewing to the reading list by hitting the Shift-Cmd-D keyboard shortcut. You can also add a link to your reading list by holding down the Shift button while you click on the link.

Put Your Mac to Sleep

Quickly put your Mac to sleep with the power button

Macs are great at reconnecting to wireless networks when waking from sleep, so opening the lid of my MacBook and getting back to work has never been an issue for me.  But sometimes closing the lid of the MacBook does not put it to sleep.  To ensure that your Mac goes to sleep when you want it to, or as a means of securing your Mac when you are walking away for a moment, simply press the power button for a second — not too long, or else you will force your Mac to shutdown.  A dialog box will pop up and ask if you want to put your Mac to sleep.  Simply press the ‘S’ key on your keyboard to give your Mac a nap.  And if you happen to have a second-generation MacBook Air or one of the new MacBook Pros with a Retina display, Mountain Lion will allow your Mac to take a Power Nap.  With this feature, even while your Mac is sleeping it will continue to fetch content like email, software updates and other notifications.

Take Dictation

Change the dictation keyboard shortcut in Preferences

You have always been able to command a Mac with your voice, but this feature has been significantly enhanced in Mountain Lion.  Now your Mac will take dictation anywhere you can type.  The preference name has changed from Speech to Dictation & Speech in the System preferences.  Here you can choose which keyboard shortcut to use to enable dictation anywhere you can normally type.  The default when dictation is on is to press the Function (Fn) key twice.  Wondering what happened to the old speech commands in Mountain Lion?  They are still there, they just moved into the redesigned Accessibility preferences under the heading Speakable Items.

Game Center Chess

Play multiplayer chess with Game Center

The Mac has come with Chess installed for years, though it’s possible you may not have known it was there.  With Mountain Lion, Apple is looking to bring some of iOS’s gaming features to the Mac via Game Center.  With Game Center, you can now challenge your online friends to a game of Chess.  When you start a new game, set the Players to Game Center Match. You can either choose one of your Game Center friends by clicking on the Invite Friend button, or you can let Game Center automatically match you by just clicking on Play Now. Chess isn’t the only Mac game that will work with Game Center, but it’s the first.

Photo Stream Screen Saver

Display your PhotoStream as your wallpaper or screensaver

You also have more than a few options when it comes to selecting photos to display as your screensaver or wallpaper for your desktop background.  You can choose any Aperture or iPhoto library, but you can also choose your iCloud Photo Stream, so you aren’t limited to picking images that are saved locally to your computer.  Simply set your source to your photo library and then select which album with your library you want to use.

System Sound AirPlay

Send audio to any networked Airplay device

You can easily reduce all of the wires on your desktops thanks to wireless mice, keyboards, trackpads, and even the streamlined cords that connect a Thunderbolt Display to your MacBook.  But if you’ve ever wanted to connect a premium set of speakers to your Mac, you had to attach a wire to the Line-Out or Headphone port.  With Mountain Lion, you can now stream the system’s audio wirelessly to any AirPlay-compatible speaker — that means not just your iTunes music library, but your entire system sound output, including every little sound alert, bell and beep.  And if your current speakers do not support AirPlay, you can gett an AirPort Express to take advantage of this new feature.

Trackpad Gestures

Swipe between full-screen apps with a multitouch trackpad

The key is three fingers.  From within System Preferences, take a look at the Trackpad settings and ensure that all of the gestures designated as More Gestures are enabled.  Once enabled, you will be able to navigate around your desktops and apps more easily.  Use three fingers to swipe left and right to navigate between your desktops and apps that are in full-screen mode.  A three-finger swipe up will reveal Mission Control and a three-finger swipe down will show Expose, which reveals all open windows for the currently selected application.  Add a thumb with a pinch to your three finger gestures to reveal Launchpad and the Desktop.  Another gesture that is new in Mountain Lion is the ability to use a two-finger left swipe from the right edge of the trackpad to reveal the new Notification Center.  This is similar to the swipe down in iOS that reveals its notification window.  Apple has included instructional videos alongside each gesture in the Trackpad System Preferences to help guide you.

Share From Preview

Tweet, email or Airdrop files directly from Quick Look

Quick Look is a feature of OS X that allows you to preview the contents of a file without launching the application that is used to view or edit that file.  This makes looking for documents easier.  One of the main reasons you are looking for documents might be to share with someone.  Once you’ve found the file, rather than launching the application or right clicking on the file in the finder, you can now share that file directly from within the Quick Look view screen.  This now includes Mountain Lion’s enhanced sharing features like email, Twitter, Messages and AirDrop.

Review Safari Passwords

Recall a website’s password within Safari’s preferences

Sure, there are password managers out there, but nothing is as easy as enabling Safari’s AutoFill web forms.  Within Safari’s preferences, you can elect to have Safari remember and fill in your user name and password for the secure sites you routinely visit.  In the past, you were only able to see a list of websites and usernames that had been saved.  This left you with having to wrestle with Keychain in order to view the passwords associated with each site.  Now you can see the password associated with each website alongside its accompanying username.  You are not able to edit the entries, but you can remove one or all from the list.

Search Launchpad

Search for apps in Launchpad

The previous version of Mac OS X, Lion, added a new app launcher named Launchpad, which looks and feels like the way you launch apps on any iOS device — except it was missing one key feature that drew people to solutions like Alfred (a popular search-based application launcher), and that is the ability to quickly search for the title of the application you want to use.  Now with Mountain Lion’s update to Launchpad you can.  Just start typing as soon as Launchpad is displayed, and in a few short keystrokes, the list of apps will shrink, until only the app you wanted is left.  You can even set up a shortcut key in the keyboard preferences to Show Launchpad and get you where you want to be even faster.  This shortcut is disabled by default.

Take advantage of Apple’s Mac upgrade event and look to see what other behaviors you can tweak to make your day-to-day OS X behaviors more productive.

2 Responses to “10 hidden things you can do on your Mac”

  1. One, who uses Safari and why? Two, that has got to be the lames way to get into sleep mode I’ve ever read. How about the keyboard shortcut, instead of crawling under my desk and holding the power button in, but not too long! Come on, Man!