10 magical productivity tips for Mac

This collection of tips can help you get things done just a little faster than before.

Apple, Mac, OS X, macOS, Mac mini, iPad
Leif Johnson/IDG

It’s Friday. You're a few hours away from your weekend and you probably have a lot to get through, so here’s a small collection of tips that should help you get things done a little faster.


I repeat this in every collection because it’s so useful: Tap Command-Space whenever you want to find something on your Mac. Tap Command-Space whenever you want to get a currency conversion or a quick sum. Tap Command-Space to open an application. Tap it, and then start typing the item, currency, sum or application name. You should see it appear in the Spotlight search window you just opened. Select it (if it isn’t already selected) and hit Return (or take a note of the answer to your question which you should see in the bar). Simple. Fast. Effective.

Finder control

Do you spend lots of time in the Finder window, zipping between keyboard and mouse? Do you find you need to move between Column and List views? When you do, it’s possible you tap the icons in the Finder, or move your mouse up to the View menu. You don’t need to, just type the following when in the Finder window:

Command-1: To open Icons view

Command-2: To open List view

Command-3: To open Columns view

Command-4: To open Cover Flow view.

Here are a few more Finder tips you might want to explore.

Get Gestures

Working in full-screen mode (best way to get there: Control-Command-F when in a compatible app) is a whole lot easier when you remember that you can use four fingers on the trackpad to scroll between active windows – or tap Control and the left or right direction buttons. Now get to know the other trackpad gestures you can use on your Mac.

Use text clippings

As I wrote here, text clippings are the best way to automatically paste regularly-used text into any app.

  • They are easy to create – just select a chunk of text you use regularly and drag-&-drop the text to the Desktop. 
  • They are also easy to use: just drag-&-drop that item from the Desktop into any app, and they save you from repetitively needing to type those things again and again and again.

What’s your Preference?

Working in an application and need to access the preferences for that application? Tap Command-Comma(-,), and you’re in.

Smarter Smart Quotes

Do Smart Quotes get on your nerves? Disable them in Keyboard>Text pane uncheck ‘Use Smart Quotes and Dashes’.

Action, accents

Tap and hold the letter you want to accent. Keep holding it down until a contextual menu appears that shows you all the available accents for that character, then tap the number underneath the accent you want to use. If no accents appear then one is not available. (More tips here, including how to set up a Wikipedia item in your Services Menu).

Print to file

Regularly saving items to specific folders? Speed it up. Open File>Print, open the PDF item lower left and scroll down to Edit Menu... In the next box tap the Plus button, in the Finder that then appears navigate to the folder you usually save things to. Click this and then hit Save. In future when saving a document to that folder just tap Print (better yet, type -P) and select the new item in the PDF drop-down menu. More print tips.

A really smart search tip

So, you’ve set your Safari search preferences to something other than Google? (Safari Preferences>Search choose a new search engine in the drop-down menu.) Now here’s a super-fast way to search using Spotlight:

  • Type Command-Space to open Spotlight
  • Type your query
  • Then type Command-B and you’ll be taken directly to the search results in Safari.

Now you can tap Command-Tab to return to your previous application, where the information you just found may come in useful.

This tip might work for you

If you find you copy and paste between documents, websites and other sources of information then you probably get a little riled that the Mac’s default behaviour is to paste the text with all the formatting (including URL’s) intact. It can mess up the appearance of the document you’ve spent the rest of the week working on, and means you have to spend time fixing the problem. It really doesn’t need to be this way – you can make a small change in System Preferences so that whenever you paste something into any good app, the formatting will default to what is used in the destination document. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Open System Preferences
  • Open Keyboard
  • Open the Shortcuts Pane
  • Select App Shortcuts, choose All Applications
  • Tap the Plus button
  • In the first box type: Paste and Match Style
  • In the second box press Command-V

In future when you press Command-V to paste something from one source into any Apple-compliant application, you won’t bring the formatting across from the other document.

You need to do things a little differently to make this work in Word, typing the phrase Paste and Match Formatting rather than Paste and Match Style.

Warning: This tip is not great for everyone. For example, it gets in the way when trying to paste URL’s when creating links, and apps that don’t have a Paste and Match Style won’t paste anything, unless you use the Paste item from the Menu. Try it – it may work for you – to get back to normal it’s easy to delete the shortcut just select it in the Shortcuts Pane and press the Minus button.

Want more tips?

You might enjoy, 40 tips to get the most from your Mac (and macOS 'High Sierra'). Even more tips here and here. Have a great weekend.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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