I love my MacBook Pro since the day I bough it. It has made my life so much easier and all of my work life depend on this 13-inch beast. I switched to a Mac just a couple years back and so far I have been happy with the operating systems. Since I was a little late to the party, in my quest to learn the macOS operating system, I dove deep inside to find the best tips and tricks that can help me get work done. Over the years, I also discovered some tips on my own. So, in this article, I wanted to share my top 20 MacBook Pro tips and tricks that are going to make your life easier.
MacBook Pro Tips and Tricks to Use in 2020
I have divided this article into three sections: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. If you find the tips to be too easy in the beginner section, you can move onto other sections to learn more advanced tips.
Best Beginner Mac Tips and Tricks
1. Quick Look
Quick Look is one of the most used features on my Mac. Once you make using this a habit, half of the time you will not have to open any file as it allows you to see the content of a file without opening it. To perform the quick look Action, all you need to do is to select your file and tap the space bar once. For example, you can select a PDF and hit the space bar to quickly scan the content of the PDF without even opening it. That said, this feature does have its limitations.
The preview that Quick Look can show you depends on the file you are trying to preview. If it’s a document or an image file, Quick Look will allow you to see the whole content of the file as shown in the pictures below. However, if it’s a folder or an eBook it will only show you superficial information such as the file size and last modified date. Once you learn where the Quick look is helpful and where it’s not, the feature will come really handy.
2. Force Quit Apps
While one of the benefits of using a Mac is that you rarely have any app which goes unresponsive, there are sometimes that it will happen, and when it happens, you will need to know how to force quit them. While on Windows you must be habituated to type Ctrl+Alt+Delete, the keyboard shortcut for force quitting on Mac is a little different. The keyboard combo that you need to hit is - Cmd+Opt+Esc (command, option, and escape key).
Once you hit the combo, “Force Quit Application” box will open in a floating window. Here, you can just select the app which is misbehaving and click on the Force Quit button. If the keyboard combo is a little hard for you to remember, you can use an alternate method. Click on the Apple Menu at the top left corner and you will find the Force Quit option.
3. Perform Faster App Search in Spotlight
This is a very quick and handy tip. Whenever you are searching for an in Spotlight, typing the initials of the app will bring the results faster than typing its whole name. For example, if I want to search for App Store, I will simply type the letters a and s. Once you make this a habit, you will perform faster app searches and save time a few keystrokes at a time.
4. Use Spotlight for Weather, Definition, Conversions, and Calculations
Over the years Spotlight has evolved from being just a search mechanism for Mac. Now, you can use it to perform many functions. For example, you can use Spotlight for carrying out currency and unit conversions. I use it almost daily to convert measurements, currency, and more. You can also use Spotlight to perform simple mathematical calculations including multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and more. Similarly, you can use Spotlight to get weather information of any city in the world. Type the word weather followed by the city name and it will give you the current weather condition. You can also find word definitions. Type the word and hit the “⌘+L” keyboard shortcut to pull up the definition of that word.
5. Access Emoji Keyboard
This is a fun one. If you love to use emojis, there’s an easy way to call the emoji keyboard on your mac. To do that, hit the keyboard combo Cmd+Ctrl+Space and the emoji keyboard will open. Here you can scroll down to find the emoji you want to use. You can also perform a search to find the one you want to.
6. Show File Path in Finder
macOS focuses on keeping the user interface clean and simple. And while it makes sense, sometimes it hinders usability. For example, one thing that irks me about macOS is that it doesn’t show the file path by default. So, if you search for a file in Spotlight and open its location, you will not be able to figure out how to reach that location.
Thankfully, there’s a handy keyboard shortcut that can enable the file path. If you want to see a file’s location path, hit the “Cmd+Opt+P” keyboard shortcut and it will display the file path. If you forget this keyboard shortcut, you can find it using the “View” menu as shown in the picture below.
7. Keep Search Restricted to a Folder
One of the most infuriating thing about performing search in a Finder window on Mac is that it initiates the search for the entire Mac. It makes no sense but that’s how it has been since ages. Thankfully, you can change this behavior in the Finder Preferences. So, open Finder Preference (⌘,) → Advanced and under “when performing a search” option click on the dropdown menu to select “Search the current folder”. It is going to save you a lot of grief in the future.
8. Minutely Adjust the Volume and Brightness
As you know, we can use the keyboard shortcuts to adjust brightness and volume on your Mac devices (F1 & F2 for brightness and F11 & F12 for volume), the control they provide is not good enough for me. That’s because the first few steps barely make any change while the last few steps do too much. I like to control my volume and brightness a little more minutely.
If you also want to do that, first hold down the option and the shift key and then use the volume or brightness keys to make the adjustment. A single press will result in an increment or reduction of a quarter of bar instead of the full bar which happens if you don’t use the option and the shift key. If you look at the pictures below carefully, you can spot the quarter increment.
9. Move Files with Cut and Paste
Coming from Windows, it really frustrated me a lot when I was not able to use cut and paste command with the keyboard. Cmd+C works for copying but there’s no Cmd+X for performing the Cut Action. If you are a Mac user who doesn’t know what the Cut Action is, let me explain it to you. While using the Cmd+C or the Copy Action can help you copy files from one place to another, the cut Action allows you to do the same thing with one major difference.
The difference is that the Copy Action keeps the original file or text in place and creates a duplicate of that file whereas, the cut Action moves the original file and doesn’t create a duplicate.To perform the Cut Action on a Mac, first, copy the file using ⌘C (Cmd+C) combo. Now open the location where you want to paste the file and hit ⌘⌥V (Cmd+Opt+V) instead of ⌘V (Cmd+V).
Performing the Cut Action: Copy (Cmd+C) → Paste (Cmd+Option+V)
10. Trash Files in Seconds
This is a simple Mac tip that can save you time. When you have to delete an item on your Mac, you usually either drag it to the Trash in your dock or right-click on the file and select the “Move to Trash” option. Well, there’s a keyboard shortcut which can save you the trouble of doing these things. To easily trash a file, just click on it and then hit the “⌘+Delete” keyboard shortcut and it will move to Trash. If you want to skip trashing a file and permanently delete it, use the “⌘+⌥+Delete” keyboard shortcut. Remember, this will permanently delete a file and you will not be able to recover it.
11. Remember the Word
This is a simple tip that can save you a lot of searches. There are times when we remember a word but don’t exactly remember the spelling. The first way to solve this problem is to fully type the word and then right-click on it and hope that the system knows what we are typing. The second way is to Google the word and it will most definitely tell you what word you might be thinking. The third and easiest way is to type the spelling to the point that you remember and then hit the “Fn+F5” keyboard shortcut. It will give you a list of the word right there and you can select the one you want to use.
MacBook Pro Tips and Tricks: Intermediate Level
12. Master the Hot Corners
Hot Corners are one of the most under-appreciated features of macOS. Either people don’t know about them or they just don’t find it useful. For me, Hot Corners is a feature which I can’t live without. Using Hot Corners feature, a user can assign different actions to each of the corners of the display. Dragging your mouse pointer to that corner will execute that action. For example, I have assigned the top-left corner of the display to show my desktop when I trigger it.
So whenever there are a lot of windows open on my desktop and I want to grab a file to attach or do any other thing which requires me to look at my desktop, I just drag my cursor to the top-left corner and I am done. It’s up to you how you want to use the four corners of your desktop, but once you make using them a habit, you will speed up your workflow many folds. The picture below shows all the actions that I have assigned and am using Hot Corners for. To set-up a Hot Corner all you need to do is to follow the following path:
Apple Menu → System Preferences → Desktop & Screen Saver → Screen Saver → Hot Corners
13. Quickly Access Folders Using the Go Menu and Shortcuts
Another underappreciated feature which can greatly increase your workflow speed is the Go Menu which is present in the Menu bar in the default mode. You can use the Go Menu to easily access folders without first opening the Finder window. If you put in some effort to remember the shortcuts mentioned in the Go Menu, you don’t even need to use the Go Menu, and can directly use the keyboard shortcuts to open a window. For example, if I have to open my Downloads folder, I simply tap the keyboard command ⌥⌘L (Opt+Cmd+L). The picture below shows all the other keyboard shortcuts which you might want to learn.
14. Using the Delete Key Both Ways
Users who have just switched to Mac from Windows will surely appreciate this feature. Windows has two keys for deleting texts which are Backspace and Delete. The Backspace button deletes the text which is behind the cursor while the Delete button deletes the text which is in front of the cursor. However, macOS only comes with the Delete key. What’s even more confusing is the fact that the Delete key on macOS works as the Backspace key on Windows.
However, there is a way you can use the Delete key both ways i.e. use the Delete key to delete the text both before and in front of the cursor. To delete the text in front of the cursor, a user needs to hold on to the ”fn” key while hitting the delete key. You don't need to hold the function key if you just want to delete the text before the cursor.
15. Smartly Navigate Text and Use Smart Text Selection
Most of use the left-right-up-down arrow key to navigate the text. But a surprising number of Mac users don’t know about the keyboard navigation modifiers that make navigating the text a breeze. You can use these navigation modifiers to move not only by a character but also by word, by line, by paragraph, and even move to the beginning and end of the text. Here are the navigation modifiers that you need to remember.
- ⌥ + ←/→ = move cursor by word instead of by character
- ⌥ + ↑/↓ = move cursor by paragraph
- ⌘ + ←/→ = move cursor to beginning/end of line
- ⌘ + ↑/↓ = move cursor to beginning/end of all text
Similarly, when selecting text, just add the Shift button to this combo. For example, if you use ⌘+Shift+→ shortcut, you will select the whole line in front of your cursor. Using these shortcuts is an easy way to navigate and select text.
16. Create Text Clipping
It’s an old but useful feature that not many people know about. On your Mac, you can select any text (works on most apps) and drag it to your Desktop or a Finder window to create a simple text clipping with .txt file format. This feature is helpful when you want to create a summary of an article or want to save important snippets from a book. Using the text clipping is also pretty easy. You can either double-click on the file to open it and copy from there, or you can directly drag and drop the file in any document and it will paste the text at the cursor head. Note that when you are clipping a text, it preserves the rich-text format. That means any text formatting and links are preserved.
17. Rename Multiple Items at Once
This one might not be useful for everyone but it can be a lifesaver for someone who really needs it. As the heading suggests, you can rename multiple files on your Mac in a single action. I take a lot of screenshots on a daily basis, and renaming them in batches saves me a lot of time. To rename multiple files at once, first, select all the files and then right click (control + click / secondary click). From the right-click menu, select the “Rename multiple items” option, as shown in the picture below.
A popup menu will open. Here select the option shown in the picture below and enter the name you want to use in the custom name field. Since I am using this as a test, I will just use the word test. Now, click on the Rename button. Now, all the files will be renamed using the word test followed by a number. (Test1, Test2, Test3, and so on). This feature will save a lot of your time when you need to crudely rename files for organizing them.
18. Organize Your Files With Tags and Stacks
While we are on the topic of organizing files, I want to show you how you can easily organize and access files using tags and stacks. In its most basic forms tags are colored dots which can be assigned to any file or folder. If you open your Finder window, you will see a Tags menu in the left bar. Once you assign a tag to a file, it can be quickly accessed by clicking on its respective tag in the Finder window.
This is extremely helpful if you want to access multiple files in a place without moving them outside their parent folder. For example, I will assign the Red tag to all the screenshots I just took. To assign the tag I will just right click on them and choose the read tag. Also, since I am assigning the same tag to all of the files, I will select all and then do it. This saves me from assigning tags individually for each file.
Now, I will open the finder window and click on the Red tag and you will see that all my screenshots are there. To make these files even more accessible we will add them to our dock using the Stacks feature. To do that, click and drag on the Red tag from the Finder window and drop it between the Trashcan and the line separating it from other items on your dock. You will see that the tag Red has been added to a stack. Click on the stack to access all your files which are tagged Red. This is an easy way to organize and access your files.
Best Advanced Mac Tips and Tricks
19. Take Screenshots in JPG Format
If you take a lot of screenshots on Mac, you must know that your Mac takes screenshots in PNG format. Although there are a lot of advantages of keeping photos in PNG format (for one, it is lossless), it also comes with a major disadvantage. PNG format images take larger space on your Mac’s hard drive as the file size is bigger. Hence, its always good to take screenshots in JPG format. With JPG format the screenshot quality is almost the same and you save space. It also makes them easier to share as the files are smaller in size.
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg
It’s very easy to teach your Mac to take screenshots in JPG format. Just open the Terminal on your Mac, type the code mentioned above and hit enter. Now, every time you take a screenshot, your Mac will be taking it in a JPG format. In fact, you can replace jpg with pdf to take screenshots in PDF format. Also, if you ever want to go back to taking screenshots in PNG format, just replace jpg with png in the above code.
20. Mark the Hidden Apps
We all know that macOS lets us hide apps using the “Command+H” keyboard shortcut. Hiding app is a good way to keep your desktop clean. One major benefit of hiding apps instead of minimizing it is that you can use the “Command+Tab” keyboard shortcut to call an app back. To call up a minimized app, you need to hold the option key and release the tab key while command tabbing through the cycle. It's not as intuitive as using CMD+Tab.
defaults write com.apple.Dock showhidden -bool TRUE; killall Dock
However, there’s one problem with hiding apps. There is no indication which apps are hidden and which are closed. It makes it harder to call back apps as closed apps don’t come up using the keyboard shortcuts. Well, I am going to save this problem for you today. Just open Terminal, copy and paste the command written above and hit enter. Once you do that, you will see the hidden apps are a little greyed out than the rest of the apps, just like shown in the picture below.
Bonus: Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts
The last tip I want to live with you today is one which can greatly improve your productivity. Using keyboard shortcuts is one of the fastest ways to get something done. Not only it makes the process faster, once you are used to it, you can perform that action without even thinking about it. That’s why I always make sure that I create custom keyboard shortcuts for all my frequently used actions. For example, I take a lot of screenshots and resize them using Mac’s preview app. However, there’s no keyboard shortcut to open the resizing window on the Preview app. So, I created one for myself.
To create a shortcut go to System Preferences→Keyboard → Shortcuts → App Shortcut. Now click on the + button choose the app you want to create a shortcut for. Here, enter the name of the action you want to create a shortcut for and then type in the keyboard shortcut you want to use. It’s as simple as that.
MacBook Pro Tips and Tricks: Conclusion
That ends our article. I wanted to add more but the article is already too long. If you want more tips, be sure to let me know either by liking this post or commenting below. Your engagement proves that the work I am doing is helping some of you out there. Also, if you found this article helpful, do share this with others because we need your help to share the blog with others.