Changing habits takes time and discipline, but changing a few macOS settings only takes seconds and can immediately boost your productivity. Here are some tips that will make your Mac life easier.
Increase cursor size
It may seem trivial, but size matters to your cursor. It’s easy to lose your pointer, especially when the operating system automatically hides it while typing. But you can make things easier on yourself simply by increasing the size of the slider under System Preferences> Accessibility> Display.
Use the “Cursor Size” slider to increase the size of the slider until you are happy with it. Even a little push can make a big difference. You can also shake your cursor to locate it, but it takes a little more time and effort than just glancing at the screen.
This is especially useful if you are using a “scaled” display mode under System Preferences> Display, in which the perceived resolution is increased to better fit the screen.
Arrange the dock vertically, not horizontally
By default, macOS places the Dock at the bottom of the screen. While this looks okay, it can be a waste of space as Macs now have a widescreen display. If the Dock isn’t full, you’ll have spaces on either side that windows never take up. At the bottom of the screen, the Dock takes up more space than it would if you moved it left or right.
Placing the Dock vertically on either edge of the screen can take up a lot of wasted screen space. To fit your icons into the tight vertical space, macOS compresses things a bit. You can always change the size of the dock further under System Preferences> Dock.
The choice of left or right edge largely depends on whether you are right-handed or left-handed. If your right hand is dominant, you’ll have more room on the trackpad to move left to right, as your fingers will naturally rest on the right edge of the trackpad.
Moving the Dock to the left may seem more natural to those who use an alphabet that reads left to right. The Apple macOS logo and Windows Start menu follow the same design principle.
Pin useful items to the dock and ditch everything else
By default, macOS places “useful” questionable apps in the Dock. If you decide that you no longer need an icon in the dock, click and drag it to the middle of the screen, then release. You can also right-click an icon and then uncheck Options> Keep in Dock.
Likewise, you can do the opposite and add apps to the Dock so that they’re always there. This is especially useful for opening files in apps, as you can simply drag a file onto an app icon to do so. Right-click on an app and check Options> Keep in Dock to make it a permanent device.
Now turn your attention to the right (or bottom, depending on your alignment) edge of the Dock. You can place folders here for quick access and open them as a list or grid. To do this, simply drag a Finder window to the area beyond the Dock divider.
Right-click (or Ctrl + click) on the folder to customize the display of folders. You can change the layout, choose grid (extended preview) or list view, and decide how the items should be sorted. These folders can also be destinations: just drag and drop a file onto the folder you want to move it to.
Organize Windows by keeping applications on specific desktops
If your office is a sea of ever-changing windows, you will never be able to find anything. If you do not use the macOS “Spaces” function which allows you to place applications and windows on multiple workstations, you are missing something!
You can see your available desktops through Mission Control. To launch it, press F3 or drag three fingers up on the trackpad. At the top you should see a numbered list of offices. Click the plus sign (+) to add more, or hover over a desktop, then click the “X” to close it.
You can also use Mission Control to dump apps on specific desktops by dragging them into place. For example, you might want your primary browser to be on your first desktop and apps like Slack or Evernote to be on your second or third.
To switch between desktops, use a three-finger horizontal swipe or press Ctrl + Right or Left Arrow.
To prevent an app from moving to another desktop and cluttering up your workspace, right-click (or click and hold) its icon in the Dock, then click Options> Assign to> This Desktop. Now, whenever you click on this app’s icon in the Dock, you will be taken directly to that desktop and app.
After a while, you will instinctively know where the apps are based and what desktop they are on. You can switch to a specific office by holding Control and pressing its number. For example, to access Desktop 3, you just need to press Ctrl + 3. You can also use these keyboard shortcuts when dragging windows, tabs, or files.
The ultimate goal is to avoid juggling multiple windows on a single desktop. You can have up to 16 different workstations on your Mac, and they work with multiple monitors, so use them!
Group windows as tabs
Many macOS apps now allow you to group separate windows together as tabs, so you can keep everything in one interface. To see if an app supports this feature, click View> Show Tab Bar. A plus sign (+) will appear if this function is available; click on it to open a new app tab. You can also use the traditional Command + T shortcut to do this.
If multiple windows are already open on your desktop, you can merge them into a single tabbed interface by clicking Window> Merge All Windows. If you want to turn a tab back into a window, just click and drag the tab bar out of the window.
This works well in Safari and other browsers, but it also applies to Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), Apple Maps, TextEdit, and Mail. You can also change the default behavior so that apps like this open new windows as tabs every time. To do this, go to System Preferences> Dock and select “Always” instead of “Prefer tabs when opening documents”.
Authorize your Mac with your Apple Watch
If you have an Apple Watch, you can use it to automatically unlock your Mac. You will need an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 and a Mac compatible for this to work (most models produced after 2013 should be fine).
To set it up, go to System Preferences> Security & Privacy and enable the “Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac” option.
Now, whenever your Mac detects that you’re nearby, it automatically unlocks without you having to enter your password. You can also use your Apple Watch to approve administrator-level requests on your Mac, like changing locked preferences or running sudo commands in Terminal.
Force Safari Reader to show on specific websites
The web is fun. You might look for instructions on how to create a score chart in Microsoft Excel, but end up reading a very interesting article on host your own VPN instead. Some websites are just filled with great content, you know?
Safari Reader View can help you focus only on the content you want by eliminating distractions. You can force Safari to access Reader View on specific websites. In this case, only the articles are concerned. You can still browse the main site normally.
To do this, head to a website you read frequently, click on an article, and then find the drive icon in the address bar. Click on it to see a preview of Reader mode. If you click and hold on it, you will see an “Automatically use Reader” option every time you visit the website you are currently viewing.
When this option is enabled, every time you read an article on this area, whether you access it through the main index or through a web search, it will default to Reader view. You can also click on “Safari” in the menu bar and go to Preferences> Websites> Reader to set Reader mode preferences.
Work smarter, wherever you are
Taking a moment to polish your workflow can make a huge difference in your productivity.
However, these tips are only scratching the surface. You can do a lot more work from home on your Mac an easier and more enjoyable experience.