Welcome to Product Support, a column devoted to helping you get the most out of the gadgets and software you already use.
Even if you’ve been using a Mac daily for years, you probably haven’t dug down to the bottom of everything it can do and all the features that it offers—which is why we’re here to help. These seven quick, free tips can boost your productivity on macOS and help you get more done in less time.
1. Stack your desktop icons
If you use your desktop as a dumping ground for files, folders, and shortcuts, you’re not alone. It’s handy for keeping everything within easy reach, but it can also mean wasted minutes and seconds hunting for the file you need.
Bring some order to your desktop with the help of Stacks: If you click on a blank part of the desktop then open the View menu and choose Use Stacks, files and folders will be automatically grouped and piled up by category. Select View then Group Stacks By to choose how your files get organized.
2. Save your searches
Don’t fritter away time running common searches over and over again from scratch, because macOS lets you save your searches in what are called Smart Folders: Basically, virtual folders with constantly updated search results in them.
Run a search in Finder as normal, using the search box to the top right and whatever filtering criteria you want (click the plus button to the far right to add more criteria). When you’ve got your search set up the way you want, click Save: Give your search (or Smart Folder) a name, and you can then access it from the Sidebar with one click in the future.
3. Type faster with text replacements
You don’t need to keep typing out commonly used bits of text—like your address or the shrug emoji—because your Mac can do the hard work for you. You type in a shortcut that you’ve already agreed on (like “my-ad”), and macOS automatically expands it to the full string of text.
Set this up by opening the Apple menu, then choosing System Preferences, Keyboard, and Text. A couple of examples are provided for you, and you can add new ones with the plus button underneath. These text replacements are applied across all the apps on your Mac, wherever you can input text.
4. Know your shortcuts
You’d be surprised at the difference to your productivity some well-chosen keyboard shortcuts can make. Apple provides a full list here, but some of our favorites include Cmd+W for closing a browser tab or Finder window, and Cmd+Space to quickly bring up the Spotlight search bar.
macOS even allows you to modify certain keyboard shortcuts or to create your own. From the Apple menu pick System Preferences and then Keyboard, and under Shortcuts you’ll find some keyboard combinations can be edited. Use the Restore Defaults button to roll back your changes.
5. Put the Dock on the Touch Bar with Pock
Pock is a really handy and free utility that duplicates some of the Dock’s features on your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (if your MacBook doesn’t have one, you can skip this tip). You can launch and switch to apps with a tap, as well as see information like the date, time, and current battery level at a glance.
With Pock up and running, you can opt to hide the Dock on screen, and give your apps some more room. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then Dock and Automatically hide and show the Dock to hide it away when it’s not in use.
6. Dictate, don’t type
Typing is all well and good of course but you can save your fingers some strain—and maybe speed up your writing at the same time—by taking advantage of the dictation function that comes as standard with every Mac.
You can find it by opening System Preferences from the Apple menu, then going to Keyboard and Dictation. Turn the feature on, and whenever you need to enter text on your Mac, press the Fn key twice or choose Edit then Start Dictation. When macOS is listening for spoken input, it’ll show a microphone symbol on screen—click Done underneath this to stop dictating.
7. Activate Hot Corners
Hot corners don’t actually raise the temperature of your Mac, but they do give you a simple and convenient way of navigating around different parts of macOS, all by moving your mouse cursor to the far corners of your display.
To turn hot corners on, open the Apple menu then choose System Preferences and Mission Control. Click Hot Corners and you get four drop-down menus for the four corners of the screen—each corner can have a different action assigned to it.
The available actions include locking your Mac, opening Launchpad or the Notification Center, starting the screensaver, showing the desktop (particularly useful), and putting the display to sleep.