These Mac Tips Make Everyday Tasks Faster

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Speed up mundane tasks on your Mac in a few easy steps.

Computers make doing everything faster (that’s kind of the point). But even though your Mac already speeds through whatever you throw at it, there are ways to compute even faster. Whether it’s for work, play, or something in between, these tips can make it quicker to accomplish just about any task on your Mac.

Open folders faster while hovering

When you want to drop a file into a folder, you generally pick it up with the cursor, drag it over the folder, then wait for the folder to spring open. That’s fine, but it does feel like it takes a bit longer than it should. As it turns out, you can drastically speed this process up.

I didn’t know about this trick until I stumbled upon it this Reddit thread. In short, buried in System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control, you’ll find the ability to change the speed at which folders spring open when you hover a file over them. Move the slider next to “Spring-loaded delay” to “Short,” and you’ll hardly have to wait at all.

Search is your best friend

Spotlight search might just be the most useful feature on your Mac. With it, you can search for any file on your computer, open applications, see results from the internet, do simple math problems, see dictionary definitions, and so much more. I hardly use Finder anymore because of how convenient Spotlight is.

Part of what makes Spotlight so useful is its keyboard shortcut: Command + Space. At any time, you can employ this shortcut to access just about anything you need to. That makes it an essential part of your Mac workflow (at least, it is for me).

Actually use Siri (results may vary)

Siri might not be the most reliable smart assistant, but it can be useful when it works. On my Mac, I tend to use it for macOS apps and tasks, similar to those I’d use on my iPhone, such as settings reminders, checking on the weather, or opening apps or files. If you have a microphone icon on your keyboard, you can long-press it to activate Siri at any time. If not, your Mac likely defaults to a Command + Space long-press to call up Siri.

Of course, as you might know from your iPhone, Siri isn’t perfect. While it’s often quicker to ask Siri to set a reminder than to go through the motions yourself, if it messes up, it certainly will take longer. Have some patience, prepare for some flubs, and Siri can be a worthwhile tool for your daily Mac tasks.

Shortcuts aren’t just for your iPhone and iPad

The Shortcuts app on iOS and iPadOS empowers your mobile devices to automate any number of tasks. However, those same shortcuts are also available on your computer, through the macOS Shortcuts app.

You can use shortcuts to accomplish a lot, including downloading YouTube videos, auto-enabling Low Power Mode, and automatically entering split screen when you access frequently used apps.

Download a clipboard manager

If you’re not using a clipboard manager on your Mac yet, get yourself to the nearest download link. For most Mac users, copy and paste works only one task at a time: You copy something, then paste it somewhere else. If you want to paste something you copied before, you need to copy it again to do so.

A clipboard manager, however, frees you up considerably: The manager saves a list of your copied items, making any and all easily accessible whenever you need them. I rely on this feature all the time. It lets me copy multiple items from one page, then paste them to another page without needing to constantly return to the original source. I can also quickly paste items I copied hours or days ago without needing to dig through search histories or other apps.

There are plenty of third-party clipboard managers for you to choose from on macOS, and we list a few of our favorites here.

Download a window manager

Similarly, if you don’t have a window manager, get one. They bring window snapping to your Mac—admittedly, the same function you’ll find in Windows OS. That said, macOS is better than it used to be when it comes to window management. If you hover your cursor over the green button in a window, then hold down Option, you’ll see an option to move the window to the left or right side of the display. However, it isn’t nearly as convenient as the features a dedicated windows management utility can bring.

For example, Magnet lets you snap windows into specific portions of your display with a keyboard shortcut. You can also snap these windows into place by dragging them to particular corners.

The best way to quit and switch between apps

A macOS must is Command + Tab. This keyboard shortcut brings up a menu bar with icons for all open apps: As you press tab, your cursor moves over the app icons. When you’re hovering over one you’d like to switch to, just let go. You can also go in reverse order by hitting ` instead of tab—that’s the key just above tab that also has the tilde (~) on it.

You can also use this shortcut to instantly quit any open apps. Keep pressing tab until the cursor is hovering over the app you want to close out, then, with command still pressed, hit Q.

Utilize the Option key

The Option key is macOS’ best kept secret. When you hold it down, it enables you to access “hidden” menus and functions you didn’t know were available to you. For example, by holding down Option when clicking on the Apple menu in the top left, you’ll have to option to instantly restart or shut down your Mac, without having to deal with a pop-up window first. Similarly, the menu option to quit an app becomes “Quit and Keep Windows,” which will save the windows you have open the next time you start the app.

Fine-tune brightness and volume

If you’ve ever felt the brightness and volume keys on your Mac changed things too much, there’s a simple way to fine-tune changes instead. Before you press the key in question, hold down Option + Shift. These keys will tell macOS to change the display or keyboard brightness or the volume by a quarter step, rather than a full step, allowing you to quickly adjust either to the perfect spot.

Browse the internet a little faster

Whether you use Chrome or Safari, you probably know some classic keyboard shortcuts (like Command + T to open a new tab). However, there are a handful of lesser-known keyboard shortcuts that will help you get around a little faster:

  • Command + Option + Arrow keys: move from tab to tab.
  • Command + 1–8: move through the first eight tabs.
  • Command + 9: move to the last tab.
  • Command + L (Safari only): highlight the URL bar.

Skip the Trash

If you know you want a file gone, and don’t want to deal with emptying the Trash, highlight the file, then press Command + Option + Delete to scrub it from your computer instantly.

Install an SSD

This tip will likely apply to a small portion of Mac users in 2022, but it’s essential: If your Mac still uses a physical hard drive, upgrade to an SSD. A spinning disk cannot compete in terms of speed with an SSD, and replacing it is one of the best things you can do to improve the speed and efficiency and extend the lifespan of an old laptop or iMac.

If you have an older Mac with an HDD, Google instructions for installing an SSD on your particular device. It isn’t overly difficult or expensive, and it will be a huge quality-of-life upgrade.

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