Learning how to move faster in macOS can be a real productivity booster if you’ve spent a lot of time using your Mac. Many of these tricks will quickly become second nature and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!
Bring it all to light
You can trigger Spotlight search with Command + Space or by clicking the Spotlight icon in your menu bar (upper right corner of the screen, toggled via System Preferences > Dock & Menu Bar). Not only is it a powerful search engine, but it lets you access most apps and preference panes with just a few keystrokes.
Launching apps with Spotlight is so much faster than browsing the Applications folder or triggering the Launchpad, and arguably faster than moving your cursor to the dock and clicking a shortcut. The key here is that you need to know exactly what you’re looking for, so it won’t help if you can’t remember the name of that handy new app you installed yesterday.
You can also use Spotlight to calculate moderately complex sums (eg “(2 + 2) * 4”), convert units and currencies (eg “43 miles to km”) or use natural language to find things (e.g. “show me the weather”).
RELATED: How to use macOS Spotlight like a champ
Optimize your menu bar
The menu bar is located in the upper right corner of the macOS desktop. It’s the Mac equivalent of the Windows system tray, where system service and third-party app icons provide access to useful functions. If you’re not careful, this area can become cluttered, so it’s important to keep it tidy with only the things you need.
You can move items in the menu bar by holding down the Command key, then clicking and dragging. You can rearrange almost anything this way. If you want to get rid of certain things, most applications have an option like “Show in menu bar” hidden in their preferences. But it may be easier to use an app called Bartender instead.
Bartender lets you hide almost anything to keep your menu bar tidy. This is especially useful if you want a “clean” desktop while being able to access additional options with a single click. Dozer and Vanilla are two good free alternatives if you’d rather not pay for a feature that Apple probably should have built into macOS.
You can also place and trigger shortcuts from the menu bar, allowing you to access things like stored passwords, low power mode, or quickly empty your Downloads folder with two clicks.
Configure active corners
You can use the corners of your screen to instantly trigger a few built-in macOS options, including creating a new note. You can choose to trigger the shortcut instantly or only when you hold down a combination of keys (like Command, Option, and Shift).
You can set up hot spots on your Mac by going to System Preferences > Mission Control and clicking the “Hot Spots…” button at the bottom of the window.
Learn macOS swipes and relevant keyboard shortcuts
It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something you may need to consciously learn before it becomes useful. macOS is better with a trackpad, whether you’re using a laptop or desktop. Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2 is one of the best accessories you can buy for your static Mac.
Head to System Preferences > Trackpad and take a look at the gestures available to you. In particular, the “More Gestures” tab is worth exploring, as you can find videos demonstrating some of the most useful gestures for quickly bringing up the desktop, swiping between apps and desktops, and more.
Likewise, macOS has a large number of keyboard shortcuts that work on the desktop. Check out Apple’s official resource for useful shortcuts like Command+` to switch between open windows of the same app and Command+L to quickly access the Safari address bar.
We’ve also produced our own resource for Windows users switching to Mac and some useful typing-focused keyboard shortcuts. Once you’re ready to take it to the next level, you can learn how to create your own custom shortcuts for any Mac app.
Ask Siri to do it
Siri is now widely used across the Apple ecosystem, from the iPhone and iPad to the Mac desktop. You can configure Siri under System Preferences > Siri and choose a shortcut of your choice, or enable the “Hey Siri” always listening option. You can also set preferences for language, voice style, and whether or not you want voice feedback.
Much of Siri’s usefulness depends on whether you’re in a suitable environment or are comfortable barking commands at your computer. Once enabled, the feature can perform a variety of macOS and internet actions.
This includes opening apps and preference panels (“open music”), adding reminders (“remind me to bill for work tomorrow”), opening websites, and running searches (“find me pictures of cute cats”) and your gadget search (“where is my iPhone”).
RELATED: 11 things you can do with Siri on your Mac
Go beyond the spotlight with Alfred and Raycast
Spotlight is a useful tool for launching apps and searching on your Mac, but at some point you’re going to run into its limitations. That’s where apps like Alfred and Raycast come in, offering a similar text-based interface to get things done quickly on your Mac without having to take your fingers off the keyboard.
Alfred is a highly customizable free launcher app that does pretty much everything Spotlight can do, with a few extra features like clipboard history, hotkey support for app launchers, custom search engines, integration with Terminal and text expansion. If you purchase the Powerpack, you’ll get access to powerful, time-saving workflows that you can trigger with just a few key presses.
Raycast is a completely free and infinitely expandable similar application. It is primarily aimed at developers, but thanks to an integrated store, many Raycast extensions for commonly used apps and services can be quickly added. Some examples include 1Password integration, the ability to search Apple Notes, quickly change your status on Slack, and use Google services like Maps, Search, and Translate.
Customize gestures with a better touch tool
Better Touch Tool is a must-have Mac app for productivity enthusiasts. The app lets you create very specific gestures to trigger a series of actions that work both system-wide and in specific apps. The level of granularity on offer is amazing, but the app can feel a little off-putting at first.
You can also use just about any input device to trigger actions, from trackpad or mouse to MIDI inputs, keystrokes or the BTT Remote app on iPhone or iPad. The app also provides access to some useful input settings for apps like Finder and Safari, Touch Bar options for models that have one, and more.
A standard license costs $9 and there’s a 45-day free trial to figure out how to use it before deciding to buy.
Organize Windows Quickly with Magnet and Swish
Some basic window management features are built into macOS, but they don’t go far enough. Magnet is a $7.99 app available on the Mac App Store that helps make the most of the space available on your desktop. You can place windows in different configurations, including side-by-side and two-thirds split. There are keyboard shortcuts for each, letting you quickly organize things the way you want without taking your hands off the keyboard.
Swish performs a similar function, except it’s all gesture-based. You can swipe and flick the trackpad to perform actions such as minimizing and maximizing windows, closing tabs, and managing multi-monitor setups. The app is intuitive, highly customizable, and costs $16.
Share and do things fast with Dropzone and Yoink
Copying and sharing files can take time, but Dropzone makes it so easy you don’t even need to open a web browser. Drag a file to the top of the screen to see helpful context actions. This includes uploading an image to Imgur or documents to Google Drive, installing APP files, or creating an archive from multiple files. You can download the basic version for free or get the Pro upgrade for $35.
Yoink is another such app that lets you keep things close so you don’t have to search for them all the time. Think of it as a “shelf” for your stuff, letting you put files and clips aside before you retrieve them again.
⚡️ New blog post
Yoink for Mac User Tip #14: How to save or upload files in Yoinkhttps://t.co/0fR8OMJVw3
(More usage tips for Yoink for Mac: https://t.co/LflRbjT5Tu) pic.twitter.com/gLyiPUyU9e
— Yoink for Mac, iPad and iPhone (@YoinkApp) October 13, 2020
If Yoink appeals to you because you’re tired of swiping while holding your finger on the trackpad forever, you should also use the three-finger swipe to simplify your workflow.
Boost your productivity
Fast browsing means more time to work or play and less time in between. If you’re looking for even more productivity gains, learn how to tweak macOS for a better workflow.
RELATED: 7 macOS tweaks to boost your productivity