Tips for new Mac owners

I’ve been a Mac user for more than two years. Over time I’ve learned lots of useful tips.

Consider this post your “Welcome Guide” into the world of Apple computing.


Let’s start off with some simple shortcuts.

  • Press ⌘ ⇧ and 3 at the same time: this will take a screenshot of the whole screen.
  • Press ⌘ ⇧ and 4 at the same time (the command, shift and number 4 keys): this allows you to select an area of the screen to take a screenshot.
  • Pro Tip: Press ⌘ ⇧ and 4 at the same time and then press Space. This will change the cursor to a camera and you can select a whole window to take a screenshot.


If you don’t know what QuickLook is, go to the Finder, select a file, preferably an image or text file, and press Space.

A beautiful window pops up displaying a preview of the file, allowing you to quickly skim a text file or look at a picture without actually opening any app.

While the QuickLook window is showing you can press the arrow keys to navigate around the files on that folder, and QuickLook will show you a preview of the selected file.


  1. select a couple of image files and press space.
  2. In the resulting window, press the button with the four squares, on the top of the QuickLook window.
  3. Now you’re in Gallery Mode.
  4. Go back to regular QuickLook  mode.
  5. Press the Full Screen icon on the top right of the QuickLook icon.
All of this works very well with Trackpad gestures, using swipes to change the selected item.

UI Tricks

Imagine you’re using your Mac and a friend starts annoying you with detrimental comments, or just asking “why the hell did you get a Mac?”.

You can WOW them with this trick only the pros know:

Hold the shift-key and minimize a window pushing the yellow button on the top left.

You’ll witness a slow-motion version of the minimize animation. This works with any UI animation, for instance, hold shift and press F3 to activate Mission Control.

I love this feature, woes my friends all the time. You can check out a video of me demoing this feature here. Forgive the low quality of the camera.

Improve Finder

One thing you must have already noticed is that although prettier, is no match to the Windows Explorer in terms of functionality.

By the way, suffixing .app to an application’s name is a developer / Apple evangelist way of referring to apps.

Some weird features of Finder:

  • No cut and paste (really?)
  • Folders aren’t sorted to the top of the list, being treated as files (technically they’re files, but the user doesn’t need to know that)
  • The green button on the left hand corner (Zoom) isn’t consistent. This is a problem with most of the Apple built-in apps.
  • Showing hidden files.

Luckily you can fix all of this by installing XtraFinder. This nifty tool adds cut and paste, arranges folders to the top and makes sure Zoom actually maximizes the whole window, as Windows users are accostumed to.

There’s a few other options there and it’s all toggleable.

Uninstalling apps

If you’ve installed apps from the Mac App Store (MAS), you can just go to Launchpad, press the left mouse button down on an app and all the icons will start shivering with an X icon. Just press the X icon for any MAS app to uninstall it.

However, this won’t work for apps downloaded outside the MAS.

If the app you want to uninstall didn’t provide an uninstaller script (it would be placed in the App’s folder inside Launchpad), then you can use This free app will show all the installed apps, widgets and other stuff (did you know you can install custom QuickLook plugins?).

Select what you want to uninstall and AppCleaner will find all the related files spread throughout the system.

Keep your Mac running

Caffeine. It’s what your computer needs if you don’t want it to go to sleep when you leave it alone for a few minutes. Mac OS X has a nasty habit of turning off Wi-Fi connections when it goes to sleep, so Caffeine helps prevent that without going into System Preferences.


Did you know you can now use iMessages on your Mac? Regardless of whether or not you use the iMessage service on your iPhone or iPad, you can now use it from your Mac. You’ll need to be upgraded to Lion, though I doubt many still hold on to Snow Leopard. is still in beta, and will require Mountain Lion, the upcoming OS X upgrade due for a Summer release, once it releases. But until then you can use it on Lion.


I hardly ever open Coconut Battery now, because I know my MBP’s (that’s the short version of MacBook Pro for you newbies) battery isn’t what it used to be. If you’re MacBook is still mint, you canuse Coconut Battery to gloat about the battery’s health.

Retrieving music from your iDevice

So you have some music stored on your iPhone or iPad and want to unload it on your Mac. No problem, iTunes doesn’t allow it, but there’s other ways to do this. Check out Detune.

Hex editing

Not an everyday need for everyone, but imagine you need to edit a file in hexadecimal for some reason? Maybe to hack a feature or something else. There’s plenty of apps that do this, but Hex Fiend is definitely the cleanest.

Performance and Cleaning

There’s only one app that you need to keep your Mac in shape, and no, it’s not that blasted MacKeeper (that app will install hidden startup items, so don’t even think about it). OnyX is the tool of choice, just do all of the various steps, S.M.A.R.T. drive checking, etc… It’ll help!


For downloading .torrent files, there’s a choice between uTorrent and Transmission. I use the latter, seems cleaner and slimmer.

Expert’s Tip

If you really want to go under the hood of your Mac, download Secrets. This will install a Preference Pane on your System Preferences allowing you to toggle a bunch of hidden features, like Thumbnail icons for folders.