Mac Productivity Tips

Mac Productivity Tips

Becoming proficient at using your computer is an absolute necessity to be effective at almost any job. I've spent thousands of hours using computers, and I've built up some useful skills to stay productive. I'll document some of my methods here in case it helps someone who may be looking to master their Mac better.

I have embraced the Mac keyboard shortcuts so that my skills are generally transferable to any Mac.

Use Spotlight And Stop Clicking Around Menus

The most valuable navigational tool on your mac is Spotlight ⌘ Space. Please use it, and use it often.

All of these tasks I have replaced completely with Spotlight:

  • Finding and opening an application. I don't even use the dock to open things, the dock has other purposes: closing apps & emptying trash.
  • Opening anything in System Preferences. Just type "Display" or "Network" to open the preference pane you need.
  • Basic calculator. Just start typing math in spotlight to do quick calculations.

Window and Application Switching

Don't bother trying to arrange your windows in a sane way. There's no way you're disciplined enough to keep things organized. Just get good at finding the window you're looking for using the keyboard.

Keys Description
⌘ Tab Switch Applications
⌘ ` Cycle Windows Within an Application
⌘ Space Spotlight ← Start using this now!

Use Tabs for Organizing

Effective tab use is essential to managing a complex desktop environment and retaining your sanity. Opt for fewer windows, and more tabs. And buy more RAM so you can keep a lot open.

These work for Chrome, Safari, Finder, iTerm2 or any app that correctly implements tabs on a Mac. Use ⌘ Click in a browser to open links in a new tab when you want to multi-task.

Keys Description
⌘ T New Tab
⌘ Shift { Previous Tab
⌘ Shift } Next Tab
⌘ N New Window
⌘ W Close Tab or Window (if last tab)

Master Text Entry

You may wonder why this one is important if you are not a programmer. If you spend any amount of time writing emails, documents, text messaging, chat, or code, you need to not only master typing, but master editing, moving around quickly, quickly selecting, deleting and inserting content.

Your keyboarding skills should move as fast as your mind does. If while writing text you find yourself pausing, grabbing the mouse, clicking and selecting, you are not only wasting time, but you are redirecting focus away from the thing you were actually writing, and breaking your train of thought.

Helpful Key Combinations

On a Mac, these combinations will make you a master of your emails, documents, and any text communication.

Keys Description
⌘ ← Move to begining of the line
⌘ → Move to the end of the line
⌥ ← Move to the previous word
⌥ → Move to the next word
⌥ ↑ Move to the previous paragraph
⌥ ↓ Move to the next paragraph
⌥ Backspace Delete previous word

Option Key Speedup

The most important thing is to remember that the option key (⌥) accelerates your cursor when using directional arrows. Never move at the speed of a single character again!

Combine With Shift For Selection

All these cursor movements can be combined with shift to quickly select several words quickly without grabbing your mouse.

Try Shift ⌥ ← ← to select words quickly. To select a whole line, do a ⌘ → (Shift + ⌘ ←) . You can play with the key strokes and select any way that is comfortable to you.

How Do I Keep My Files Organized?

I've been asked this many times. In short... I don't. Let me free your mind and allow you to focus on things that actually matter.

General Guidance

  • Use computers for what they do best, and don't burden your mind with meaningless process.
  • You will forget almost everything. Don't rely on your memory to stay organized.
  • Be predictable and explicit. Don't be clever with where you put or how you name things. The key to maintaining your ability to find things is to predict where you would have put them or what you would have called them.
  • Leverage search tools. Good search relieves the burden of organizing.

Practical Tips

  • Don't create complex folder structures. You aren't going to remember how to use them anyway. Come up with a handful of places to put things and make locations self-discoverable. Give files and directories good meaningful names to make them easier to find via Spotlight. Don't be afraid of a big bucket of files.
  • Don't organize windows. It's not worth it. You can spend time snapping windows, and laying things out perfectly, but I choose not to. Get a big monitor instead.
  • Purchase more disk space and more memory. If you run into performance or space issues, spend your money, rather than your time.
  • Do a cleanup 2x a year. Or less if you can get away with it. When your Desktop is completely full (no more empty space), or you run out of disk space that's a good indicator to do it. For disk issues, my biggest files are typically in ~/Downloads and I sort that by file size to quickly reclaim space. I used to use an app to help with the cleanup but I found it slowed my computer down too much.
  • Use obvious folder locations. For example, Desktop, Downloads, Documents, and Pictures are great places to start. You should create simple folder structures, but only very obvious ones, and don't nest folders too deep.
  • Prefer practicality over elegance. It is more important to be productive than it is to have the perfect structure.
  • Use Search everywhere. Don't bother organizing your email, just use search to find what you are looking for. Don't bookmark everything in your browser, lean on your search history to find that page you were recently looking at.

Good Luck

With these secrets I hope you find a way to improve your own productivity on a Mac.

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