50 best Mac tips, tricks and timesavers

All the awesome things you forgot your Mac could do

50 magical tips for OS X

Your Mac can do millions of things, but sometimes even the best of us forget some of the cool stuff it can do - so we're here to help jog your memory.

Some of these tips need recent versions of OS X, but not all of them do. In some cases, some are little features that Apple has sneaked into upgrades that you might have totally missed, and some might be a classic lightbulb moment of "I'd totally forgotten you could do that!"

This is neither a formal nor an exhaustive list; we've just put our heads together to gather the fifty tips we think are awesome.

1. Control a Mac remotely

Remote

There are dozens of ways of controlling a Mac across the internet, which you might want to do to schedule a recording, start a download and so on. You could try LogMeIn, or share a desktop using Google Hangouts and Skype; you could try port forwarding the built-in VNC client in OS X, but our favourite - and the easiest - is Back to My Mac, managed through iCloud.

So long as the remote Mac is on, logged into an account tied to your iCloud login (through System Preferences) and connected to the internet, it should appear under Shared in your Finder sidebar. (If it doesn't, hover over Shared and click Show; if Shared isn't there, look in the Finder's preferences.)

Click Share Screen… to control the Mac over the internet, as if you were sitting in front of it. (It might make more sense to go Full Screen to stop yourself getting confused!) Check out the options in the menus and toolbar.

Alternatively, click Connect As… to log into the Mac to copy files from and to it. If you have a recent AirPort Extreme with a hard disk attached, or a Time Capsule, then you can access those files similarly; make sure your router is logged into iCloud using AirPort Utility.

2. Talk to and listen to your Mac!

Talk to your mac

In OS X 10.8, the Mac's ability to listen to you as well as talk is really impressive. Although these are sometimes framed as being accessibility features, they can be useful for everyone. For example, it's a good idea to read through any important text before you send it off, but it's easy to skip mistakes when you're reading your own work. Instead, select the text and go to Edit > Speech > Start Speaking. You can control the speed and pick from a range of different voices (our favourite's the Scottish 'Fiona') in the Dictation & Speech System Preference pane.

If you find you use the feature often, you should enable the option to trigger speaking aloud using a keyboard shortcut - the default is Option+Esc, which you can change in the Dictation & Speech pane. (If you do have restricted vision, investigate the VoiceOver feature in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences too; this can read aloud buttons and other on-screen items, and more.)

Your Mac is just as good a listener as it is a talker, though. Not only can you control your Mac using Speakable Items (check the Accessibility pane) but in OS X 10.8 you can also dictate text anywhere you would type. By default you just press the Function key twice and then start talking.

3. Run Windows

Windows

We know, we know - who wants to run Windows? But sometimes it's handy, whether to play the latest games or run some niche piece of software that has no Mac equivalent. You can either run Windows alongside OS X with a virtualisation app such as VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop or VirtualBox, or partition your hard disk to install Windows on to run it full-bore on your hardware using Boot Camp Assistant (in your Utilities folder).