Changing habits takes time and discipline, but changing a few macOS settings only takes a few seconds, and it can immediately boost your productivity. Here are some tips that will make your life easier on your Mac.
Increase the Cursor Size
It might sound trivial, but size matters when it comes to your cursor. It’s easy to lose your pointer, especially when the OS auto-hides it while typing. But you can make things easier for yourself simply by increasing the size of the cursor under System Preferences > Accessibility > Display.
Use the “Cursor Size” slider to increase the size of the cursor until you’re happy with it. Even a small boost can make a big difference. You can also shake your cursor to locate it, but this takes a bit more time and effort than simply glancing at the screen.
This is especially useful if you’re using a “scaled” display mode under System Preferences > Display, in which the perceived resolution is increased to fit more onscreen.
Arrange the Dock Vertically, Not Horizontally
By default, macOS puts the Dock at the bottom of the screen. While this looks fine, it can result in quite a bit of wasted space, as Macs now come with wide-screen displays. If the Dock isn’t full, you’ll have gaps on either side that windows never occupy. At the bottom of the screen, the Dock takes up more space than it would if you moved it to the left or right.
Placing the Dock vertically on either edge of the screen can recover a lot of wasted screen real estate. To fit your icons into the reduced vertical space, macOS compresses things somewhat. You can always tweak the size of the dock further under System Preferences > Dock.
Whether you choose the left or right edge largely depends on whether you’re right- or left-handed. If your right hand is dominant, you’ll have more room on the trackpad to move from left to right because your fingers will naturally rest on the right edge of the trackpad.
Moving the Dock to the left might feel more natural to those who use an alphabet that reads from left to right. The macOS Apple logo and Windows Start menu follow the same design principle.
Pin Useful Things to the Dock and Ditch Everything Else
By default, macOS places some questionably “useful” apps in the Dock. If you decide you don’t need an icon in the dock anymore, click and drag it to the middle of the screen, and then release. You can also right-click an icon, and then uncheck Options > Keep in Dock.
Similarly, you can do the opposite and add any apps to the Dock so they’ll always be there. This is particularly useful for opening files in apps because you can just drag a file over an app icon to do so. Right-click an app and check Options > Keep in Dock to make it a permanent fixture.
Now, turn your attention to the right (or bottom, depending on your alignment) edge of the Dock. You can place folders here for quick access and open them as a list or grid. To do so, just drag a Finder window to the area beyond the Dock divider.
Right-click (or Control+Click) the folder to customize how folders are displayed. You can change the arrangement, choose the grid (expanded preview) or list view, and decide how items should be sorted. These folders can be destinations, as well—just drag and drop a file on the folder to which you want to move it.
Organize Windows by Keeping Apps on Specific Desktops
If your desktop is a sea of ever-changing windows, you’ll never be able to find anything. If you’re not making use of the macOS “Spaces” feature that allows you to place apps and windows across multiple desktops, you’re missing out!
You can see your available desktops via Mission Control. To launch it, press F3 or swipe upward with three fingers on the trackpad. At the top, you should see a numbered list of desktops. Click the plus sign (+) to add more or hover over a desktop, and then click the “X” to close it.
You can also use Mission Control to dump apps on specific desktops by dragging them into place. For example, you might want your primary browser to be on your first desktop, and apps like Slack or Evernote to be on your second or third.
To switch between desktops, either use a three-finger horizontal swipe or press Control+Right or Left Arrow.
To prevent an app from moving to another desktop and cluttering your workspace, right-click (or click and hold) its icon in the dock, and then click Options > Assign to > This Desktop. Now, whenever you click that app’s icon in the dock, you’ll be taken straight to that desktop and app.
After a while, you’ll instinctively know where apps are based and on which desktop they’re located. You can skip to a specific desktop by holding Control and pressing its number. For example, to go to Desktop 3, you would just press Control+3. You can also use these keyboard shortcuts when dragging windows, tabs, or files.
The ultimate goal is to avoid juggling multiple windows on a single desktop. You can have up to 16 different desktops on your Mac, and they even work with multiple monitors, so use them!
Group Windows as Tabs
Many macOS apps now allow you to group separate windows as tabs, so you can keep everything within the same interface. To see if an app supports this feature, click View > Show Tab Bar. A plus sign (+) will appear if this feature is available; click it to open a new tab of the app. You can also use the traditional Command+T shortcut to do this.
If you already have a bunch of windows open on your desktop, you can merge them into a single tabbed interface by clicking Window > Merge All Windows. If you want to turn a tab into a window again, simply click and drag the tab bar outside the window.
This works well in Safari and other browsers, but it also applies to Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), Apple Maps, TextEdit, and Mail. You can also change the default behavior so apps like this open new windows as tabs every time. To do this, head to System Preferences > Dock, and select “Always” instead of “Prefer Tabs When Opening Documents.”
Authorize Your Mac with Your Apple Watch
If you have an Apple Watch, you can use it to unlock your Mac automatically. You’ll need an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 and a compatible Mac for this to work (most models produced after 2013 should be fine).
To set it up, head to System Preferences > Security and Privacy and enable the “Use Your Apple Watch to Unlock Apps and Your Mac” option.
Now, whenever your Mac senses that you’re nearby, it will unlock automatically without you having to type your password. You can also use your Apple Watch to approve Admin-level requests on your Mac, like editing locked preferences or executing
sudo commands in Terminal.
Force Safari Reader View on Specific Websites
The web is distracting. You might go looking for instructions on how to make a tally graph in Microsoft Excel, but end up reading a super-interesting article about hosting your own VPN instead. Some websites are just packed with great content, you know?
Safari’s Reader View can help you focus solely on the content you went looking for by eliminating distractions. You can force Safari to enter Reader View on specific websites. When you do so, only the articles are affected—you can still browse the main site normally.
To do this, head to a website you read frequently read, click an article, and then look for the Reader icon in the address bar. Click it to see a preview of Reader mode. If you click and hold it, you’ll see an option to “Use Reader Automatically” whenever you visit the website you’re currently viewing.
With this enabled, every time you read an article on that domain—whether you get there via the main index or through a web search—it will default to Reader view. You can also click “Safari” in the menu bar and go to Preferences > Websites > Reader to set the Reader mode preferences.
Work Smarter, Wherever You Are
Taking a moment to tweak your workflow can make a huge difference in your productivity.
However, these tips merely scratch the surface—there’s a lot more you can do to make working from home on your Mac an easier, more pleasant experience.