Software

16 OS X tweaks for business power users

Get the most out of your Mac with these OS X tips, which include time-saving features and performance-enhancing settings.

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Image: Apple

For decades, Macs have been designed with the end user in mind. From hardware to software, Apple goes to great lengths to simplify the complicated, allowing users to focus on getting work done instead of having to resolve a number of issues before getting to the crux of the task.

Apple adds a heaping helping of its simplicity sauce to each device they manufacture—no technology is more widely used and allows for broad customization as macOS does. This collection of tips should help give Mac business users an edge in getting the most out of their workdays.

DOWNLOAD: Executive's guide to Apple in the enterprise (free ebook) (TechRepublic)

1: Quick access to network drives

Connect to a network drive as you normally would (and check the box so that it saves your credentials to Keychain and won't prompt you each time you log on), and then launch System Preferences | Users & Groups. Click your account name | Login Items, and then drag your mounted server share to the list and log off (Figure A). Once you log in again, the network drive will automatically connect to the server and mount the share.

Figure A

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2: Divide the dock to better manage apps

If you store shortcuts to apps on the dock, you can insert blank placeholders that act as dividers to divide apps by category, use, or any organizational scheme that works best for the way you work (Figure B). To add a placeholder, enter the command below into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-apps -array-add '{title-data={}; title-type="spacer-tile";}':killall Dock

Figure B

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3: Adjust Finder settings to list folders above files

Similar to how Windows displays folders in order before files, macOS Sierra now has this feature available though it is turned off by default. To enable it, go to Finder | Preferences, and then check the box titled Keep Folders On Top When Sorting By Name.

4: Configure hot corners to enable the screen saver instantly

By default, OS X sets the screen saver timeout to 20 mins. While the timeout can be increased or decreased, if you wish to enable it instantly, go to System Preferences | Mission Control, and then click the Hot Corners button. Select a hot corner by clicking the drop-down menu that corresponds to the corner you wish to activate and select Start Screen Saver, and then click the OK button to save the setting (Figure C).

Figure C

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5: Enable auto-lock when the screen saver is enabled

Since OS X lacks a screen lock function similar to the Windows Lock function, by combining the enable screen saver setting above with an auto-lock setting, your Mac will require a password to unlock it whenever the screen saver is enabled by going to System Preferences | Security & Privacy. Click the General tab, and select the check box next to Require Password Immediately After Sleep Or Screen Saver Begins (Figure D).

Now when the hot corner for the screen saver is triggered, the Mac will instantly display the screen saver, simultaneously locking the device. When the device is awoken, it will prompt for the user's password before the Mac will unlock.

Figure D

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6: Customize the Touch Bar to lock the screen

The new Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pros let users completely modify the control strip so it's customized per app or system-wide. One of the most useful features is to add a Screen Lock button that allows you to lock your Mac instantly just by tapping the button.

To customize this feature, go to System Preferences | Keyboard, and then click the Customize Control Strip button. An overlay screen will appear where you can drag the Screen Lock button to the placeholder on the Touch Bar where it will reside.

SEE: MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar: Video review (TechRepublic)

7: Auto-unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch

For users with a newer Mac (2013 or newer) and an Apple Watch, both devices may be paired to allow the computer to be unlocked by the Apple Watch. Before enabling the setting, a few requirements need to be in place.

The Mac must be running macOS Sierra, and the Apple Watch must be running watchOS 3. Both devices must have passcodes/passwords enabled, as well as, using the same iCloud account. Also, 2-step authentication (not to be confused with 2-step verification) must be configured on the iCloud account.

Once these requirements are met, go to System Preferences | Security & Privacy, and then under the General tab, check the box titled Allow Your Apple Watch To Unlock Your Mac.

SEE: Apple Watch: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

8: Easily reveal the Library folder

By default, OS X hides the Library folder, as it is a system folder that stores important application data that should not be tampered with. However, there are times when access is required in order to enable functionality, modify settings, or backup important files or folders.

A simple method to reveal this folder is to click the Go menu item from the Finder while holding down the Option key (Figure E).

Figure E

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9: Enable keyboard access for all controls

When filling out forms, tapping the Tab key allows you to cycle through text boxes and lists only by default. While this is helpful, drop-down boxes, radio buttons, and other forms of input are skipped entirely.

To change this behavior and allow for tabbing through all forms of input, go to System Preferences | Keyboard, and then click the Shortcuts tab. Select the radio button for All Controls under the Full Keyboard Access to enable this function (Figure F).

Figure F

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10: Sign documents with the trackpad

With all the advancements in technology there are still a few business tasks that carry over from a non-techy way of conducting business; the most prevalent example is signing documents. While electronic signatures have been adopted and its use is growing steadily, oftentimes a "real" signature is necessary to execute a binding agreement.

There are a number of third-party software applications that more than fill this need, but, if you have a copy of the document, open it in Preview and click Tools | Annotate | Signature | Manage Signatures.

From here, click the Trackpad tab and click the button titled Click Here To Begin. You will be prompted to sign your name using your finger to trace it out on the trackpad (Figure G). When you're finished, press any key on the keyboard, and if the signature looks good, click the Done button to save it for future use.

Now you can click on your signature and drag it along the document to place it where it belongs, and then save your document to commit the changes.

Figure G

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11: Send/receive phone calls, iMessage, and SMS text messages using Continuity

When an iPhone and Mac are paired using the same Apple ID account, the FaceTime and the Messages apps may be used to send and receive phone calls, as well as, iMessage and SMS messages on your Mac.

To configure phone calls, launch FaceTime and go to Preferences to manage the app settings. Ensure that the Apple ID is logged on for the service, that a check is placed in the box next to Enable This Account, and that the telephone number tied to your iPhone is listed in the section titled You Can Be Reached For FaceTime At, and there is a check in the box next to it. Lastly, in order for this feature to work properly, there needs to be a check next to the box Calls From iPhone (Figure H).

Figure H

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Configuring the Messages app is similar to FaceTime above, except that you must launch Messages and go to Preferences. Again, ensure that the Apple ID account is signed in and that there is a check mark in the box next to Enable This Account. There must also be checks inside the boxes next to your telephone number and/or email address(es) under the You Can Be Reached For Messages At section (Figure I). With this configuration iMessage and SMS messages can now be sent and received from your Mac over Wi-Fi and cellular connections.

Figure I

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12: Copy file pathnames in Finder

We are all familiar with copy and paste as forms of transferring files from one location to another, but did you know you can copy the pathname for a file instead of the entire file itself?

This can be done, and (though some users will never utilize this function) anyone that works in IT, software/web development, or interfaces with Terminal a lot will appreciate the capability to easily copy a file's full pathname then pasting it into a text field, as needed.

To perform this feat, right-click (Control-Click) a file and hold down the Option key to make the Copy Filename As Pathname entry visible (Figure J). While holding down the Option key, left-click this entry, and the full pathname will be copied to the clipboard for later use.

Figure J

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13: Sync Desktop and Documents folders across multiple devices

Another macOS Sierra feature is the ability to leverage iCloud storage to store data from your Desktop and Documents folder, respectively. This allows the data to be synchronized across all Apple devices that share the same Apple ID and are running an iCloud Drive-enabled version of OS X or iOS.

To enable this function, go to System Preferences | iCloud. Ensure there is a check in the box next to iCloud Drive and click the Options button. Under the Documents tab, place a check in the box next to Desktop & Documents Folder, and iCloud Drive will begin uploading the data in those folders to iCloud, making it accessible across OS X, iOS, and the iCloud website.

14: Shorten lengthy text into a summary automatically

If you've typed a rather long email or how-to document and wish to shorten it without going through the proofing and editing process, your Mac has a little known Summarize service that can make short work of even the largest bodies of text.

Before utilizing this service, Summarize must be enabled (by default, it is not enabled). To do so, launch System Preferences | Keyboard | Shortcuts tab. Click Services from the navigation bar and scroll down to the Text section on the bar on the right. To enable the service, check the box next to Summarize (Figure K).

Figure K

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Once enabled, open an app that supports text, such as TextEdit and highlight all the text you wish to include in consideration for the summary. Click the app name | Services | Summarize. A summary window will open with the highlighted text (Figure L). By adjusting the slider titled Summary Size, the sentences will be condensed as the information is summarized by sliding down the scale. Once complete, the summarized text can be copied to the clipboard for future use.

Figure L

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15: Manage multiple virtual desktops for different productivity setups

Using Apple's Mission Control, users can create multiple desktops and assign apps to each desktop, and then execute the Mission Control app to toggle between each desktop for an easier, simpler to manage virtual desktop experience (Figure M).

Figure M

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16: Use the Terminal to use the Force

Life, whether in a professional setting or not, cannot be all work and no play. After all, we do get a break every once in a while, don't we?

To use the Terminal to view the opening sequence of Star Wars: Episode IV, launch Terminal and enter the following command (Figure N), and then just sit back and take a well-deserved break. You work too hard, and you've earned it!

Figure N

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Also see

About Jesus Vigo

Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...

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