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10 tips and tricks everyone with a Mac needs to know right now


It does not matter how long you have used a Mac, there are still many ways to get the most out of MacOS.

Dan Ackerman / CNET

Apples Mac The lineup is so packed with features, it’s easy to forget some of the more useful or handy shortcuts and tools. It’s true if you’ve used a Mac for many years, as I have done, or if you’re getting started for the first time.

For example, did you know that you can use Preview to sign a document in a few seconds? Or what about the ability to drag settings out of the control center to the menu bar? Yes, I rather.

The latest update, MacOS 11 Big Sur, made some significant changes to the way your Mac looks and works. But the bottom line is that the Mac is still a Mac, only with a more iOS-like interface and borrowed features like the control center.

Below I show you how to get the most out of your Mac with 10 tips and tricks.


Keep your Mac up to date for security updates and new features. It costs you nothing.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Free updates this year and year and year

It’s all too easy to take routine software updates for granted – they’s something we’re just expecting from device manufacturers right now. But Apple still has to release updates for devices that are incredibly old. Here, look at the list of Macs running MacOS Big Sur, the latest operating system.

I have an iMac from 2011 that was finally left behind almost 10 years after I bought it.

Not only do software updates add new features, but they continue to optimize your computer and also include important security updates.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you keep your Mac up to date when a new update is released. It’s okay to wait a day or two to make sure no major bugs slip through testing undetected, but after that click on the Apple logo at the top left of the menu bar, select System selection followed by Software updates.

Take control of the Control Center, rearrange the menu bar

Without a doubt, one of the biggest changes to the interface Apple has made in MacOS ‘Big Sur is the addition of the Control Center to the menu bar. For those who do not own an iPhone or iPad, the Control Center is where you will find all, well, controls for settings such as Do Not Disturb, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and brightness on the device in question.

Using the control center is simple enough, you click on the icon, select the setting you want to change and that’s it.

But here’s a tip: If you find that you lack quick access to any of the settings now included in Control Center, simply drag the icon out of Control Center and place it on the menu bar.

For example, I often mess with Bluetooth devices and have to manage what my Mac is connected to. With this trick I can move the Bluetooth icon back to the menu bar (where it always should be, ha!) And access it with fewer clicks. The same applies to everything else in the Control Center.

When I learned about this trick, my mind was blown. Seriously.

signature preview

Move and resize the signature as you add it to the document.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Learn how to customize the touch bar on your MacBook Pro

Sign a document without special app required

One of mine favorite hidden features of MacOS is that you can use Preview to sign documents. I use it all the time to sign documents for work or my children.

The essence of this is this: Open the document you need to log in to Preview, then click on the pencil icon at the top, followed by the signature logo. You can then use iPhone to create and save your signature, which is then added to the document.

I have one more complete review you can check out if you need a free tool to sign everything from a loan on a new car to an excursion clearance.


Select iPad from the on-screen menu and boom, you have a different screen.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Do you have an iPad? You now have another screen

I do not use Apple’s Sidecar feature almost enough, but I have to change it. Sidecar lets you use the iPad as an external monitor for your Mac. It is a completely wireless connection, and only takes a second to turn on.

Your iPad must have iPadOS 13 or later, and your Mac needs MacOS Catalina or later.

With your iPad near your Mac, you can turn on Sidecar in a few different ways. The easiest way is to go to Control center > Show and select iPad on Mac. Otherwise, you can open system settings and open Side trolley settings panel.

Your iPad can either mirror the Mac screen, or act as an extended desktop, giving you a new screen and more space to place windows and apps. You can even continue using the iPad and other apps, and then return to the Sidebar view without disconnecting. If you are going to use it for a long time, I suggest you connect your iPad to your Mac with a cable.


You can easily share information between iPad and Mac.

Scott Stein / CNET

Apple’s continuity feature is quietly my favorite

Continuity is a feature you already use and are not even aware of. The undescribed name is what Apple uses to connect all Apple gadgets, so you can download a task on your Mac where you left off your iPhone. Or something as seemingly simple as calling on your Mac – there’s continuity in action.

But perhaps my favorite and most used aspect of continuity is Handoff. If you’ve ever seen an app icon appear and then disappear to the far right of the app dock on your Mac – it’s handoff. Clicking on this app icon will open the app you are using on your iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad on your Mac.

For example, if you are writing an email on iPhone but want to finish it on your Mac, click the Mail app icon and the writing window will open, with your draft ready for you.

I would often copy a text string on one device, but would need to paste it into a text box on another device. Continuity includes a universal clipboard feature, so as long as both devices are close together, you can copy on your Mac and paste on your iPhone without doing anything special at all. Try it. It’s really amazing.

Share MacOS document

It is true. You can share your Apple-created documents just like Google Docs.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Apple’s version of Google Docs is built-in

Each Mac comes with Pages, Numbers and Keynote installed out of the box. These three apps are the Google equivalent of Docs, Sheets and Slides, or Microsoft’s equivalent Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

One of the biggest draws of Google Docs is the ability to share and collaborate in real time with other users using your favorite browser. It is without a doubt a practical tool, and one I use every single day.

However, Apple’s app suite has its own built-in collaboration tool, and the people you work with do not even have to own a Mac. You can send an invitation to any document by clicking Cooperate and send the invitation. From there, you can also enter permissions, and require a password to access the link.

Then you can work together on a document in real time, just as you would with Google Docs. The person you are working with can open the link, add their name so that the changes are credited to them and start working on the document directly in Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

Scan documents, import photos directly from iPhone

Speaking of Apple’s creativity package, here’s an often forgotten feature built into MacOS that makes scanning a document or importing an image into a document a breeze.

To check if an app supports this feature, right-click in any text box and look for a section with an iPhone nearby. During that part, the option (s) will be supported by the app. For example, when I right-click in a Pages document, I see three options for my iPhone 12 Pro: take photos, scan documents, or add a sketch.

Choose the option that works best for you, and then unlock your iPhone or iPad. It automatically opens the correct screen based on your selection, and when you are done, the document is added.


Sharing a folder from your Mac takes a few clicks.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Easily share iCloud folders

Apple made it possible to share iCloud Drive folders with the launch of iOS 13 a couple of years ago. It works just like sharing a folder on Dropbox or OneDrive, only instead of using a third-party service, you use something built right into your Mac.

I covered how to share a folder and all its reservations when the feature debuted. Be sure to check it out, especially if you are tired of paying for multiple cloud storage services.

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Get creative with GarageBand and iMovie

Each Mac includes GarageBand and iMovie, respectively, Apple’s core audio and video editing tools. It’s easy to see both apps as something for professionals or creative people, and while there’s something true about it, both apps are easy to use and get started with.

I have personally used GarageBand to record podcasts and interviews, both of which have nothing to do with musical instruments. When it comes to iMovie, I have made countless trailers using the built-in scenes and tools with my kids. I used each of these sessions as a way to teach myself how to use iMovie and edit video, when I made CNET How To videos.

I admit that it is easy to be intimidated by both apps. But if you want to pick up a new hobby, you can open one of them and start experimenting.


iPhone and iPad apps are not included in the default search results.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Run iPhone and iPad apps on your Mac

Apple’s latest Mac computers all use the company’s own processor, the M1. Because it’s the same processor that powers your iPhone or iPad, and thanks to the changes Apple has made to MacOS Big Sur, you can install and use the same apps you do on your phone or tablet directly on your Mac.

There are a few different ways to get iPhone and iPad apps on your M1 Mac, however I covered all the details here.

There is much more Mac can do in addition to this list. Like the rest of new features on Big Sur. It is more hidden features you should knowalso. If you just have a Mac, make sure you configure it correctly.

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