The Mac operating system we use today was introduced 21 years ago. You know for sure that whatever Mac or MacBook you use, macOS is a very complete operating system that offers a lot of different features to help you make things easier.
However, many of those features may be somewhat hidden in plain sight.
Here are ten macOS tips and features you might not know about or have forgotten that can help you get more out of your Mac. Some are old, some just arrived last year, but all are incredibly useful.
1. Rearrange menu bar icons
The menu bar is a great way to quickly access settings and other features you use frequently. To get the most out of it, you can rearrange the order of the icons according to your preferences. To move an icon, hold down the ‘Command’ button, then click and drag the icon to where you want it.
Some menu bar items cannot be moved, such as the date and time, Siri, and Control Center. All the icons to the left of those immovable icons can be rearranged.
2. Customize (and localize) your cursor
If you’ve been using the Mac for as long as I have, that black and white cursor is a familiar sight. In fact, you can give it a bit of personality with some customizations in the Accessibility settings.
In the ‘Accessibility Screen’ section, there are Pointer settings, which modify the Mac’s cursor. You can make the cursor larger, and you can change its outline and fill colors. Have a little fun and make your Mac a little more personal.
And here’s a bonus tip: Within the Pointer tab you’ll find a checkbox for “Shake mouse pointer to locate.” Turn it on and you can quickly move your mouse back and forth to briefly enlarge the cursor. This is great if you often find yourself unable to locate your cursor.
3. Tile your windows
One of the main reasons users prefer to work on a Mac over an iPad or iPhone is because macOS is built for multitasking and working on multiple apps at once. For example, I’m writing this in Apple Pages while jumping into Pixelmator Pro to view and edit screenshots.
I have a single screen on my Mac and use the Tile Window feature so I can see both apps clearly. Tiled window is available in every app on your Mac, and to turn it on in the app you’re using, go to Window in the menu bar and choose Tiled Window on Left (or Right) of Screen.
The app you’re in will move to one side, and the other side will display the other available app windows. Click on one of those apps and its window will fill that side of the screen.
(If a running app has nothing open, it won’t show up as a selection. The app must have a file or window open.) To exit this view, press the Escape key on your keyboard.
4. Change subtitle style
My hearing is not what it used to be, and I also watch more international programs than ever. So I’ve been watching TV with the subtitles on and I’ve been able to enjoy the show without worrying about misunderstanding what’s being said. But the Apple TV app’s default subtitle style is too annoying for my liking.
The way to change the subtitle style is not in the TV app preferences, but in System Preferences > Accessibility. In the scroll window on the left, scroll to the Hearing section and click Subtitles. Apple offers four subtitle styles, and you can select one of them. Or you can click the “+” and create your own style.
Please note that the subtitle style set here only affects Apple apps such as TV. If you watch a YouTube video, for example, you will be subject to the style that YouTube implements.
5. Create and customize Memojis
Memojis are thought of as an iPhone/iPad thing, and while they’re a bit more functional (and fun) on those devices, you can still create or make them on macOS. Here we explain how to do it.
- Open System Preferences (located in the Apple menu).
- Your account should be at the top of the System Preferences window. If you hover over your profile picture, it should show “edit”. Click on it.
- In the window that appears, there is a list of different profile picture options on the left. Make sure Memoji is selected.
- Your available Memoji appears on the right. If you already have a Memoji and want to make changes to it, select it and click the Edit button. To create a new Memoji, click the “+” button.
- You will be presented with a set of features that you can modify, from skin to clothing. Review each of them and make your selections.
- Click the “Done” button when you’re done.
After creating a Memoji, you can also set a Pose or a Style (which is basically a background color). If you want to set your Mac’s Memoji and user profile picture, select it so it appears in the bottom left corner. Click Save.
If you use iCloud and your devices are on the same account, your Memoji will be moved to your other devices.
6. Copy text on a photo
In macOS Monterey, Apple introduced Live Text, the ability to select and copy any text on an image. For example, if you took a photo of a sign, you can open that photo in the Preview app, move the pointer over the words on a sign, and the pointer changes to the text selection tool. You can then select the text, copy and paste it into a text document. You can learn more about how Live Text works in our overview article.
7. Turn on iCloud Private Relay
Apple created iCloud Private Relay to help preserve your privacy when you browse the web. When you use Safari, the data that is sent is encrypted and then travels through two interception relays – points on the Internet where the data travels – to help hide your location, IP address, and browsing activity from being created. a profile about you.
The second relay is done by a third-party service to prevent Apple from knowing user information. It’s not exactly a VPN, but it’s a great privacy tool.
To turn on iCloud Private Relay, go to System Preferences and click your Apple ID. In the control list on the right, find Private Broadcast (Beta), check the box, and click the Options button.
There is also an IP Address Location setting that you can modify. For more information about what iCloud Private Relay can do, see our FAQ.
Private Internet Relay is still a beta feature, which means it’s usable, but it still has some obvious bugs to work out and Apple could at any time make a major change to how it works. Requires an iCloud+ subscription, which costs as little as $1 a month for 50GB.
8. Add extensions to your context menu
The macOS context menu, which can be accessed by right-clicking, pressing the Control key, or tapping with two fingers on the trackpad, is great because it can let you do some tasks right away, saving you a few steps. But it’s not just about system features: when you install an app, it usually adds features to the context menu.
You might see some app-related actions at the bottom of the pop-up menu, or when you right-click a file and select
Quick Actions brings up a list of tasks related to the app. When an app adds this kind of functionality, it’s adding an extension to macOS. But sometimes there are items in the menu that you never use, or you may not be aware that there are features available that you could use.
To manage the context menu, go to System Preferences and open Extensions. To specifically manage the quick actions section of the context menu, go to the Finder section. There are other sections in the left column where you can add or remove tasks. For example, in the Share section, you can add apps to the Share menu.
9. Customize the Touch Bar
If you’re using a MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, you can customize the Touch Bar’s features. Here’s how to do it.
- Go to ‘System Preferences > Extensions’.
- In the left column select ‘Touch Bar’.
- Click the ‘Customize Control Bar’ button.
- A new screen will appear with a selection of buttons at the bottom of the screen. This is the set of Touch Bar buttons that appear when the Control Strip is collapsed.
- To add a button, click and drag the button to the bottom of the screen. The Touch Bar will display the new button.
- To remove a button, move the cursor to the bottom of the screen until a button is highlighted, then move left or right to select the button you want to remove. Click and then drag up the screen and the button should appear labeled “Remove from Touch Bar.” Release the button to remove it.
To customize the control bar when it’s expanded on the Touch Bar, follow the steps above. In step 4, expand the Touch Bar, and the set of buttons will fit on screen. Below is a quick video on what these steps are like.
10. Erase all content and settings
We all run into issues on our Mac that could use a factory reset. If you’re using an Apple Silicone Mac or an Intel Mac with a T2 security chip running macOS Monterey, there’s a quick way to erase your Mac’s settings, data, and applications while keeping the operating system currently installed. This doesn’t erase the Mac completely, just your personal stuff.
Open System Preferences (Apple menu > System Preferences), and with the System Preferences window in front, go to the menu bar and click the System Preferences menu.
In About System Preferences there is a new item called Erase All Content and Settings. It works just like it does on iPhone and iPad: select it when you want to erase your personal information without having to erase and reinstall the entire operating system.
You will have to enter an administrator password and you will have to follow the steps of the deletion wizard. Your Mac will restart and take you through the setup process. If you don’t want to set up your Mac, press and hold the power button to turn it off.