Got a new Mac M1 for the holiday season? If this is the first Mac you have ever owned, congratulations! Your new Mac is easier to use and more powerful than ever before. As simple as the Mac is, some things may not be immediately obvious, and you owe it to yourself to make sure you get the most out of your new investment.
Here are 10 things you can do right away that will help you get started on your path to becoming a power Mac user. Most of them will cost you absolutely nothing except a little time for setup.
1. Configure your Apple ID
Chances are, if you’re buying a Mac for the first time, you’re already using an iPhone or iPad. Just like these other devices, your Mac wants your Apple ID and Apple ID password. You sign in iCloud on your Mac when you first set it up, or through the Apple ID system preference afterwards.
By connecting iCloud on all your devices, you can share photos, contacts, calendars, and more, without ever having to physically attach or sync your devices. And if you haven’t created an Apple ID, now’s your chance. See your Apple ID as the key to the kingdom.
2. Save early and often
Time Machine is foolproof backup software designed by Apple that is built right into the Mac. You are crazy not to use it. Time Machine makes it easier to recover from big issues because it keeps a snapshot of your Mac and makes it easy to migrate to a new Mac when the time comes to replace or upgrade your system.
If you’re worried about âbreakingâ your Mac or deleting important files, Time Machine should make you much more comfortable. âTimeâ in Time Machine is a timeline that you can review, restore files, or edit files that were brought to the points where Time Machine saved its backups.
Time Machine works with external hard drives. To get it working, flip the switch in System Preferences, tell it where to start the backup, and let it do its job. Time Machine backs up your Mac hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly so you can always recover. As long as this drive is connected or Time Capsule is on the network, your Mac will be backed up.
If you’ve ever wondered why the Mac doesn’t come with a detailed user manual explaining how it works and how all apps work, wonder no more: this manual is actually integrated directly into the computer. The Help menu is so obvious that most of us ignore it completely. But we do it at our own risk as it can be of great help. The Help menu is right there in the menu bar, and it’s contextual: its content will change depending on the open application.
Clicking on the Help menu will bring up a search box, table of contents, shortcut lists and other helpful tips and step-by-step instructions, often with visual cues to show you which menus to click and which items to click on. menu select. Whenever you get stuck in an app and don’t know what to do next, hit the Help menu to break your deadlock.
The menu is located in the upper left corner of your Mac screen. Clicking on it instantly takes you to your Mac’s system preferences, the Mac App Store, and recently opened apps and documents. You can also use the ï£¿ menu to restart your Mac and shut it down.
If an application behaves badly and stops working, the ï£¿ menu also has a special feature worth knowing: Force Quit. Force quitting will immediately close a stubborn application, so you can restart your computer and resume your activities.
5. Visit the Mac App Store
Apple set up the Mac App Store as a convenient and secure way to download software for your Mac, all using the same Apple ID and password you use for the Music and iPhone apps. There are thousands of apps available, many of which won’t cost you a dime.
The Mac App Store is more than just a way to download awesome new apps for your Mac. This is also how Apple distributes essential application updates. To keep your Mac running smoothly and everything as secure as possible, download updates when you see notifications from the Mac App Store, or set apps to update automatically like on your iPhone.
On M1 Macs, you can even install iPhone and iPad apps. When doing a search, just click on the iPhone & iPad Apps tab to download iOS apps right to your desktop.
6. Configure your messaging system
Do you still access your email using a web browser, go to the Gmail or Microsoft website to see what new messages you have? There’s a better way: Apple gives you a Mail app that can connect to almost any email service. Using the Mail app is much more convenient, especially if you check multiple email accounts, and it is well integrated with other major macOS apps, such as Contacts, Calendars, and Cards.
7. Find your printer
We hate to admit it, but printers are still something most of us have in our homes. It used to be that you had to download and install drivers and software, but the Mac makes setup a lot easier.
All you need to do is connect your printer to one of the USB-C ports on your Mac or connect to a Wi-Fi network. Open System Preferences, click Printers and scanners then click on the + button. If your Mac recognizes the device (and it should), it will configure it to your needs and download all applicable drivers from Apple’s servers.
8. Get to know Spotlight
Integrated directly into macOS, Spotlight helps you quickly find items on your computer: documents, apps, pictures, contacts, maps, and files. Moreover, it can connect to the internet to search places like Wikipedia, news sites, movie listings and more. You can even use Spotlight to do calculations, like converting feet to meters, or whatever kind of simple arithmetic you’d rather give the computer.
Spotlight lives in your Mac’s menu bar; it is the icon that looks like a magnifying glass. Clicking on it will bring up the Spotlight search box, and typing anything in the search box will cause Spotlight to start working. Or you can hold down the command key on your keyboard and press the space bar, and Spotlight will appear.
Once you get the hang of it, using Spotlight is the fastest way to launch apps, find documents, and do tons of other stuff super fast.
9. Customize the Dock
The Dock is that bar of icons at the bottom of the Mac screen. Docking stations on newer Macs will be filled with Apple’s own built-in apps like Safari, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Notes, but you can customize them however you like.
You can customize your Dock to show only the apps that interest you. Not using Maps or FaceTime? Drag them out of the Dock until the word Remove appears to clean it up a bit. Use Mail more than anything else? Instead, move it to the left. You can also add frequently needed apps, folders, and files by simply dragging and dropping them into the Dock.
You can also change the size, remove “Open” flags, turn off bounce animation, and more. Your Dock is the most important part of your desktop, so take the time to get it exactly the way you want it.
Open System Preferences and click the Dock icon to change other settings. You can resize the icons that appear in the Dock, change the magnification of the icons as you hover your cursor over them, and reposition the Dock to the left, bottom, or right edges of your screen as you like.
10. Learn the keyboard shortcuts
Apple’s user interface is configured with simple menus like File and Edit, and most apps also expose their main functionality through these menus. Need to print something? Just click on the File menu and select Print.
But you can save yourself so time consuming using keyboard shortcuts to perform commonly used tasks instead. Instead of clicking on the File menu and selecting Print, for example, you can just hold down the Command key and press P.
Each application on the Mac has its own shortcuts. Opening Mac Help and looking for “keyboard shortcuts” will also give some references.
There are many common keyboard shortcuts. For some of the most powerful keyboard shortcuts on your Mac, check out this great introductory guide along with our guide to more advanced macOS tips.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to the latest Mac operating system.