When you click the green zoom button in a window on your Mac, that puts the window into full-screen mode. It’s a great way to maximize screen real estate on a smaller MacBook screen, for instance, but how can you switch between these virtual screens quickly? You could swipe up on the trackpad with four fingers and then click the icon representing the desired screen in Mission Control, but that’s pokey. Instead, swipe left or right with four fingers to hop between screens. Don’t have (or like using) a trackpad? You can keep your fingers on the keyboard by pressing Control-Left arrow or Control-Right arrow.
You’re probably used to Mac apps using red underlines to mark misspelled words, but did you know that macOS has long included a fully featured Dictionary app as well? It provides quick access to definitions and synonyms in the New Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, along with definitions of Apple-specific words like AppleCare and MacTCP. But that’s far from all it can do.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Launch the Dictionary app from your Applications folder and then type a word or phrase into the Search field. As you type, Dictionary starts looking up words that match what you’ve typed so far—you don’t even have to press Return. If more than one word matches what you’ve typed, click the desired word in the sidebar.
Notice the lozenges below the toolbar, representing the references that Dictionary can consult, and no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you—Dictionary can look things up in Wikipedia if your Mac has an Internet connection. In short, Dictionary gives you instant access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia containing over 5.4 million articles in English alone! You can click a reference’s lozenge to limit your search, or select All to scan all of them.
If you want to look up words in another language, or even just British English, Dictionary has you covered, with a long list of other reference works. Choose Dictionary > Preferences and select those you’d like to use. You can drag the selected entries into the order you want their lozenges to appear below the toolbar.
Once you’re in a definition, note that you can copy text for use in other apps—always helpful when wading into grammar and usage arguments on the Internet. More generally, you can click any word in Dictionary’s main pane to look it up instantly. If dictionaries had been this much fun in school, we’d have larger vocabularies! Use the Back and Forward arrow buttons to navigate among your recently looked-up words.
As helpful as the Dictionary app is, you probably don’t want to leave it running all the time. Happily, Apple has provided quite a few shortcut methods for looking up words:
Press Command-Space to invoke Spotlight, and enter your search term.
Select a word, and then choose AppName > Services > Look Up in Dictionary to launch Dictionary and search for that word. This trick should work in most apps, but won’t work in all. If the Look Up in Dictionary command doesn’t appear, make sure it’s enabled in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services, in the Searching category.
Last but best, hover over a word or phrase with the mouse pointer and either press Command-Control-D or Control-click the word and choose Look Up “word.” If the app supports it, macOS displays a popover with the definition or Wikipedia article. If you have a trackpad, you can also do a force-click or three-finger tap on the selected word—make sure the “Look up & data detectors” checkbox is selected in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click.
Now that you know how to take full advantage of the reference works that Apple has built into macOS, it’s time to get in touch with your inner logophile (feel free to look that one up).
If you’re thinking, “Why yes, I do know that in iOS a double-tap on the Space bar after typing a word inserts a period and then a space,” award yourself a virtual gold star. If you weren’t aware of that super useful trick, well, you are now. Getting to the Period key on a small-screen iPhone or iPod touch keyboard requires switching to the number keyboard and back again, so this shortcut can provide proper punctuation promptly.
There’s nothing sexy about the Save dialog in Mac apps. It’s not pretty, you can’t tweet from it, and Apple hasn’t changed anything about it in years. But every time you create a new document in a Mac app, you have to save it. Once in the Save dialog, you name your document, pick a location, and click Save. (Many apps also add their own options, such as picking a file format.)
Using the Save dialog isn’t hard, but there are a bunch of ways to simplify the act of naming and positioning your document. Here are our favorites:
Expand the Save dialog. By default, it appears in an abbreviated form that shows only fields for the file name and entering Finder tags, plus a destination pop-up menu that includes favorites from your Finder’s sidebar and recently used folders. What if the folder in which you want to store the document isn’t in the menu? Click the expansion triangle to the right of the Save As field to get the full-fledged Save dialog.
Change the view. Once you’re working in the expanded Save dialog, note that you can switch between Icon, List, and Column view using the view buttons at the top. Icon view isn’t terribly useful, but it’s much easier to see what’s in the destination folder in List view, and much easier to navigate around your drive in Column view. You can even press Command-1 (icon), Command-2 (list), and Command-3 (column) to switch to specific views.
Search for a folder. Not sure where the folder you want is located? Ask macOS to find it using the Search field, which limits itself to finding folders.
Resize the dialog. If the Save dialog feels cramped, particularly in Column view, move your pointer over an edge or bottom corner until it turns into a double-headed arrow. Then click and drag to change the size of the dialog.
Use the sidebar. The folders you’ve put in the Finder window sidebar appear in the sidebar here too, and a single click on any one teleports you to it instantly.
Take advantage of keyboard shortcuts. Many people like to save new documents to the Desktop and file them later. If that’s you, try pressing Command-D in the Save dialog to jump instantly to the Desktop. In fact, nearly all the keyboard shortcuts listed in the Finder’s Go menu work in the Save dialog too.
Make new folders. In its expanded form, the Save dialog gains a New Folder button you can click to make a new folder in the currently shown location. Or just press Command-Shift-N. Once you make the new folder, you can save your file into it.
Pre-fill the file name. For some new files, you want the same name as a previous file, but with a version number or month appended. To pre-fill an existing file name in the Save As field, simply click the file in the listing. Then click in the Save As field to edit as necessary.
Pre-fill the file name and destination. For our final trick, bring up the Save dialog, switch to the Finder, and drag a file from the Finder into anywhere in the Save dialog apart from the sidebar. Presto—the Save dialog pre-fills the file’s name and jumps to its location; you can now edit the file name in the Save As field as desired. If you drag just a folder, only the location changes. (The item that you dragged doesn’t move anywhere.)
So the next time you save a new document, think about all you can do in the Save dialog to spend less time fussing with file names and destinations.
Every Mac user knows that you drag files or folders you want to delete to the Trash icon in the Dock. And you probably even know that you can select multiple items by Shift-clicking (for a sequential range of items in a list view) or Command-clicking (for an arbitrary set of items) and then drag them to the Trash. But you’ll save yourself mousing time if you learn the quick shortcut that trashes selected files and folders: Command-Delete.
For those who have become accustomed to typing on an iPhone or iPad, macOS 10.12 Sierra has two new options to make the experience similar on the Mac. Open System Preferences > Keyboard > Text and you’ll see two new checkboxes: “Capitalize words automatically” and “Add period with double-space.” The first automatically capitalizes the word that follows sentence-ending punctuation. Happily, it’s smart enough not to capitalize words like iPhone and iPad. The second option inserts a period if you press the Space bar twice after typing a word.