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I recently switched my setup to a Mac. As a long-time Windows user, this is quite a jarring transition. There were some things I immediately missed from Windows and some things that I had to spend some time figuring out because they make no sense on a Mac.
- Poor window management.
- Closing an app doesn’t quit it.
- Every app seems to have a menu icon that clutters the top menu.
- Lacking alt-tab to switch windows.
I will share some critical apps and tips I learned while setting up my Mac mini to be a lean, productive machine.
Since I’m already moving to a Mac, I may as well get better at using keyboard shortcuts and use the mouse less.
Learning keyboard shortcuts is one of the best things you can do for productivity. It takes so much time to reach for the mouse and move it to click on something.
Keyboard shortcuts allow you quickly search and execute tasks without removing your fingers from the keyboard.
Learning these keyboard shortcuts can be daunting, and I still struggle with them, especially with various applications using different shortcuts for different purposes.
- Keep the Mac keyboard shortcuts — Apple Support documentation handy.
- Look for the Keyboard Shortcuts for your favorite apps.
Some critical keyboard shortcuts on Mac
- CTRL-CMD-Q: Lock the desktop.
- SHIFT-CMD-Q: Log out.
- CMD-SPACE: To search for anything.
- CMD-X: Cut the selected item to the clipboard.
- CMD-C: Copy the selected item to the clipboard.
- CMD-V: Paste the selected item from the clipboard.
- CMD-W: Close the current window
- CMD-Q: Quit the existing app
Several utilities help make the Mac faster and easier to get things done. Here are a few that I’ve discovered so far.
Setapp is a service that consolidates hundreds of Mac and iOS apps into one subscription. Setapp can save you a ton of money, depending on your apps, and it’s worth checking SetApp before purchasing any apps on the Mac. Like I did, you may find it cheaper to get a SetApp subscription that includes the apps you want and hundreds of other apps and utilities.
Mac OS has a built-in Spotlight search that triggers when you click CMD-Space. If you find Spotlight lacking, check out Raycast.
Raycast is a fast and extendable application launcher that does so much more. You can search anything, open anything, manage windows, and perform various other tasks that I have yet to explore.
Be sure to take the time to go through the provided walk-through. Once you realize the power of Raycast, the sky is the limit.
Alternatives include Alfred.
When setting up any OS, I first install 1Password, where all my passwords and other information are securely stored.
You could get by with Apple’s Keychain if you only use the Apple ecosystem. Other alternatives include LastPass and Dashlane.
Nearly every app you install on your Mac creates a menu icon in the top-right that gives you quick access to some of the functionality. Eventually, you’ll end up with a menu bar that spans the width of your monitor, which is distracting.
Bartender allows you to configure this menu, only showing the icons you want to see and hiding the rest under a menu.
I’m constantly installing and uninstalling applications, testing to see what they do and if they help me. Unfortunately, this leaves clutter on the MAC, including files and folders and other settings that get left behind even when you uninstall.
CleanMyMac helps remove all of this unnecessary clutter from your Mac.
I have a widescreen monitor, and the biggest thing I missed from Windows is the ability to snap my windows to various positions on the screen.
BetterSnapTool does this on the Mac. You can easily position your apps and create custom areas for them to snap. Very handy!
Some alternatives are Mosaic and Magnet. I’ve begun using Raycast to manage my windows using keyboard shortcuts, which I’m enjoying.
CleanShot X provides some excellent screen-capture capabilities. Quickly take screenshots, annotate them, then share them.
Great apps, exclusive to the Apple Ecosystem
One of the biggest reasons I switched to a Mac for my setup is the great apps. It feels like apps on Windows are an afterthought and are usually only ported web applications anyway.
Things 3 is probably one of the most elegant task management applications.
My favorite writing and note-taking application, Bear, is a straightforward markdown-based app that lets you focus on writing. You can organize your notes using tags.
Craft may arguably be the best all-purpose note-taking and documentation creation app. It is simple to use and has a beautiful design, and I use it to organize my life.
Fantastical is an excellent calendar app that goes beyond the out-of-the-box Apple calendar. Its most prominent feature may be the autocomplete functionality, and you can type an event or task in natural language, which will set all the details for you!
I’ve only been using the Mac for a few weeks. I hope what I shared is useful. What are your favorite apps and tricks for the Mac? I’d love to learn more.
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