I remember when I first entered the world of the Mac. Having been a Windows user for many years, it was both exciting and completely disorienting.
User interface elements I’d come to know and love were replaced with an entirely different way of making my way around an operating system. I had to learn new keyboard shortcuts. More frustratingly, I became one of ‘those’ Mac owners who spent more time wondering when the ‘next big thing’ would arrive, rather than enjoying what I already owned.
If you’ve just entered the world of the Mac and you’re experiencing similar feelings, this is entirely normal. Don’t worry – we’ve all been there.
Without further ado, here are ten tips for new Mac owners, based on nearly two decades of living in this world.
1. Uninstall the stuff you don’t need
Like any computing device, a new Mac will come installed with a host of apps you don’t need. They take up space, occasionally get in the way and will play zero role in your life. So, as nice as it is for Tim to give us this stuff for free, I’d recommend getting shot of what you won’t use.
Apple provides a useful list of all the free apps that come pre-installed on new Macs. I wouldn’t take a sledgehammer approach with this, because many of these apps are tiny, and won’t get in your way. But to free up some space, you might want to consider removing some (or all) of the following:
- Keynote (think:PowerPoint)
- Numbers (think: Excel)
- Pages (think: Word)
To remove them, just head into finder, click Applications in the left-hand menu and drag the apps you don’t want into the bin.
2. Get your password management figured out
Unfortunately, we live in a world where nasty people want your stuff, and they’ve worked out that one of the easiest ways to get that stuff is to break into our digital lives.
This is why password management is so vital. It’s also why I’ve created a guide for finding the best password manager for your needs.
Keychain is the most obvious starting point because it’s built directly into macOS and it’s free. But if you want more control and even more space for your most important stuff, 1Password is my personal recommendation (you can grab it here and get 25% off your first year).
3. Get ready for a (future) clean
If you’re coming to the Mac after years of dealing with Windows machines that clog up over time and eventually grind to halt in a fit of blue screens, I have some good news.
Macs don’t get as dirty as Windows PCs.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t need to give them a little fettle now and again. Large files will still find a way to chew up invaluable space, and removing apps from a Mac is notoriously unfriendly if you care about removing every single last trace.
Good news – there are a bunch of awesome Mac cleaning products out there, and I’d recommend checking out either CleanMyMac X from MacPaw, or Cleaner One Pro from Trend Micro. Full disclosure: both companies occasionally sponsor my content, but they’re not sponsoring this blog.
4. Stop looking at what’s coming next
A new version of your Mac will inevitably arrive at some stage. It might be in a year’s time, or it could be as soon as next week, but that’s life.
Apple is incredibly secretive about its forthcoming product releases. It’s an approach which has spawned an industry in itself – the Apple rumour mill. I write about it, others make endless videos about it, and Apple fans and non-fans debate it until they’re blue in the face on Reddit.
But it all comes down to one simple fact: no one outside of Apple’s literal inner circle knows when the next version of your current Mac will launch – or even if it will. So, enjoy what you have.
5. Set up your menu bar apps
It took me a while to realise the power of the macOS menu bar, but once I did, it completely changed the game for me.
For the uninitiated, the macOS menu bar sits at the top of the screen. It’s ever-present, and the contents change depending on the app you have open. The only stuff that remains consistent is the Apple logo on the far left, and the collection of icons to the far right.
The latter is where the magic lies, and I’ve discovered a bunch of brilliant menu bar apps that make me more productive, and which have completely changed the way I interact with my Mac.
6. Get yourself the must-have accessories
I get it – you’ve spent a serious amount of money already on this thing. You don’t really want to fork out anymore at this stage, right?
That’s totally fair, but there are a few must-have Mac accessories for which I’d urge you to dig a little deeper, or at least begin putting some pennies aside for an eventual purchase.
In truth, it’s easy to go a bit mad with Mac accessories and buy yourself a bunch of things you’ll use once and subsequently neglect. So, what follows are the absolute bare essentials for any new Mac owner:
- a decent case (if you’ve got a MacBook);
- a great keyboard/mouse combo (for Mac mini owners);
- a USB hub, if you’re in need of more ports; and
- a tech carry bag (trust me on this one).
I’ve covered some of the above in my round-up of favourite Apple device accessories.
7. Give Safari a try
The worldwide browser usage stats suggest that you’re probably a Chrome user. Which is utterly cool. But if you’re serious about making your way into the wonderful world of the Mac, I’d kindly ask that you give Safari a try.
Chrome fans will scoff at this. Ignore them. There are a couple of reasons I think Safari makes the most sense for web browsing if you’re an Apple user.
The first is resource management. Chrome is notoriously crap when it comes to making effective, considerate use of your Mac’s memory and system resources. It’ll chew up your RAM and chomp away at your battery life. Safari doesn’t do this.
Secondly, Safari is developed by Apple. That means you get to enjoy all of the goodness they throw in without any constraints. Top of the list of benefits here is the wonderful way in which you can ‘hand off’ open websites between Apple devices and easily share lists of open tabs.
8. Turn off “Hey Siri”
We discussed this recently on the Eight or Sixteen podcast. None of us could think of a decent reason to use Siri on the Mac.
Introduced during WWDC in 2016, Siri for the Mac was given its own, coveted space in the menu bar, and a permanent slot on the stupid Touch Bar.
There is absolutely no reason to ask Siri to do anything on a Mac. By its very nature, this is a device you’re always touching when interacting with it. You’ll have your fingers resting on the trackpad or keyboard, both of which give you a wealth of options for invoking anything within macOS.
Trust me – you’ll never use it, and the “Hey Siri” functionality can be incredibly irritating when you just want your iPhone or Apple Watch to respond instead.
Head into System Preferences > Siri and uncheck Listen for “Hey Siri”. Of course, if you want to get really brutal about it, just uncheck Enable Ask Siri instead.
9. Brush up on keyboard shortcuts
If you’ve been a Windows user for any amount of time, one of the first things you’ll discover about the Mac is that none of your favourite shortcuts work.
You can, of course, remap keyboard shortcuts in macOS, but I’d advise against this. You’re living in a new world now, and although it’ll feel weird to begin with, it’s a far better idea to learn the default macOS keyboard shortcuts for your most-used functions.
I’m not a heavy keyboard shortcuts user, but beyond the usual cut/copy/paste, I couldn’t do without the keyboard shortcuts for Spotlight, screen capture, and paste-as-plain-text.
This super helpful resource from Apple will help you find the keyboard shortcuts you’ll come to rely on. Oh, and if you fancy getting really fruity with this kind of thing, I’d recommend checking out TextExpander.
10. Follow my top 10 setup tips
If you’re hungry for more new Mac setup tips, you could do a lot worse than watch my overview of the first ten things I do on every new Mac I buy.
What have I missed? Add your own new Mac user advice in the comments section, below!
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