Sponsored by TextSniper

As I revealed recently, I’m not much of a tinkerer when it comes to macOS. I have a very specific way of setting up every Mac I own, but I rarely dig much deeper.

Despite this, I like to occasionally sit back and take a look at exactly how I use technology to be more productive.

Like so many things in life, you don’t realise how you’re saving time until you stop and think about it. So, in my bid to hopefully reveal at least one time-saving tip that’ll help you, here are five that help me smash my own to-do list each day.

1. Spotlight

Nope, I don’t use Alfred.

But I do use Spotlight in macOS pretty much constantly. I’m sure Alfred is a delightfully helpful chap with far more functionality (and I promise I’ll try him out one day), but for a simple, somewhat lazy user like myself, Spotlight is perfect.

If you’re not aware, Spotlight is a built-in macOS feature for finding pretty much anything on your computer. To invoke it, you can either click the little hourglass at the top-right of your screen or simply hold down the command key and hit the space bar.

You’ll be presented with the Spotlight Search field, into which you can type anything. Emails, apps (installed or otherwise) and notes will be surfaced, along with files and all manner of other useful results.

For me, it’s nothing more than a simple way to access apps that are not on my dock, or when I simply can’t be bothered to move my mouse pointer down to the dock.

2. Converting anything to text

Later this year, we’ll be able to get our hands on the full release of macOS Monterey, which will include something called Live Text.

This looks pretty cool. It enables you to grab text from any image and paste it wherever you like. Only, for me, that’s a bit limiting, because I’ve got used to an awesome tool called TextSniper.

I was lucky enough to be given a license for TextSniper as a trial, and I’ve found it so useful that it now occupies an essential place in my digital toolkit. I’m therefore delighted to welcome TextSniper as a sponsor for this blog post – that’s how much I like their tool.

With TextSniper, you can convert literally anything on your screen into text. So, if there’s an image, presentation, PDF or screencast containing text you can’t easily copy and paste, with TextSniper, you can simply draw a frame around the content and it’ll grab the text for you (all you need to do is hit the paste command).

I’ve found this incredibly useful for three scenarios:

  • PDFs (for when it is ludicrously difficult to simply copy and paste text within a particular document);
  • Notion (as much as I love this tool, it is irritatingly difficult to copy and paste text to/from); and
  • video calls (when someone throws up a presentation, grabbing a copy of their text no longer requires a screenshot I can’t interact with).

Live Text in macOS Monterey will provide this functionality for the masses, but only with images – and only if you have an M1 machine. TextSniper works with anything on the screen (and pretty much any Mac) and it’ll even read out the text you grab, which is super useful for some users. Go check it out.

3. Unlock with Apple Watch

I revealed this super-handy time saver in my recent macOS setup tips video, but it demands further exploration.

If you weren’t aware, you can use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. To turn this feature on, head into System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and pop a tick into the box next to Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac.

The next time you approach your locked Mac while wearing your Apple Watch, you’ll find that it unlocks immediately, by using the Watch as an authentication device. It is ridiculously convenient and quicker than both Touch ID and Face ID.

But it goes further. Once you’ve ticked that box, your Apple Watch will also speed up the process of installing new apps and granting certain system preferences. For instance, if you want to view your saved Safari passwords, macOS will prompt you to double-click the button on your Apple Watch in order to view them, rather than having to type in your password.

I use this all the time, and it’s one of the main things I miss if I ever have an Apple Watch-free day.

4. Customise Control Centre

At the top-right of macOS sits the Control Centre. Although, it’s easy to overlook its benefits – or miss it entirely.

Denoted by a small toggle icon, clicking Control Centre gives you access to a bunch of useful settings for your Mac. These include features like WiFi, Bluetooth and Do Not Disturb.

By default, macOS will place some of this stuff in your menu bar, but you may not be aware that you can customise the controls that appear there yourself. To do this, simply click and drag the controls to which you want quick access from Control Centre onto the menu bar.

I always add WiFi, Bluetooth, Display and Do Not Disturb. It’s one less click for a few macOS features I rely on daily.

5. Keyboard shortcuts

Now things are getting exciting, right?

Joking aside, keyboard shortcuts are brilliant timesavers, and they’re classic examples of techniques we apply during our daily computing tasks that rely on muscle memory. I can therefore guarantee that you have plenty of your own which you probably use more often than you realise.

I have three shortcuts I use constantly:

  • control + command + space bar – this surfaces the emoji picker. And yes, I know you can access it by hitting the globe key on newer Macs, but this particular keyboard shortcut is now completely ingrained for me and is really useful if I’m using a third-party keyboard.
  • shift + option + command + v – this pastes whatever text you’ve copied as plain text. If you’re fed up with text copied from Word screwing up your lovely, clean note in Notes, this is a lifesaver.
  • command + tab – this is 100% a hangover from my Windows days, and I have a feeling Apple nicked the idea from Mr Gates. This simple shortcut will switch immediately between your last-used app and the one you’re currently using. Keep holding that command button, and you can scroll through all of the apps you have open. This is easily the most common shortcut I use each day.

Gimme your time-saving tips

I hope that at least one of the tips above will help you become a super-fast and productive Mac user.

As always, I can guarantee I’ve left plenty of stuff on the table. So, let me know your own time-saving tips in the comments below. What am I missing out on?