macOS users: any tips?

I’ve recently purchased a used M1 Macbook Air (2020). I’ve been in the “Apple eco-system” with all my devices but my desktop. I’ve started to replace my main Windows PC after almost 15 years on Windows and so far I really like macOS. I had an old Mac that I never really used, so I’m only 50% familiar with macOS.

Any advanced power tips for a new macOS user? Any tweaks or apps that would help a custom keyboard user?

Thanks in advance!




  • Karabiner Elements – allows simple and complex modifications to input devices at the software level, for one or more keyboards. Also comes with a handy event viewer that lets you suss out dead/stuttering keys or layout funkiness.


  • Top Notch – hide the menubar notch.
  • Flycut – multi-level clipboard/pasteboard.
  • Little Snitch – Software firewall, useful if you’re curious what network buggery your apps get up to and need to block/allow it on a case-by-case basis.
  • Hue – for color sampling anything on the screen.
  • any recent eyecandy/UI hacks by Neil Sardesai, wizard Swift dev. (e.g., Mouse Finder, dock icon Pong)
  • lastly, I haven’t used but it looks amazing (autocomplete & GUI superpowers for terminal).

I have other personal must-haves and customizations (like Solarized colorschemes and readable terminal fonts with italicized comments, etc., but I feel like that might not be relevant to your interests). If it is, send me a PM!


Sweet! Jumping off Kim’s list:

Download Alfred. It’s a app launcher/search/macro/everything app. You can probably do 90%+ of the things you want to on Mac without ever lifting your hands away from your board.

Karabiner see above!

Magnet/Rectangles/etc. are useful window pane management tools that you can use keyboard shortcuts to organize app window panes.

In System Preferences > Keyboards > Modifiers, you can reassign modifier functions (for example, change Caps to Ctrl).

Cmd+Tab cycles through apps. Cmd+` cycles through windows for the same app (e.g. multiple browser windows)


Volleying back, on the topic of built-in Mac-isms you should know about, here are some oldies-but-goodies that might not be immediately apparent to newbies:

  • Proxy icons in window titlebars act as file icons – you can drag them to folders, the trash, other apps, and do many other things you can do with file icons in the Finder.
  • Command-clicking into a background app doesn’t bring a background window forward/change input focus, but it does pass the click through (useful if you want to do something with an app that’s lower in the window hierarchy).
  • If you have vision issues or just want things to get real nice and big sometimes, enable System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom. You can now control-scroll to zoom in and out on anything on the screen.
  • Shift and volume keys changes the volume without beeping (erstwhile radio host and current podcaster tip).
  • Shift-clicking items/files selects a range, just like on 'doze. Command-clicking things makes a non-contiguous selection.
  • Screencaps — Command-Shift-3 saves the current display(s) to files on the desktop. Command-Shift-4 lets you drag a rect around a region to capture. Command-Shift-4, then tap space lets you isolate individual windows or screen regions to capture, automagically.
  • Speaking of the spacebar, Quick Look is your new best friend… in the Finder or Open File dialog, tapping space previews a file without opening it. You can do this with multiple files at once and fullscreen/contact sheet them.
  • Just poke around in apps’/macOS’ Preferences/settings (Command-semicolon in most apps). You’ll find things to customize you didn’t know existed.
  • Lastly, a command-line Easter egg in the form of ``defaults write`` – There are lots and lots of incantations you can pass to the defaults write command that modify subtle and not-so-subtle things about the Mac. There’s no exhaustive list (the above is just a Whitman’s sampler box of them), but you’ll find them in blog posts and stack overflow pages here and there. YMMV, caveat emptor, don’t sue me, etc. because these are undocumented and not exposed to the GUI for a reason (they’re fun).

I’m not sure what you do with the computer but my recent enjoyment on the M1 platform has come from:
warp terminal & capture one photo editor


did not know about proxy icons or command-clicking into background windows. Thanks!


+1 for Magnet. It brings some needed window management to Mac OS that you’ll appreciate coming from Windows.

One of the best features of Mac OS is the ability to type many special characters, in any app, with a series of simple , easy to remember keyboard combinations. A few common ones for me are: Option + R = registered trademark, Option + 2 = TM, Shift + Option + Minus = Em Dash, just to name a few.

Windows lacks this simple, application-independent functionality and it totally astounds me.


Select a word and either right click it or three-finger tap to look it up in the built-in dictionary


Super informative responses here so far! This has been immensely helpful for me, and hopefully anyone else that comes across this thread. Thanks everyone!

All these tips are great. I would add two of my favorites: exploit multiple desktops and activate the “Mission Control” gesture (swipe up with three fingers). That’s found in System Preferences/Trackpad/More Gestures. I probably use it 20 times an hour.


I use the right click dictionary from time to time, usually spotlight search works well for that too.

Spotlight can also be used for basic calculations and unit conversions, similar to how search engines work in a web browser.

Pixelmator Pro is amazing if you need a photoshop replacement and the Affinity apps are great if you need something more advanced.

Alfred has been mentioned but it’s my go-to spotlight replacement for quick actions.

The main keyboard thing I love in macOS is the keyboard shortcuts to do a bunch of fun stuff like

  • Control-A : Move to the beginning of the line or paragraph.
  • Control-E : Move to the end of a line or paragraph.
  • Control-F : Move one character forward.
  • Control-B : Move one character backward.
  • Control-L : Center the cursor or selection in the visible area.
  • Control-P : Move up one line.
  • Control-N : Move down one line.
  • Control-O : Insert a new line after the insertion point.
  • Control-T : Swap the character behind the insertion point with the character in front of the insertion point.

Try holding down option and option-shift when you click, right-click, or hit other keys, you’ll discover all sort of additional nifty features. For example, holding option while right-clicking (or two-finger-tapping) on a file will give you access to additional handy options, like copying the file’s path. Another example: holding down option-shift while controlling volume and brightness gives you four times the precision when doing so.

I also really love three-finger drag, it allows me to highlight text, move windows about, and more by just moving three fingers along the trackpad. So much more effortless and smooth than click-dragging. System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer control > Mouse options > Enable dragging: three-finger drag.

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I’ll second that Alfred is insanely useful. I use it mostly for app launching instead of Spotlight, the Clipboard History (I use this 1000x per day), assorted system commands (like “Lock Screen”), and a couple of plugins and workflows. I barely scratch the surface but I can’t use a Mac without it now. It’s the second thing I install after 1Password.

I’ve been using Macs for 20 years and didn’t know these! Control-T character swapping in particular is gonna be handy for typso.

I frequently use assorted system-wide Command or Alt/Option shortcuts:

  • Command-Up/Down: go to start/end of document/input (analogous to Home or End)
  • Option-Up/Down: go up/down one page (analogous to PgUp or PgDn)
  • Command-Left/Right: go to start/end of line
  • Option-Left/Right: move cursor to start/end of previous/next word

Add Shift with any of the above to select things. Like Shift-Option-Right selects from the cursor to the end of the next word.

These logically extend to Backspace (labeled “Delete” on Mac keyboards):

  • Command-Backspace: delete from cursor to start of line
  • Option-Backspace: delete from cursor to start of previous word

Add Shift to those deletes in the opposite direction. Shift-Backspace deletes 1 character after the cursor (like Del key on Windows); Shift-Option-Backspace deletes the next whole word; and so on.

It took me a while, but once those are in muscle memory you can really fly through documents and do precision edits in a lot less time than it would take to use the mouse or select things 1 character at a time. And those should work everywhere.

Finally, abuse the heck out of the Search field that’s in the Help menubar for all apps. It searches all available menu items for the app, as well as highlighting where they live in the menus and giving you instant access. Good way to sniff around what’s possible or avoid diving through a bunch of nested menus to find what you’re looking for. Command-Shift-/ (think Command-?) should open that in any app, then start typing.


Ooh, one thing to add for Alfred:

If you get the Alfred iOS app, you can run macros remotely.

This is useful, among other things, for media controls (play, volume, etc.), power menu (sleep, shut down, etc.), and so on, all from the comfort of, say, your bed :innocent: or from another room.

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after 14 years on OSX coming from 16 years of windows and trying all the tweeks and tools every time there’s a new one to make my “switch” easier, those are the 3 I now use every time. alt-tab replaced the now not functional anymore hyperswitch, cleanshotx replaced annotate app, moom kinda always stuck around.

very useful is what @kimslawson wrote:
If you have vision issues or just want things to get real nice and big sometimes, enable [System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom

I also always enable the 3 finger drag under settings > accessibility > pointer control > trackpad options button - its kinda hidden :wink:
so you can use 3 fingers to drag the window around. along tap instead of click with your finger. under settings > trackpad you basically turn on every single checkbox :smiley:

for color picking I use “sip”, iirc it was free.

settings > keyboard - those are my modifier keys settings (hhkb):
CleanShot_System Preferences_2022-06-04_14.00.15_AfQVl5QS


The main keyboard thing I love in macOS is the keyboard shortcuts to do a bunch of fun stuff like

Fun fact, those are Emacs shortcuts, and I guess they have some common UNIX ancestry with macOS :slight_smile:

Some other ones include Control-Option-B and Control-Option-F to jump between words, and Control-K to remove the entire line of text starting from the insertion point.


OS X is basically just a really fancy UI on top of what was once BSD :slight_smile:

Unix > BSD > (NextStep) > Darwin/OS X/macOS (X as in XNU kernel)


reviving this bc i just want to prepare for a mac mini refresh later down the line:

good/bad/neutral on those docks that stack under/on top of the mac mini to add ports/functionality?

i have an ancient 2012 mac mini btw so i don’t expect to slap it on here, but does it help much?

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I just purchased a Mac Mini about a month ago and picked up one of these:

It works well and looks integrated. The anodizing doesn’t 100% match that of the Mac Mini but it’s close enough. If you end up going with this, keep in mind it only supports M.2 SATA SSD.

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