Exploring the Advanced Features of QuickTime X

This tutorial will examine some of the advanced features in QuickTime X. We'll go over sharing, audio and video recording, screen recording and more.


QuickTime has been the standard media player of the Mac operating system for many years. It has gone through various iterations over the past two decades, beginning with the release of Version 1 in 1991.
QuickTime X originally shipped with Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Apple used to have two versions of the media player, a free, very basic version and a paid, more robust version. I'll be honest - I've never used the Pro version of QuickTime, so my usage up until this release was just basic media playback.
The Pro version is gone, and some great new features have been added to the standard version that are available for everyone.
Many of us have been standard (free) users forever. But we couldn’t justify the cost to purchase the "Pro" version, offering functionality that was done better by other applications. Things have changed with QuickTime X. The Pro version is gone, and some great new features have been added to the standard version that are available for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of them!

Share to YouTube

Sharing your movies to YouTube directly from the QuickTime interface is now possible, and QuickTime X makes this process dead simple.
This probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, you will need a YouTube account for this to actually work.
With the video you wish to upload to YouTube loaded, select the Share option from the menu bar and pick the YouTube option (you’ll also see an iTunes and MobileMe Gallery as well). The first time you use this feature, you'll be asked to enter in your YouTube credentials. Check the option to store in the system keychain and you won't have to do that again.
YouTube Share Dialog
YouTube Share Dialog
Fill in the necessary information in the dialog box and click next to start the process to upload the movie to YouTube. You'll see a message box displaying the progress of the upload. That's it. You're done. There’s no need to do any converting or anything like that. QuickTime takes care of the whole process for you.
This integration is very helpful for those (like me) that have great intentions of sharing a video to YouTube and end up not feeling like taking the time to go through the extra few steps. I know it's not difficult, but with this built directly into QuickTime, it's much more likely that I'll upload a video to YouTube right after I save it to my Mac.

Video and Audio Recording

QuickTime X has the ability to record audio and video. This was previously only a Pro capability, but is now included as a basic feature in Version X. It is very easy to complete a surprisingly professional audio or video recording.


From the File menu, select New Audio Recording and off you go. The audio recording controls will load. To kick off your audio recording just click the record button. Whatever mic you have set as your default system mic will be used to record the audio. You’ll know you’re recording when you see the time start ticking away along with jumping audio level indicators.
I actually used this recently to record a Google Voice call and it worked beautifully. The simplicity of the audio recording is where this really becomes useful. From loading QuickTime to starting an audio recording takes all of 10 seconds, and about three clicks.
Some very minor editing is possible with QuickTime as well. From the Edit menu you'll see a Trim option. This will allow you to trim from the beginning or end of your recording. It's not much, but if you're just doing a basic recording (which you more than likely are) it may be all you're looking to be able to do. Again, the simplicity of this process makes this a really nice little feature.
Audio Trim
Audio Trim
Sharing an audio recording is, unfortunately, not possible through the QuickTime interface. I could see it handy to be able to at least share to iTunes or MobleMe, but that option isn't available with an audio only recording. If you're a podcaster, more than likely you'll be using some other more audio specific software to edit and produce your audio so it probably isn't a big deal.
Like I mentioned, I think the audio recording will see it’s best use for those instances when you need a quick, simple recording.


A video recording takes the exact same process as does an audio recording with the obvious exception of selecting the New Movie Recording option from the File menu. Your iSight/FaceTime camera will turn on, and you’ll see live video with controls on the screen. Again, whatever camera is set to your system default will be shown right away.
There’s a small drop-down arrow that will allow you to select any other installed cameras to use as the video source along with option change to other available microphones, change quality settings for the video (medium, high or max) and also an option to choose save to location.
Movie Recording
Audio Trim
As with the audio recording, simply click the record button to begin the recording. You’ll see the time begin to tick and the audio indicators will begin bouncing as well. Click the stop button when you’re finished. Save it and/or share it.
It is also easy to trim a video. It’s basically the same process as trimming an audio recording. Select Trim from the Edit menu. You’ll see a timeline at the bottom of the video and you’ll be able to trim from either the beginning or end. As with the audio trimming, if you’re looking to do some more in depth editing, you’ll be looking to other software (something like iMovie), but it is certainly a handy tool for a quick trim.
Movie Trim
Movie Trim

Screen Recording

This is probably the most interesting and I think least-known use for QuickTime X. This will essentially allow you to do a video recording of what you’re doing on your screen. Whatever windows you open. Wherever you click. Whatever you do will be recorded.
To start a screen recording select New Screen Recording from the File menu. The screen recording control will appear. You’ll see a small drop down arrow once again that will allow you to change some settings. You’ll be able to change the quality of the recording, the save to location and you’re also able to pick a microphone if you’d like to add audio into your screen recording. Click the record button to begin recording.
Screen Recording Stop
Screen Recording Stop
The recording controls disappear and you’ll then just see a small stop control on the menu bar. That does just what it says, stops the recording and your recording will open up for your review (Command-Control-Esc will stop the recording as well). Trim, save, or share as you’d like.


The common theme of this post is really that the new features of QuickTime X are an excellent way to accomplish a few simple media tasks very well. For former Pro users, these features don’t seem like that big of a deal, but for those of us basic users, these are fantastic.
QuickTime has been around for a long time, and I think it has been easy to cruise by the updates and just take for granted that it is going to be another update to a standard media player (for the non-Pros).
This update changed a lot, and made QuickTime a tool that can be useful to just about everyone. The functionality is so simple and quick to use while still producing fantastic results it’s really a difficult application to overlook.

Going Vintage: How and Why to Start Using Mac OS 9 Software

Instrumental in Apple's well-documented comeback from the brink of disaster was the launch of OS X, an operating system which seemed to herald a new age for Apple and since then, the Cupertino alumni have never looked back, increasing sales each year and ultimately dominating the home computer market.
But what about OS 9? Well, despite the public funeral Jobs gave the venerable Mac OS 9 on a 2002 Keynote, it is still being used and even developed for, with users attracted to its speed, unique UI and, most importantly, the untold wealth of applications which have never made the leap over to OS X.
If you've only become familiar with Apple computers since OS X like myself, you may be forgiven for having no idea about this rich software history which is just waiting to be explored, read on below to see how you can get started!

Getting Bitten By The OS 9 Bug

I recently wrote a guide to setting up a beater Mac with a G4 and OS X Tiger. While I still stand behind the article (and indeed am using that same Mac to write this very piece), it was something of a learning experience and I've since realized I was a little too hasty to dismiss anything pre-Tiger as too old to be useful for users today. I have come to realize that even the oldest of Macs can be useful and attract talented enthusiasts hell-bent on keeping the machines capable of productivity in a post-internet world. So why go so low as OS 9?
Well, beyond the fact that it's simply good geeky fun to have a play with older systems and software, there's actually a lot of compelling software available for OS 9. Aside from the myriad of Word Processing applications, Graphics and Music software, Task Management and Number Crunching tools, there is one particular area in which OS 9 excels which may surprise you: retro-gaming, with countless titles to have fun with, such as X-Plane 6, Caesar I, II & III, Another World, Descent and more.
Tip: OS 9 is often referred to as Classic, though I've kept away from this term to save confusion when I discuss Apple's own emulation software which goes by the same name.
Then there's abandonware:
The legality of abandonware is arguably dubious, but unlike popular 1980's console games, we're talking about niche software which cannot really be bought in any quantity, is no longer supported and cannot be run on any modern machine without significant knowledge and time spent. This is software which the developers have, quite literally, abandoned and so is generally considered fair game. I'm not going to talk you through finding your own abandonware here, but suffice to say it's a very simple matter to discover titles to download - just make sure that the game or application is not still for sale anywhere, as on occasion (such as Text Edit Plus), the developer will be actively selling it.
Before getting started, here's a disclaimer:
This guide is not aimed toward the complete novice. Rather, I hope to appeal to the kind of people who like to tinker, who like to reminisce and who enjoy doing cool things with their machines. If you want everything to work in the flawless fashion we've come to expect from the modern Apple experience, then turn away now!

Planning Your Route To OS 9: Vintage

The simplest and most direct way to run OS 9 applications is by booting into the OS natively on an older Mac such as an iBook G3 Clamshell, which can be picked up very cheaply - as in the cost of a night at the movies cheap. Be aware that if OS 9 is not already installed, you will either need to install it yourself and pick up a copy of OS 9, or stay in OS X and run OS 9 applications in Classic, which I'll cover in more detail below.
Tip: This Wikipedia page highlights Mac OS 9 compatibility, though I found this guide on Every Mac a little easier to follow.

Planning Your Route To OS 9: Classic

If you already own a PowerPC Mac running any version of OS X up to and including Tiger, you can employ Apple's own built-in emulation software 'Classic' to run OS 9 applications and games. As with any emulator, there is some software out there which may not run perfectly, though everything I've been able to test has run flawlessly and so this is my own favored method of using OS 9 software.
There's a lot of confusion on the internet when looking up how Classic actually works, so I'm going to break it down below using a method which I've tested on a G3 and G4 running both Tiger and Panther with no issues - I understand that each earlier iteration of OS X should work too.

First step, System Folder

Copying OS 9's System folder to OS X Tiger
Copying OS 9's System folder to OS X Tiger
This is probably the single biggest challenge of running Classic. If you decide that Classic is for you, then you're going to need a working System folder, which can come from the hard drive of an OS 9 running Mac, or an install disc. It's a shame that Apple doesn't sell copies of OS 9 or at least offer a download of the System folder because it drives people to pirate copies for lack of availability. While I can't condone breaking any copyright laws, if you are able to grab an OS 9 System folder off an old Mac then you'll be in good shape, otherwise there's always garage sales and online auctions.
In order to copy an OS 9 System folder, simply boot into the older Mac in question, then make sure it's fully updated. If this is the case, copy and paste into an external drive (I used an iPod) and put it somewhere safe on your other, newer Mac. It doesn't need to be in the root of your newer Mac's hard drive, so a suitable choice could be in your User folder.
OS 9.2.2 isn't technically mandatory for Classic, though it is very much recommended you use this updated version since it will likely save installation headaches (I haven't managed to run Classic successfully on earlier updates of OS 9, such as 9.0.4).

Second Step, Run Classic

Tiger's System Preferences should now contain the 'Classic' pane
Tiger's System Preferences should now contain the 'Classic' pane
Upon copying OS 9's System folder over to your newer Mac, navigate to OS X's System Preferences. Within System Preferences, the 'Classic' preference pane should appear (as shown in the screenshot above), from which you can tweak options such as whether to automatically start Classic on boot or not. Classic is relatively light on resources and robust, in addition to providing a seamless experience, somewhat comparable to using Windows on your Mac with the aid of VMWare - you can even keep your OS 9 apps right in your dock as you would normally!
Tip: to use OS 9 software, you can simply drag and drop into your usual Applications folder

Why Not Intel?

There are two popular applications for running OS 9 on PPC Macs running Leopard and Intel Macs running any version of OSX, these are called Sheepshaver and Basilisk II - so why aren't I recommending you make use of them?
Well, after five days intensive testing of Sheepshaver and Basilisk II on two Intel Macs running Snow Leopard and Lion, plus some time spent using it on a PPC Mac running Leopard, I felt that it was not up to the task of running OS 9 satisfactorily enough for me to potentially encourage you to spend your time and money trying them out - that's not to say it can't be done and indeed, many people use the applications and love them, but I'm not going to recommend embarking upon something so complex if it doesn't pay off with enough of a user experience.
In addition to this complexity and somewhat disappointing user experience, setting these programs up often means breaking Apple's copyright policies or taking a long route around to avoid doing so.

Ploughing Ahead

Having said all that, if you're really determined to give OS 9 a try on an Intel Mac and feel savvy enough to delve right in, I'll briefly list some tips to point you in the right direction:
The official installation guidelines for Sheepshaver are laid out here and you can download the latest version from here.
Sheepshaver has the best support for OS 9 but there is also a popular method of installing old versions of Mac OS using Basilisk II (download here) detailed in a blog not affiliated with the Basilisk II developers - I'm not going to link to this blog as it also contains ancient but copyrighted Apple software, however a quick search for “redundant robot sheepshaver” (without quotes) will get you there.

OS 9.0.4

Frustratingly, Sheepshaver needs a slightly earlier version of OS 9 (9.0.4) than is recommended for Classic and so adds yet another level of complexity to those wishing to test both methods. Though specific system installation discs can apparently be modified to work, it's best to aim for a retail version of OS 9 if at all possible.

OS X Lion

OS X Lion does currently work with Sheepshaver but it has issues entering fullscreen and seems overall a little more unstable. There does appear to be an updated version in the works, however.

Using OS 9 Applications

So now all the hard work is done, what kind of OS 9 Applications should you use? Well, there's really so many that they are worthy of a whole article for themselves and a quick look around the internet should point you in the direction of a thriving scene of OS 9 enthusiasts. That said, here's a few quick picks which caught my attention:

Classilla Internet Browser

OS 9 web browser Classilla running within OS X Tiger via Classic
OS 9 web browser Classilla running within OS X Tiger via Classic
OS 9 can be used with an old version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer but using it is not really much fun. Luckily for us, web browser Classilla is available for free download and is still being developed.
When one considers the age of the operating system it is running within, Classilla loads websites very quickly and renders most with ease. Obviously Classilla is not as standards compliant as huge modern projects like Google Chrome or Safari, but it is no hardship to use by any means - give it a try and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised! Click here to download Classilla.

AppleWorks 6

AppleWorks' wordprocessor is more than a little reminiscent of Pages
AppleWorks' wordprocessor is more than a little reminiscent of Pages
In use, AppleWorks feels like a precursor to iWork and though it may not be as slick and modern as iWork, it is still an impressively productive suite of tools in its own right, more capable of being used for real work.
AppleWorks contains several applications, such as; a word processor, painting program, drawing program, spreadsheet, database and a presentation application.

Caesar II

Caesar II is one of many classic games which never made it to OS X
Caesar II is one of many classic games which never made it to OS X
I'm a hopeless ancient history nerd so love games like Rome:Total War and Caesar II is a classic of the genre which deserves to be ranked among the best. With somewhat similar gameplay to Sid Meir's Civilization, Caesar II tasks the user with creating a city and province, then steering them to greatness, dealing with the usual disasters which one would expect.


Unfortunately, it would be impossible to cover every aspect of OS 9 in one article, it's simply too vast! Nevertheless, I do hope that this guide will serve to whet your appetite and highlight the incredible potential buried in this comparatively ancient operating system.
If you've got any recommendations of OS 9 software which I haven't covered here, please let us know about them in the comments.

Get To Know Your Utilities Folder: 7 Great Apps You Should Be Using

We've all done it. We bring home our shiny new Mac and we fire up all of the standard apps. We get our iChat account set up, link Mail.app with our mail accounts, and start putting dates into iCal. We import our music into iTunes and sync it up with our iPhones so that everything stays in order. Once we're all set up, we launch Safari and we're off.
But tucked away in the Applications folder of every Mac is a collection of gems that many users may never even notice are there: the Utilities folder. There are several applications in the Utilities folder, many of which likely won't appeal to you. Today, however, I've selected a few of the most useful utilities with which to get acquainted. So let's get started.

Airport Utility

After much deliberation, I've opted to discuss Airport Utility first. After all, if you're like me, your computer turns into a shiny aluminum brick if the Internet goes out.
Airport Utility
Airport Utility got a iOS-esque interface redesign somewhat recently
Airport Utility, for most people, will run once you get the Internet set up and will rarely (or never) get launched again. However, it's important be aware of some of the power packed into Airport Utility in case you ever need it. You'll want to visit this app any time you want to set or change the password for your wireless network, change the name of your wireless network, or add a device (such as an Airport Express or a Time Capsule) to your network.
And of course, as with most apps on this list, Airport Utility packs a whole host of features for the more network-inclined users.

System Information

Another utility that I deemed worthy of a spot near the top of the list, System Information catalogues all the specifications for the machine you're using. You'll want to be intimately familiar with this information if you ever need to get over-the-phone technical support.
System Information
System Information catalogs the more technical information about your machine's hardware and software
Not only does System Information give you excruciatingly detailed data on the hardware inside your machine, but if you scroll down in the sidebar a bit further, you might be surprised at how much information you can learn about your network or the software installed on your computer as well. Do some exploring and see what you can find out about your Mac!

Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is one of my favorite apps in the Utilities folder, as it can be extremely useful when trying to pinpoint a problem on your Mac. If things are running sluggishly, or if your computer is exhibiting some annoying behavior that is out of the ordinary, there is likely a rogue process to blame. And Activity Monitor will help you find it.
Activity Monitor
Activity Monitor
In addition to listing all of the processes being executed (and being able to sort them in various ways), Activity Monitor is also capable of giving you detailed in formation on CPU usage, disk usage, memory usage, and network behavior.


Keychain is one of those apps that might only be useful to you once in a very long while, but I promise you, if you think to use it, you will be very relieved.
A repository for all of your secure data keys
A repository for all of your secure data keys
Keychain is where your operating system stores of all of those passwords and keys that you need to have, but don't necessarily need to use every single time you use something. For example, your iChat login credentials will be here, as will the password for your secure wifi network.
The relief to which I'm referring above came to me like this: I had a friend visit from out of town for the weekend and he brought his laptop. After getting settled, he opened up his computer and asked me "What's your network password?" I panicked. I knew that my password was a complex alphanumeric key, but I hadn't the slightest idea of what it was. My computer remembers it, so I rarely have to know it off the top of my head. And of course, like a fool, I hadn't written it down anywhere. I took to Keychain to find the password for my wifi network, and the day was saved.


This little guy deserves a mention on this list, despite it's downfalls, which I'll cover in a moment. First, the short version: Grab is a screenshot utility.
Now, even the most un-savvy user is likely to be aware of our shift-cmd-3. As Mac users, it's our Print Screen key. And we've even got shift-cmd-4 for capturing a section of the screen as an image. Grab, however, gives you some (but not much) more functionality when taking screenshots (such as the ability to include a cursor).
I work with screenshots on a daily basis, so I've gone ahead and invested in a decent set of tools for managing them. However, not all users would find that a cost effective option, on the rare occasion that they might need a bit of extra "oomph" in their screenshots. For those users, knowing that Grab is there can definitely be very handy.


Ah yes, Terminal. I'm no command-line ninja, so I won't be giving you the ins and outs right here, but it's definitely worth noting that Terminal will give you access to your system in ways that your graphical interface can not.
Terminal is a powerful tool for those who know how to use it
Terminal is a powerful tool for those who know how to use it
We recently kicked off a series of posts detailing how to use Terminal, so check it out here if you're interested in learning more.

Migration Assistant

As the final entry on our list of Utilities you should know about, I offer up Migration Assistant. Our PC-using friends will find this utility especially helpful, as Migration Assistant will make it a breeze to transfer data from their Windows machine to a Mac (or from Mac to Mac!).
Of course, you can also transfer data from your old Mac to a new Mac
Of course, you can also transfer data from your old Mac to a new Mac
Basically, if you buy a new Mac and need to copy over any data from your old machine, this should be your first stop.

There You Have It

As I said before, these are only a handful of the apps in your Utilities folder that I thought you might find useful. There are several others that you might find right up your alley, so poke around* and see what you find!
*Please exercise caution, as certain apps (like Terminal and Console) have the capacity to make potentially dangerous changes to your machine if you don't know what you're doing.

How To Use Android With Your Mac

As Mac users, we're often expected to fit within the lines of the Apple "ecosystem" - a Mac, iPhone, and maybe even an iPad. But the fact of the matter is that for many people, using something other than an iOS device just makes sense.
With that in mind, I'm going to try to break down those preconceived notions and help you get the most out of your Android device by using it in conjunction with your Mac. Read on and I can almost guarantee you'll be surprised by what "Droid Does", with the help of your Mac.

Manage your Media

Gone are the days where carrying anything but an iPhone meant you needed an iPod of some sort. In fact, many Android phones such as HTC's "Beats" branded line offer an arguably better media experience than the iPhone. If you're on the cutting edge of web technology, and you already use a service like Rdio or Spotify for your music, setup for an Android device with your Mac is about as easy as it gets - just install the respective app on both devices and let the Internet's syncing abilities work their magic. If you're like most people, though, your media library is filled with good ol' MP3s and any number of video formats. In that case you'll probably want to look into one of two solutions.
The first is to install a great (and free) app called DoubleTwist on both your Mac and Android device (link). DoubleTwist is best summed up as iTunes for people without iPods. You'll get access to Google Play (née Android Market), a huge podcast library, and Amazon's full MP3 Store. This solution works really well if you don't want to change the way you've managed your media. It's a traditional style "Jukebox" app, which is beginning to feel antiquated. Moreover, you're still on your own for buying anything outside of Music and Podcasts.
DoubleTwist is more than just a media player
DoubleTwist is more than just a media player
The second solution is what I'd recommend for most people; and that's to jump into the Google "ecosystem". Google's Play store offers music downloads on the cheap (with a free digital locker service), movie purchases and rentals, apps, and even eBooks. Google's Music player works great with the Mac - it doesn't have it's own app, but the web based solution should be more than enough for most people.
Additionally, if you already have a Music library you'd like to store with Google, you can install the free Music Manager tool (link) to upload it seamlessly to the Google Cloud.
Tip: If you miss the feel of a native app, consider a solution like Fluid to make your own in seconds.
For Movies, Google offers a similarly simple solution: rentals and purchases can be made from either your computer or Android device and they play back on both perfectly. Of course, you'll probably just use Netflix (link) anyway.
As far as TV shows, you are basically out of luck. Apple has a stranglehold on the cheap-day-after downloads market. You could try Hulu Plus, but be warned, the selection is almost as limited as the price is high (zing). If you already have video files on your Mac that you'd like to put on your Android device, just use the free Miro Video Converter to make the formats play nicely. It has Android presets built in, so conversion really is as easy as one click.
As for eBooks, although Google's solution works just fine, Kindle is still king. Your Kindle books are readable almost everywhere, on almost every device. In addition the Kindle catalog puts Google's to shame, and as if you weren't already convinced, Amazon offers a free Kindle app for the Mac. The choice really couldn't be more black-and-white.
Kindle for the Mac
Kindle for the Mac is an indispensable tool
If you're looking to purchase apps, your two best choices are the Amazon Store and Google Play. You can manage your purchases using web interfaces on both, and the difference really comes down to price, selection, and of course, your personal preference. Either way, it's not like you're going to be running Android apps on your Mac.
Finally, since Android Phones store all their photos in an industry standard "DCIM" folder, your Mac should detect it as a digital camera as soon as you plug it in. From there you'll be able to manage your pictures in any program you'd like, although iPhoto is always a great place to start. If you cringe at the thought of ever having to plug your phone into your Mac, consider using Dropbox's "Automatic Upload" feature to wireless beam photos to your Dropbox folder on the desktop.

Email, Calendar, and Contacts

Now that we've covered all that media nonsense, let's get down to business with your email, calendar, and contacts. While there are just about a million ways to do this, I'm going to show you how to hack Apple's iCloud into working with Android and get Google's apps working nicely on your Mac. Be warned, though, iCloud calendar is not available through Android, and everything else requires some trickery.
Adding a Google Account in Mac OS X Lion
Adding a Google Account in Mac OS X Lion
First off, if you'd like to use your iCloud email, contacts and, calendar on your Android device, you're in luck. On the Mac end of the equation, just set up your iCloud account in System Preferences and be on your way. On the Android end, the solution and setup isn't as seamless as it would be to use Google's just own services, but hey - there are some things worth working for.
To use your iCloud mail, go into Mail account setup on your Android device and enter your credentials laid out in this guide. For contacts, use a free CardDAV app like this, and use "http://contacts.icloud.com" as your server. From there, just enter in your username as usual and don't forget to check "SSL". As I mentioned before, there still isn't a way to use iCloud's calendar with your Android device.
For most people, though, Google's services should be more than enough. They're much more friendly across platforms and work great with your Mac. Setup is surprisingly simple , just go into System Preferences and add your Google account. You'll have options to sync your email and notes, calendar, and even your Google Chat. For contacts, just follow this Apple guide.

Bonus Round

I've covered quite a bit in this article, but this is really just the tip of the Android and Mac iceberg. If you want to push compatibility between the two even further, check out some of these apps and tools below. I won't go to in-depth on them here, but we've covered most on either Android or Mac.AppStorm.
  1. AirDisplay - Wouldn't it be nice to add another display to your Mac? How about if it was wireless? If that sounds like something you'd like look no further.
  2. DroidCloud - This app is the answer to many a CloudApp fan's prayers; a native Android client.
  3. AirSync - This app does quite a bit, including giving your Android Phone the ability to stream content over AirPlay. That's worth every penny.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has been filled with almost as many useful tidbits of information as it has been with bad puns. In all seriousness, though, it's always important to take a step back and see what amazing things you can do while not fitting directly into the image of an ideal Apple user.
If you own an Android device or are in the market for one, I hope this article opened your eyes up to the things you can do with just an Android device and your Mac. If there's something (on the Mac or Android side) that I missed, that you use to keep the two working nicely together, feel free to leave it in the comments below. I always love to find some cool little things I didn't know about!

Get To Know Your Utilities Folder Part 2: 7 More Handy Apps

A few weeks ago we ran this post introducing you to some useful utilities baked right in to your Mac that you may not have known about. Well as I mentioned, the Utilities folder has so many useful apps that I simply could not cover them in a single post. Today I'm going to bring you seven more apps that live on your Mac.
This batch of apps is more likely to include apps that many of you won't use, but as always, it's nice to know they are there. And depending on what you do, it might turn out that your perfect utility was sitting right under your nose the whole time.

Disk Utility

I'll kick off the list with this gem, since I could've included it in round one. Disk Utility is a one stop shop for all things hard disk. Whether you want to know how much free space you have, the number of files on your drive, or how your drive is formatted, Disk Utility is where to go.
Disk Utility
Disk Utility
There are also a number of maintenance tasks that can be performed in Disk Utility. Use it to verify and repair disk permissions, manage virtual and external drives as well as mounted .dmg files, and to create images of your drive for back up purposes.

Boot Camp Assistant

When Apple switched over from PowerPC to Intel processors, Macs became capable of dual booting a Windows build along side OS X. Traditionally, installing a second operating system has not exactly been a straight forward process, so OS X began shipping with Boot Camp Assistant to help users of both systems. Boot Camp Assistant will also help you create archive copies of Windows install disks, should you only have that data in digital form.
Boot Camp Assistant
Boot Camp Assistant


Grapher is a utility that has been on Mac computers for ages. It's a simple yet powerful utility that basically functions as a graphic calculator. Except that unlike your TI-83, Grapher can also graph complex 3D functions, like the one below.
Grapher is capable of plotting multiple functions simultaneously, and has a lot of in-depth customization of graph appearance. Make sure to select some pre-built graphs from the Examples drop down menu for some really cool demonstrations of Grapher's capabilities. Thanks to our reader Conor for the suggestion!

Audio MIDI Setup

Audio MIDI Setup is a relatively simple application for those users who use their Mac for audio production. Use MIDI Setup to configure your various input and output devices and ensure that the formats, sampling rates, and clock speeds match up between each of the devices in your signal chain.
Audio MIDI Setup
Audio MIDI Setup

AppleScript Editor

This is probably the most daunting app in this roundup. If you have the programming chops to use AppleScript Editor, it can be one of the most powerful tools you can wield in commanding your Mac to bend to your will. I will admit that my knowledge of its capabilities are limited (and, as you can see in my project below, my knowledge of AppleScript itself is even more pitiful), but the adept AppleScript-er can write a sort of mini-application on the fly that will acutely customize his Mac's behavior and workflow.
If you're looking to get started with automation, check out our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To AppleScript.
AppleScript Editor
AppleScript Editor

DigitalColor Meter

DigitalColor Meter is a very simple app that essentially functions as a global eyedropper tool. It will display the RGB values (in a few various formats, including Generic RGB and Adobe RGB) of the pixel directly under the mouse cursor Use it check colors across your desktop, an app's UI, or a page in a web browser.
DigitalColor Meter
DigitalColor Meter
The aperture size can be changed via the slider, and the magnification for the display window can be changed in the drop down menus.

Podcast Publisher

This one requires a bit of explanation. For quite some time now, OS X has shipped with two separate applications dedicated to producing podcasts for distribution via iTunes: Podcast Capture and Podcast Producer. The problem is that Podcast Producer resided on OS X Server, and Podcast Capture was the client-side utility for interacting with it. A comparatively small percentage of Mac users could reasonably expect to use these tools, so they largely fell into the 'professional' category of applications.
With OS X Lion, however, Apple created a new application: Podcast Publisher. Podcast Publisher is the consumer version of Producer, in much the same way that GarageBand is to Logic, or iMovie to FinalCut. Publisher is a production tool with a low barrier of entry that allows any Lion user to produce video, audio, or even screen-recorded podcasts and export them to their desktop, email or iTunes.
Podcast Publisher
Podcast Publisher

There You Have It

There are few other various odds and ends in the Utilities folder, particularly depending on how much software has installed additional utilities into it. However, the apps covered in these two posts should have gotten you intimately acquainted with your Mac and its built-in software.

How To Migrate All of Your Important Data To Your New Mac

We recently saw another WWDC come and go and despite little to no progress in the desktop area, the MacBooks all received nice upgrades. This means there's a fresh crop of users transitioning to a brand new machine, a task which always brings with it a decent number of questions.

How do you migrate your data over from your old machine? Are there built in utilities for this process? Are you better off doing it on your own? Let's find out.

Decisions, Decisions

If you've recently purchased a new Mac to replace an aging one, then you've got some important decisisons to make regarding how you transition to using the new machine full time.
Basically, you need to decide how deep the integration needs to be from your old system to your new one. For instance, some users like to turn on their brand new machine and have it look and feel exactly like their old one, right down to the desktop wallpapers and carefully installed custom dock themes.
Fortunately, no matter what level of duplication you’d like to achieve, you can pull it off with surprisingly little effort.
Other users love the feel of starting fresh with a new machine, uncluttered by years of poor filekeeping practices. This doesn't negate the need to have access to all of your important data though: emails, notes, files, apps, music, etc. The fresh new computer route is also ideal if your new machine has a better operating system than your old one. It's an awful shame to clone old technology onto a new Mac!
Fortunately, no matter what level of duplication you'd like to achieve, you can pull it off with surprisingly little effort. Once upon a time, tasks like this would take the better part of a day or even multiple days, but these days there are lots of systems and methods in place to make the transition as painless as possible.


The first option that's available is the easiest. This involves a straight up clone of the contents of your old hard drive onto your new hard drive.
Keep in mind, this doesn't just copy your important files, it copies everything. If all goes well, your new computer, from a software perspective, will be an exact duplicate of your old one.

Carbon Copy Cloner

Most Mac users turn to the same utility when it comes time to clone a hard drive: Carbon Copy Cloner. For a solid decade, Carbon Copy Cloner has faithfully and dutifully cloned the drives of Mac users without requiring a dime in return.
Using this utility only requires three steps. The first step is to prepare your target drive, which means the new one that you will be copying your data to. Make sure there is absolutely nothing on it that you will need because every piece of data present on the drive is about to disappear.
Once you've completed that step, connect your new drive to your old one using a Thunderbolt or Firewire cable, then restart the new computer with the "T" key held down until you see a floating logo pop up on the screen (this will be either the Firewire or Thunderbolt logo depending on which cable you used).
Tip: Keep in mind that all of the computers involved should be connected to a power supply throughout the entire process.
Finally, download and crack open Carbon Copy Cloner on your old machine. The interface is dead simple: just choose your Source Disk (your old Mac) and your Target Disk (your new Mac). Make sure you choose to backup everything and to delete items that don't exist on the source. Now double, triple and quadruple check to make sure you've done everything right, then hit the clone button.
carbon copy cloner
The process will likely take hours so go away and let the software work its magic. Once the process is complete, disconnect the two computers and startup your new Mac. If all goes well, what you should see after the startup process is the same system you're used to.
Tip: Different hardware components often require different software. You might have to download some drivers to make everything work properly.

Migration Assistant

An easier and safer alternative to straight up cloning your drive is to use the built-in OS X Migration Assistant. This allows you to migrate lots of data over from your old computer to your new one with very little effort and setup.
All you really have to do is fire up Migration Assistant on two Macs that are connected to the same wireless network, and follow the wizard that walks you through migrating data over.
migration assistant
My problem with the Migration Assistant is that it's too automatic. I don't feel like I have enough freedom to specifically choose exactly what does and doesn't get copied, but instead am given broad, sweeping categories of data that will be transferred.
Just as with cloning, the potential problem here is that you're bringing your old clutter to your new machine. There's nothing worse than buying a new machine to replace an old, bogged down one, only to bog down the new one in the first week.
For this reason, I prefer to take the hands on approach and manually migrate much of my data. There are a million different types of information that could potentially be copied over, let's go over some of the most popular.

Installing Your Old App Store Apps

Love it or hate it, the Mac App Store has, without a doubt, made being a Mac user more convenient than ever. Not only does it make finding awesome new software a snap, it also makes it easy to transfer applications to a new computer.
To do this, fire up the "App Store" application on your new Mac and sign in using your Apple ID. After doing this, you should see a "Purchases" tab at the top of the window. Click on that item.
mac app store
What results is a complete list of everything you've ever downloaded from the Mac App Store, even the apps that you chose to delete on your old machine. From here, all you have to do to install one of these apps on your new machine is click the "install" button. That's it! Just go down the list and decide what you do and don't need on the new machine and wait patiently as the App Store fills your new Mac with your favorite utilities and toys.
mac app store

Non-App-Store Apps

Given that the App Store is still a relatively new convenience, you'll probably have plenty of applications that you'd like to transfer over that aren't even in the App Store, what then?
The best way to ensure a proper installation process is typically to go to the original developer’s site
Your first instinct will likely be to click on the app on your old machine and drag it to your new machine. This process will in fact work in many cases, but it's simply not a good idea. The reason behind this is that most apps are more than the icon that you see in the Applications folder. That might be the core of the app, but there are usually other bits and pieces scattered around your hard drive.
The best way to ensure a proper installation process is typically to go to the original developer's site and re-download a new copy of the application. If it's an app that you paid for, you'll often have some sort of license code that will need to be typed in to unlock the app. Unfortunately, every app is different so you'll have to either find where this is located yourself or email the developer for help. Be sure to check on the app's site for a FAQ page, which usually covers this topic.

Synced Application Data

We currently live in a fantastically futuristic world where the data that is most precious to us is often floating around in cyber space and accessible at any given time from any Internet connected device. Having just purchased a new Mac myself, I got to experience how great this is for switching computers firsthand.
I quickly realized that many of the applications that I use on a daily basis are actually cloud-synced in one form or another, so as soon as I logged into them on my new computer, all of my data was right there, just as I left it on the old machine.
There are two different primary ways that applications sync their data across devices through the cloud, let's take a brief look at each.

Custom Cloud Solutions

Some apps have their own 100% custom, completely integrated cloud syncing solution. These apps require no outside help from third party systems or frameworks (at least from a user's perspective). One shining example of this type of software is Evernote, which stores all of your data online and allows you to quickly access it simply by logging into one of their many apps across just about every device you can imagine. You'll find that lots of productivity applications such as Producteev and Wunderkit also take this route.
Evernote uses its own custom cloud service.

Widely Used Cloud Solutions

Building and hosting your own cloud solution is expensive and time consuming. For this reason, many apps choose to implement a third party cloud sync system. This gives users the features that they want and helps keeps costs down on the developer's end. One example of an app like this that I use daily is nvALT, which uses the popular Simplenote cloud service.
The great thing about widely used cloud solutions is that the information isn't bound to a single application. For instance, there are a number of applications across OS X and iOS that support the Simplenote service and as long as I'm logged in, my notes always stay synced to all of these otherwise completely separate applications.
Developers can incorporate iCloud storage and sync into their apps.
The two most popular solutions for third party syncing are probably iCloud, Apple's own solution, and Dropbox, the bold startup success story that turned down Apple's purchase offer. With iCloud, the developer specifically builds in support, if it's not there, you can't easily rig something up yourself. With Dropbox however, if there's no official support built in (though many apps like TextExpander offer exactly that), you can often simply move the app's library to your Dropbox folder to keep the data in sync between devices.

Meet the Application Support Folder

Unfortunately, not all apps sync their data via the cloud. In fact, it's probably the case that the majority of applications don't have a solution for this yet. Some apps, such as Twitter for Mac, require such a minimal setup that there's really no need to manually transfer data. However, there are plenty of others that will require some effort on your part. Even if you downloaded the app from the App Store, it might still have specific data that is stored on your old machine that you'd like to bring over.
Most modern applications follow the basic rule that app-specific data should be stored in one convenient location on a user's hard drive. This wonderful folder is called titled "Application Support" and is located in your user account's Library folder.
mac app store

The Invisible Library Folder

When OS X Lion came around, Apple decided that you as a user can't be trusted and therefore went through the process of hiding aspects of your system that were previously available to you. Specifically, this took the form of hiding the Library folder that is contained inside of your Home folder.
This sounds like a pretty lame move, but in all honesty, most users who know enough to be concerned about this type of thing also know enough to get it back, so it's really not a big deal.
There are at least four or five different ways to access your Library folder despite its invisible status. The easiest solution though has to be Option-Clicking on the "Go" menu item when Finder is the active application. This menu always has a list of convenient shortcuts in it but holding down the Option key will add in the elusive Library folder (for a more permanent solution, type chflags nohidden ~/Library/ into Terminal).
Finder Go menu
Visit the Go menu with Option held down to see the Library folder.
Tip: You should always back up your data before attempting to mess around with the Library files related to any app.

Application Support

Once you've got your Library folder situation all figured out, jump in and find your Application Support folder. On your old Mac, this folder will be full of subfolders named after your various applications. It's often the case that you can simply grab one of these folders and move it over to your new machine to transfer any sort of account information, licensing, preferences and the like.
Occasionally, you should use a little more tact than simply grabbing the entire folder. For instance, when I needed to transfer my Photoshop Actions, I didn't grab the entire Adobe folder but instead drilled down to the specific folder that contained the actions that I wanted to transfer.
Application Support


If you're not setup with Apple's iCloud solution, you should be. The free plan offers quite a bit and really simplifies file sharing across computers. To see what will and won't sync using iCloud, open up System Preferences and navigate to the iCloud Preference Pane.
Here you can backup and sync tons of data: Mail & Notes, Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Photo Stream photos, Documents & Data and more. This is by far the best solution for migrating all of your basic information to your new machine. All you have to do is check the little box and within minutes or even seconds all of your appointments, important phone numbers, favorite links and more will be zapped to your new machine.
It really is that simple. I'm blown away by how easy this process is given that it used to take us several hours and lots of effort to migrate all of this information in the past.

Mail Accounts and Calendars

The good folks at Apple realize that many of us already rely on other third party solutions for certain types of data and services and have no desire to switch over to iCloud. Fortunately, they don't hold such a decision against us too much and make it just as easy to grab this information as well.
In System Preferences, the Mail, Accounts and Calendars Preference Pane will allow you to quickly and easily sign into your various accounts from other providers. You can set up all of your email accounts here and when you open Mail.app they'll be right there waiting for you.
Application Support

Email Made Easy

Years ago, just thinking about transferring my email to another machine gave me a headache. These days though, most email services offer completely synced solutions. Thankfully, the letters "POP" have given away to "IMAP", so simply signing into your Gmail accounts will trigger an automatic sync. All of your read, non-read, trashed and starred/flagged emails will keep their status whether you're reading email on your iOS device, Mac Mail application or through your browser.
Another great advancement is easy account setup. It used to be that I would have to walk you through or at least link you to the specific setup process for all of the popular email services. In Lion and Mountain Lion however, the software does all of the work for you. Simply enter your username and password and let OS X figure out all of the confusing details like outgoing mail servers and ports.

Email Support Data

One problematic area that I found right away when setting up my new Mac was supporting Mail information such as the custom-built rules that I had set up over the years on my old computer. This information is Mail.app specific and doesn't transfer simply because you signed into your Gmail account.
The solution here is to return to your hidden Library folder again, but this time dive into the "Mail" folder instead of the Application Support folder. Drill down even further to Libary>Mail>V2>MailData to find a bunch of useful data files that hold your rules, signatures, Smart Mailboxes and more.
Mail Rules

Multimedia and iOS Apps

We've covered most of the trickiest data migration scenarios so by now you should be well prepared to set up your new Mac exactly like you want it. However, there are three biggies that we haven't discussed, mostly because they're so easy: Movies, Music and Pictures.
For many Mac users, multimedia files represent the most important digital information that they own. Vacation photos and videos, homespun Garageband hits, guilty pleasure iTunes albums; you don't want to leave these stranded on your old machine. To transfer them over, simply drill down into the Movies, Music and Pictures folders to find what you want and drag them over to the same location on your new Mac.
In the case of iTunes, the "Music" folder also strangely enough holds all of your iOS applications. To make sure I grab it all, I simply like to pull over the entire iTunes folder and replace the empty one on my new Macs.

The Library Folder: Everything Else

We've covered how to migrate all of your accounts, multimedia, third party applications, third party app data, and even some built-in apps and data to your new Mac. The only thing that's really left is your miscellaneous system data that relates to various built-in services and applications.
For just about all of this data, you'll want to check your user Library folder (you should rarely touch your main system Library folder, but it is occasionally necessary) just like we did with the Mail rules above. In the Library folder you'll find Dashboard Widgets, Fonts, Keychain passwords, Preference Panes, Safari Extensions, Screen Savers and anything else you can think to bring over.
The process here is the same as before. Backup any data that you're going to mess with, then simply drag and drop to replace the folders or files on your new Mac with those from your old Mac. If you screw something up really bad, simply restore the backup and everything will be back to normal.
Finder Library Folder

Go Do It!

By now you should be an expert on how your system stores different types of data and the best methods for migrating that data from one computer to another. Armed with the information above, there's almost nothing on your old computer that you can't set up in a near identical fashion on your new Mac.
If you have any other helpful tips, tricks or applications for migrating data from one Mac to another, please share your knowledge in the form of a comment below. We'd love to hear from you.

Quick Tip: Mastering Mission Control

Mission Control is an awesome way to keep your OS X working environment organized. It helps you save your sanity, cut the clutter and push productivity to the max by providing you with an incredibly robust way to manage all of your application windows.
Not only will run through a quick overview of how it works, we'll also dive deep and discover some customization options and tricks that even advanced users might not know about.

Mastering Mission Control

Shortcut Overview

Here's a quick run down of some of the tips and shortcuts that we go over in the video. Keep in mind that some of the gestures and shortcuts might be set different on your machine. Hit up System Preferences>Mission Control if something isn't working.

Launching Mission Control

  • Trackpad: Swipe up with three fingers
  • Magic Mouse: Double tap with two fingers
  • F3 (changes depending on your keyboard setup)
  • Control + Up Arrow
  • Set up a Hot Corner to launch Mission Control quickly with your cursor

Getting Around

  • Click and drag desktops to rearrange them
  • Drag a window to the top right to create a new desktop

Customization Options

  • Disable automatic rearranging of your desktops in System Preferences>Mission Control
  • Assign apps to desktops by right clicking on their icon and going to "Options"
  • Change your Mission Control shortcuts in System Preferences>Mission Control

Mission Control Tips and Tricks

  • Switch Active Desktops: Option-click thumbnail or swipe left/right (three fingers on a trackpad, two on the Magic Mouse)
  • Hold the Option key for more options
  • Spread Out a Group of Windows: Swipe up while hovering (two fingers on a trackpad, one on the Magic Mouse.)
  • Enlarge a Window: Hit space while hovering
  • Move All Windows for an App: Click and drag the icon below the window group


  • Launch Exposé: Swipe down with three fingers on a trackpad
  • Switch apps: hit tab or tilde

What Did I Miss?

Now that you've seen my Mission Control tips and tricks, it's time to jump into the conversation and add your own. Leave a comment below and let us know about any hidden features that you've discovered.

Become a Spotlight Super User

Spotlight has been an integral part of OS X for the better part of the last decade. This Swiss army knife utility may seem like a simple search bar, but there's a ton more functionality just beneath the surface.
Today we're going to dive into the basics of what Spotlight is and how to use it, then go much further and tour the advanced functionality and features that you may not even know exist!

What is Spotlight?

At its core, Spotlight is a way to search for things on your Mac. Your Mac has thousands and thousands of files on it and when you need something but don't know where to look, or have simply lost that file that you put in some random folder six months ago, Spotlight will save the day.
Each Spotlight location has its own strengths and weaknesses and knowing what feature to use where will significantly improve your Spotlight productivity.
Spotlight is located in two primary places on your Mac, both of which are placed out of the way of distraction but just close enough to get to in a flash when you need to.
The first location is accessible by clicking the ever-present Spotlight icon at the far top right of your screen. This brings up a simple search bar that awaits your input.
The menu bar Spotlight
The second Spotlight location is at the top right of a Finder window. You might be tempted to think that the two are exactly the same but they actually aren't. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and knowing what feature to use where will significantly improve your Spotlight productivity.
The Finder Spotlight
In both locations, Spotlight shows and refines the results live as you type. These days that doesn't seem very impressive but if you ever used OS X search before Spotlight came around you'll definitely appreciate the amazing speed behind it.
The bottom line is, even if you're brand new to OS X, it's pretty easy to wrap your mind around the concept of a search. Spotlight works exactly like you think it will, but there are some powerful features that you might never discover on your own. Let's take a look at all of the major aspects and features of this impressive utility.

Setup & Customization

Before we jump into actually using Spotlight, let's take a minute to learn how to set it up the way that you want it. Most people will find it perfectly usable right out of the box, but for those who love to tinker, customization options always make an app or utility feel more powerful and friendly.
To set up Spotlight, launch System Preferences and find the Spotlight icon in the first row. This should take you to a very simple window with three main purposes.

Search Categories

The first thing that you can customize in Spotlight is the search categories. You should see a big list of the different types of items that Spotlight will show in its search results, everything from Applications to fonts.
Drag to rearrange Spotlight Categories
Each category has a little checkbox next to it, which allows you disable that category from the search results. Use caution here, you don't want to severely limit the usefulness of Spotlight by restricting it to only a few categories. That being said, the results can be a little overwhelming so turning off categories that you will genuinely never use can make the entire utility seem more manageable.
You can click and drag these items to rearrange them, which affects their order in your actual search results.
The interesting thing about this category list that I personally really never paid attention to until recently was the fact that you can click and drag these items to rearrange them, which affects their order in your actual search results.
This is a really great feature that allows you to give priority to the types of items that you typically find yourself searching for. For instance, if you find yourself using Spotlight primarily for searching contacts and iCal appointments, you should consider moving those near the top of the list.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Typically, I don't mess too much with the default Spotlight setup for categories. One area that I do tweak instantly on a new machine though is the shortcuts associated with Spotlight.
You'll find the controls for these at the bottom of the Spotlight Preference Pane. These are typical OS X shortcut fields, simply insert your cursor and press your desired key combination to set a shortcut. You can set one for both the menu bar Spotlight location and the Finder window location.
Spotlight Keyboard Shortcuts
The default shortcut for Spotlight is Command+Space, which is fine for most users, but this gets in the way of Photoshop, which uses the same shortcut for a quick zoom. Consequently, I like to change Spotlight to something else.
The default shortcut for Spotlight is Command+Space, which is fine for most users, but this gets in the way of Photoshop, which uses the same shortcut for a quick zoom.
While we're on the topic of keyboard shortcuts, it's worth noting that the old Command-F shortcut that you used to launch a search in Finder before Spotlight still works as a way to bring up a Spotlight windowed search (this isn't a global shortcut, it only works in a few places like Finder and System Preferences).


For whatever reason, there might be files and folders on your machine that you simply don't want Spotlight to search. Whether you're ashamed of the contents of these folders or just don't want extra search clutter, you can ditch them pretty easily.
Spotlight allows you to exclude folders from search results
From the Spotlight Preference Pane, click the "Privacy" tab near the top of the window. From here, click the little "+" to browse to the location that you'd like to exclude. It's as easy as that!
It's important to note that this isn't a very secure way to protect your privacy. This option isn't password protected so if I sit down at your machine, it's pretty easy for me to see and disable any exclusions that you've made.
It's a good practice to make sure your entire computer is password protected, especially if you tend to travel with it. Try going to the "Security" pane, and setting your computer to require a password when it wakes so that no one can sit down and use your machine without your permission.

Cool Things You Can Do With Spotlight

Now that you have Spotlight set up exactly the way you want it from a category, shortcut and privacy perspective, it's time to learn about some of the cool ways that you can use it. Obviously, it's a utility for file search. That is both its most basic and most advanced feature, so we'll save it for later. For now, let's look at some other things to do with Spotlight.
As I mentioned before, the windowed Spotlight and the menu bar Spotlight possess different features. Unless otherwise stated, you can assume that the features in this section apply mainly to the menu bar location.

Launch Apps

I imagine that one of the first third party apps that many Mac users install on a new machine is some sort of app launcher. Launchpad is a mess, the dock is handy but limited, only app launchers give you the power to launch absolutely any application on your machine in mere seconds.
Like most of you, I'm a big fan of third party app launchers like Alfred and Quicksilver because of their advanced feature sets, but if all you're looking for is something to launch apps at the speed of typing, Spotlight is really all you need.
The default category setup that we saw above for Spotlight places applications at the very top of the list. As long as you don't change this, Spotlight is an awesome little app laucher. Just as with Quicksilver, you just hit your keyboard shortcut, type the first few letters in the name of an app and hit enter to launch it.
Spotlight is an awesome app launcher
Because Spotlight updates the results live as you type, there's no need to type the full name of an app. Just type until the results are filtered enough so that your desired app is the top result and you're ready to go. You can also use the arrow keys to jump down to a result.

Grab a Quick Definition

Another great use for Spotlight is to grab a quick definition. So if I mention how this article was an exercise in lucubration, you can hit up Spotlight to see just what the heck I mean.
Use Spotlight as a dictionary
Looking up a word in Spotlight is as simple as typing it in. Near the bottom of your results window you should see the "Look Up" option, which provides you with a definition from the OS X dictionary.
There are two different ways to use this search result. The first is to click on it, which brings up the actual Dictionary app with the definition of the word loaded in. A more convenient route is simply to hover over the result, which pops up a temporary window that shows the definition.
Tip: In many OS X apps, you can hit Command+Control+D while hovering over a word to see a pop up window with a definition.

Make Calculations

Spotlight covers reading, writing and even arithmetic. Whenever you need to make a basic calculation, you rarely need to actually launch the calculator app, Spotlight is faster and more convenient!
To use the calculation features in Spotlight, simply launch it and begin typing some numbers. You can type something simple like 148*78 or take it further and throw in some parentheses to manipulate the order of operations.
Basic math in Spotlight
Your answer should be shown near the top of the Spolight results, hover over it and hit Command+C to put it in the clipboard.
If you find yourself needing more advanced calculations, Spotlight may still have you covered. There are a number of special functions supported: square roots, factorials, pi, logarithms and more.
Spotlight has some mad math skills
Tip: Just a friendly warning, Spotlight has had some weird rounding tendencies in the past with complex equations. If you're using it for anything important, you may want to check its results against something else!

Search Through a Sea of Menu Items

There's a third handy Spotlight location that I haven't mentioned yet: directly in the file menu of every app. Launch any native or third party application on your machine and chances are pretty good that you'll find a menu item labelled "Help" at the far right of the list along the top of the screen.
As you no doubt guessed, this allows you to search the help files related to a given app for whatever you're having trouble with. The other purpose of this menu though is a little less obvious: it helps you find menu commands.
Use Spotlight to find menu commands
Let's say you're in Photoshop with its wealth of menu options and you know that somewhere there's an option to rotate your canvas ninety degrees, you just can't remember where. Simply type "rotate" into this Help menu Spotlight implementation and you'll see a list of all of the menu items that contain that word.
From here you can click on the items directly to activate them, or even better, hover over one to see it suddenly revealed in its original location so that you can learn where it lives.

Search Wikipedia and The Web

Another great feature that you'll find in Spotlight is the ability to search Google and/or Wikipedia. To do this, jump down the to very bottom of your search results and you should see an option for either action,
Searching the web will bring up a new window in your default browser but searching Wikipedia will actually bring up the Wikipedia tab on the built-in dictionary app.
Use Spotlight to search Wikipedia

Search Your Files

Obviously, the most important feature of Spotlight is its ability to search through pretty much everything on your Mac, often in a split second.
To launch a Spotlight search, hit your designated shortcut and simply begin to type. This of course will apply to menu bar Spotlight implementation. When you do this, Spotlight doesn't give you a big mess of results, instead you'll see a highly targeted and neatly organized list of some of the files that meet your criteria.
Menu bar results are organized by file type
As you can see, each file is categorized by its file type. I'm sure you instinctively know that Spotlight is perfect for finding all your basic file types such as PDFs, text documents and the like, but it goes much further than that. Nearly any search you would normally run inside of an app, such as Mail, can be started right here in Spotlight.
Here are some of the things you can but might not think to use Spotlight to search:
  • Mail Messages
  • iTunes Music
  • Contacts
  • Web History
  • Preference Panes

Seeing is Believing

One of the newer tricks that Spotlight has added in recent versions of OS X is the ability to preview files with Quick Look. All you have to do is hover over one of the results in the big list and a little pop-up window will fly out to the left with a preview (hold Command to make this happen faster).
Spotlight has built-in Quick Look previews
This is actually a really robust little feature that handles most file types you can throw at it: movies, audio files, text documents, PDFs, Mail conversations, web pages and more.

Viewing the Full Results

As you've probably noticed, the main Spotlight interface really only shows you the tip of the iceberg. These are Spotlight's best guess as to what you're looking for and don't at all represent everything it has found.
This is an important point of differentiation between the menu bar Spotlight implementation and the version in the Finder window, which shows all of the results.
Fortunately, you can jump from the former to the latter pretty easily by hitting the very top result: "Show All in Finder". When you do this, a Finder window will pop up with your search query.
Viewing more results
Knowing how to navigate your way from here really increases your success with Spotlight. The first thing that you need to know is that you computer will either be set to search the active folder or "This Mac" by default. You can change this behavior in Finder's Preferences (I prefer the folder search option). Regardless of the default, you can switch what's currently being searched by clicking on the little buttons at the top of the window, note that "Shared" is another option.
Finder Spotlight results
Another helpful way to improve your search success rate is to simply change the way the they're presented. Activate the list view to maximize viewing efficiency and then choose to organize your results in some way: date modified, kind, etc.
Organized results are much easier to sort through

Refining Your Search Results

The most powerful way to boost the success of your searches is to refine your results based on the specific attributes of whatever you happen to be attempting to find.
There are actually several different ways to go about this. For starters, as you type in the search field in a Finder window, you'll see the matching filters appear. Simply click on one to apply it.
So for instance, if I type in "November" I'll see an option to restrict the results to that time period. You can even chain these together to really create a powerful filter.
Filtering results
The same results can be achieved with the little filter controls at the top of the Finder window. Just hit the little "+" button and continue adding filters until you see the result you're looking for.
Filtering results

Saved Searches

Once you get used to the process, building custom searches is an extremely helpful tool, especially when you convert them into Smart Folders with the little "Save" button.
For example, I can easily set up a Smart Folder that shows me all of the items in my "Work" folder that have been opened in the last day or two. This gives me a convenient list of everything I've been working on lately.
Saved searches can save you tons of time

Powerful File Attribute Searches

The really neat trick that very few users know about is that you can actually perform some fancy custom searches right from the menu bar Spotlight. It requires you to remember some geeky syntax, but it can legitimately lead to some super fast custom searches.


Before we get into attribute searching, it's interesting to note that you can use boolean syntax to run a search. For instance, "time NOT machine" will search for the term "time" in my files while excluding anything related to Time Machine. You can also use "AND" to add to a search or "-" instead of "NOT".
A Spotlight boolean search

File Attributes

The big realization though is that you can use a colon to define various attributes for your search. For example, including "kind:history" in your search will limit it to your browsing history.
Spotlight allows searching of file attributes
The list of the possible file attributes goes on and on. Here are some handy searches that you should try:
  • "kind:music" will search for a song
  • "georgia by:mayer" will search for songs with "georgia" in the name artists named "Mayer"
  • "category:music" will search your apps for those related to music
  • "name:mac kind:pdf" will search for a PDF with "mac" in the name
  • "modified:07/10/12" will search for files modified on that date (also works with "created")
If you know of any other useful attributes, let us know in the comment section, I'd love to see some more examples!

The Spotlight Plugin Blues

The sad fact is that this market is fairly stagnant with no real surges of content in the last few years.
One interesting thing about Spotlight that falls short of its promise is Spotlight plugins. The fact that Spotlight even supports plugins opens up a ton of cool possibilities, but the sad fact is that this market is fairly stagnant with no real surges of content in the last few years.
If you're in the market for a list of Spotlight plugins, Find Mac Stuff and Softpedia each have one, but don't expect to be too impressed. Both Quicksilver and Alfred seem to do far better on the plugin front than Spotlight.
If you do want to install or uninstall a Spotlight plugin, check the Spotlight folder inside of the Library folder: "~/Library/Spotlight"

Tell Us Your Spotlight Tricks!

After reading the massive tome of Spotlight knowledge above you should be a real professional, ready to search out and find any file on your Mac in a matter of seconds.
Help keep the discussion going by telling us about some of your Spotlight tips and tricks. How do you use Spotlight daily? Are there any cool plugins that you'd recommend? Do you use saved searches? Let us know!


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