7 MacBook hacks you can't live without

Do you have a MacBook? Maybe you recently made the switch from Windows to a shiny new Mac? Whether you've got yourself a brand new MacBook or you've been a loyal Mac user for years, we bet there are a few hidden MacBook features you're yet to discover!

Here are some handy MacBook hacks you may not know about that you definitely should be using:

In this blog:

Turn your desktop folders into emojis

Looking for some MacBook hacks to personalise your desktop? Say no more! You can turn any (or even all) of your desktop folders into emojis to give your desktop a fun new look.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Create a folder on your desktop by clicking File > New folder
  2. Do a Google Image search for the emoji you want (e.g. "heart emoji" or "star emoji")
  3. Drag the image you want to your desktop and double-click the image to open it in Preview
  4. To make the image transparent, press the markup icon (it looks like a magic wand), click the background of the image so that a moving outline appears around it and click Edit > Cut
  5. Click the markup icon again, and click and drag a box around the emoji
  6. Click edit, select all and then press Command + C
  7. Go back to the original folder you created on your desktop, right-click on it and select Get Info
  8. In the screen that pops up, click the blue folder icon and press Command + V. You should then see your emoji appear


Let dictation do your typing

Did you know that Mac OS offers dictation typing? If you're looking for some hidden MacBook features to help with your writing and typing, this one's for you!

Head to your keyboard settings and turn on keyboard dictation if it's not already on. You can do this by opening your system settings < keyboard settings and clicking the dictation toggle.

You'll also be able to see which shortcut turns on dictation on your Mac further down on the keyboard settings page. Usually, there are five shortcut options you can choose to turn on dictation:

  • Press the control key twice
  • Press the Fn key twice
  • Press the right command key twice
  • Press the left command key twice
  • Press either command key twice

The dictation feature will turn your speech into text without you lifting a finger or pressing a key, so it's definitely one to use if you want to give typing a break!


Sign documents with your real signature

If you don't have a printer and scanner, it can be frustrating trying to sign virtual documents. Luckily, one of the hidden MacBook features on this list will solve all your virtual signature problems!

You can easily sign documents electronically when using a MacBook, and there are a few ways to do so. Open your document with Preview or Mail and choose from the following options:

With your camera – click Camera and hold your signature (on white paper) facing the camera so that your signature is level with the blue line in the window. When your signature appears in the window, click Done.

Using your trackpad – click Trackpad, click the text as prompted, sign your name on the trackpad using your finger, press any key, then click Done. If you want to try again, just click Clear, then do it again.

Using your iPhone or iPad – click Select Device to choose which iOS or iPadOS device you want to use. On your device, use your finger or an Apple Pencil (on iPad only) to sign your name, then click Done.


Look up dictionary definitions in seconds

Have you ever browsed social media or the internet and stumbled upon a word you've never heard of? Well, for lucky Mac users, you can quickly look up the definition of any word you find while browsing the web, all in a matter of seconds!

Depending on how your shortcuts have been set up and how old your Mac is, you'll be able to highlight a word to see its dictionary definition:

In older versions of Mac OS – you'll use ⌘⌃D to bring up the definition of the word while hovering over the word.

On newer Macs – highlight the word, left click and select 'look up'. Depending on your left-click shortcut, you may be able to simply highlight the word and long tap with two fingers or double tap with three fingers.


Use multiple desktops without using extra displays

With an Apple MacBook, you don't need extra displays to have multiple desktops – you can use virtual ones instead!

If you often find your desktop full of windows and apps, having multiple desktops for different applications and tabs could help you declutter your Mac without forcing you to close anything important.

To create a new virtual desktop, drag an open tab up to the top of your screen and hold it there for a few seconds. The virtual desktop menu will appear, letting you drop your selected window onto a new desktop; you can also click the + button to create more desktops.

You can switch between them quickly and easily by opening mission control and clicking the desktop you want to change to. Depending on your MacBook's shortcut, you can open Mission Control by swiping up on your trackpad with three fingers or pressing Control and Up Arrow buttons.


Make use of the emoji keyboard

Want to learn a MacBook hack you'll likely use every day? Like the emoji keyboard on the iPhone, you have an identical one on your MacBook which you can use on social media, the internet and even when replying to messages and emails on your Mac.

With Mac OS X, you can insert emoticons by using pressing ctrl +⌘ + space. This will open a small pop-up window where you will see all the available emojis!


Take screenshots and snippets easily

While this isn't the most secretive of MacBook hacks out there, it's still an important one to know about if you don't already know. You can take full screenshots and snippets easily on your MacBook.

Here are the three ways you can take a screenshot on a Mac:

  • Command + Shift + 4 and you'll get a crosshair that you can drag with your mouse to capture exactly what you want
  • Command + Shift + 4 at the same time and then let them go, then hit the Spacebar. Now you can click on any window you want and take a shot of that entire window, shadow included
  • Command + Shift + 3 to take a shot of your entire desktop. You'll get a file for each display connected

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