25 Essential Mac Settings You 100% Need To Know…



We’re not trying to make you feel old but the Apple Mac has now been around for more than two decades. The good news is that that’s plenty of time for experienced users to have mastered the perfect Mac settings. Here they are…


When a new device is released by a well-known company, it’s usually a good idea to let other people figure out the bugs and issues before jumping on the bandwagon – unless you’re one of those people that likes to be among the first to have something.

In the case of the Mac, it’s probably safe to say that, after 30-odd years, any initial issues will have been ironed out by now.

When it comes to Apple’s Mac, many shortcuts, tips, trips and techniques have been perfected over the years, and we’re happy to share them with you today.

Here are 25 critical Mac settings that you should be using in order to enjoy the optimal Mac experience:

essential mac settings
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1. Alphabetise System Preferences

The first setting we would change on a Mac, which will in turn make the process of changing other settings easier in the future, is to alphabetise the System Preferences.

This is a straightforward change which can be executed by clicking View at the top of your screen and then clicking “Organise Alphabetically” near the top of the dropdown menu.

2. Autocorrect Spelling

This is one of the settings we spoke about which will come down to preference.

I type thousands of words every day and if I spell something wrong, you guys are going to laugh at me. In this scenario, Autocorrect Spelling would be kept on, however, I prefer to use Grammarly.

If you’re not typing thousands of words every day, you probably aren’t going to make very many important spelling mistakes and therefore you might not want your Mac correcting you every time there’s a typo in your short DM to a buddy on Twitter.

You can turn off Autocorrect Spelling on your Mac by going to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Text -> “Correct Spelling Automatically”.

3. Capitalise Words Automatically

Below the above Autocorrect setting, you’ll notice another setting labelled “Capitalise Words Automatically”.

Turn this off as well if you don’t like being told what to do.

4. Add Period With Double Space

As well as “Correct Spelling Automatically” and “Capitalise Words Automatically”, you can turn off “Add Period With Double Space”, if this is what you would prefer to do.

We’re still in the settings found at System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Text.

5. Compress Screenshots To JPG

It’s easy to take screenshots on a Mac, but it’s not quite as easy to share them due to the fact that they save as fairly large PNG files. Fortunately, it’s easy to switch the default format to JPG.

Simply paste the following command into Terminal and then press enter: Defaults write com.apple.screencapture type

We’ll be using Terminal for a few more settings alterations throughout this article, so keep it handy!

6. Personalise Hot Corners

If you’ve just moved to the Mac from a Windows PC, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the Desktop Hot Corner that can be found in the bottom right-hand corner of your primary screen.

On a Mac, you can customise all four corners of the screen, however, the default Hot Corners are pretty useless, so you may want to customise them.

To do this, you can go to System Preferences -> Desktop & Screensaver -> Screensaver -> Hot Corners.

7. Tidy The Share Menu

By default, there are a lot of apps that are automatically added to the list of extensions that can be used for sharing with others. This can feel quite cluttered, particularly after adding more apps that you do actually use to this list.

It’s always best to disable all the apps you extensions you don’t use early on to avoid becoming overwhelmed down the line.

These settings can be found by going to System Preferences and then “Extensions”.

8. Scale Effect Window Minimisation

Another default setting on the Mac is to have the Genie effect switched on for when you minimise any window you are using.

While it does feel quintessentially Apple, it is a little slow and can become irritating after using a Mac for a while, so we switch the effect to the “Scale Effect”, which sees the minimisation process occur much faster and smoother.

To switch from Genie to Scale, open the Dock and Menu Bar settings and click “Scale effect” in the dropdown menu next to “Minimise window using”.

9. Turn Off Media Removal Warnings

Regardless of which operating systems you’ve used in the past, you’ll be aware of just how upset your computer can get when you pull out your USB stick without ejecting it first. Did this stop us from doing it? No, unless we were dealing with our University dissertations.

The truth is, the chance of damage is so minimal that the warnings just aren’t necessary, especially when those warnings have to be manually closed.

To turn off Media Removal Warnings, paste the following command into Terminal: sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ com.apple.DiskArbitration.diskarbitrationd.plist DADisableEjectNotification -bool YES && sudo pkill diskarbitrationd

Enter your admin password, reboot your Mac and never be told off for ejecting your media again.

10. Add AirDrop To The Menu

Adding AirDrop to your menu makes the feature a whole lot more accessible on your Apple Mac, to the point where it works similarly to how it does on an iPhone.

Click “View” in the top left-hand corner of your screen and then select “Customise Toolbar” from the dropdown menu. From here, you can drag the AirDrop symbol up into your menu to make access much easier.

Now, to AirDrop a file, you can select any file from your Mac and just drag it to the AirDrop symbol which is now on your menu bar.

11. Show Status Bar

The Show Status Bar setting can be turned on from your View menu by simply clicking “Show Status Bar”. This will display file sizes under documents and how many items are within a folder before you click on them.

12. Show Path Bar

Showing your Path Bar is a simple setting that allows you to see exactly where a file is located on your Mac. This allows you to easily navigate between your files and folders.

“Show Path Bar” can also be turned on from your View menu, just above the “Show Status Bar” setting.

13. Siri – Turn Off Siri Voice Feedback

Usually, when we’re on our Macs, we’re listening to music, watching YouTube videos or, well, consuming some sort of media content that has its own sound.

Siri doesn’t care at all that you’re trying to listen to something and will gladly talk over the top of it when responding to a question or command.

The good news is that you can turn Siri’s voice off in your settings and instead just have the response appear in text on your screen, which happens even when it is talking anyway.

You can turn off Siri’s voice by going to System Preferences -> Siri -> Voice Feedback and toggle it off.

14. Siri – Enable Type To Siri

As well as not wanting to hear Siri’s response, we may not want people to hear our initial queries, particularly if we’re out in public.

Luckily, to avoid having to look a little silly in front of people, we can turn on an Accessibility setting that allows us to type our questions or commands to Siri instead of having to say them out loud.

To do this, go to System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Siri -> Enable Type To Siri.

There will now be a Siri icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen, next to the time and date, that you can click and type in instead of having to use your voice.

This will not turn off the ability to talk to Siri, so you can choose the times that you’re happy to talk and when you would rather not.

15. Finder – Show Hard Disk

The first and easiest setting to enable within the Finder menu, which can be found in the top left-hand corner of your screen, is the “Hard Disks” setting which instantly makes your Hard Disk accessible from your desktop.

16. Finder – Change Default Finder Window

By default, when you open your Finder window, you’ll notice that your recent files and folders will be on show. There are some much better options for this, such as Documents or Desktop, which you’re much more likely to be looking for.

17. Finder – Enable & Disable Items In Finder Sidebar

The side menu in your Finder window can also become quite cluttered with destinations that you do not often access. You can customise this Sidebar to only have the folders you plan to access by clicking “Sidebar” in your Finder Preferences and selecting and unselecting as you wish.

18. Finder – Drag To Organise Finder Shortcuts

After you’ve selected which items you want to show in your Finder Sidebar, you can drag them up and down into a specific order to make it easier to find specific ones and get into a habit of locating desirable folders quickly.

19. Finder – Show All Filename Extensions

The final Finder setting is one we highly recommend, particularly if you have to work with or choose between specific file types fairly often, is the “Show all filename extensions” setting that can be found in the “Advanced” settings within your Finder Preferences.

20. Dock – Leave System Preferences In The Dock

Leaving System Preferences in your Dock means you can right-click them and swiftly access things from all over your Mac system, such as the settings you’ve been accessing and changing from this article.

21. Dock – Dock Position

When the Mac was first released, seemingly shortly after the Second World War, monitors that were being used were square.

Today, we use widescreen monitors in order to optimise our content consumption, but the Dock still sits at the bottom of the screen, right in the middle, restricting our vertical space.

Instead, we believe it is better to move it to either side of the screen, where it is just as easy to access but does not reduce the amount of vertical space we have to view content.

22. Dock – Automatically Hide & Show The Dock

Having the Dock permanently on the screen can be annoying. There’s no reason for it to be in view at all when not in use.

From your Dock and Menu Bar settings, which we briefly entered a little earlier, you can select the option labelled “Automatically hide and show the Dock”, which will hide the Dock when you are not hovering over it.

23. Dock – Space Out The Dock

To add spacers into your Dock, which will allow you to organise it a little better, paste the following command into Terminal: Defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-apps -array-add ‘{tile-data={}; tile-type=”spacer-tile”;}’ && killall Dock

Now, when you hover over your Dock, you’ll notice a space where it looks like an icon should be. You can move icons above and below this new spacer to organise your Dock into specific sections.

24. Dock – Speed Up The Dock

To speed up how fast the Dock appears and hides when you’re trying to access it, you can enter the following command into Terminal: Defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-delay -float 0; defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-time-modifier -int 0;killall Dock

As a result, your Dock will show up immediately when you hover over it and disappear as soon as you move away from it. Those milliseconds waiting for effects to take place can seriously add up.

If the values in the above command are too fast for you, play around with them a little and see what works best for you.

25. Dock – Remove Recent Applications From The Dock

Finally, to completely optimise your Mac Dock, you’re going to want to remove recent applications from the Dock. There’s no reason for this to be a thing, as anything you want to use frequently will already be added to the Dock and all the setting does is add things that, may have been used recently, but aren’t used frequently.

Go back to your Dock and Menu Bar settings and unselect the box next to “Show recent applications in the Dock”.

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Jake McEvoy

Jake is a professional copywriter, journalist, and life-long fan of technology. He covers news and user guides for KnowYourMobile.
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