Yosemite tips: learn to use OS X Yosemite

We've been using Yosemite for a few weeks now, so we've updated our basic tips so you know how to get the most out of Apple's new Mac operating system

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  • Notification Centre Tips Notification Centre
  • Spotlight Tips Yosemite's Spotlight
  • Safari Favourites Safari favourites
  • Safari Tips RSS feeds in Safari
  • Safari Privacy Tips Safari privacy
  • Phone call from Mac tips Phone calls
  • Call from mac tips Call from Contacts
  • See how much signal tips Signal strength
  • Sms from mac Text message from Mac
  • Group Messages Group Messages
  • Hand Off Tips Handoff
  • Air Drop Tips AirDrop
  • Mark up tips Mark Up in Mail
  • Mail Drop Tips Mail Drop in Mail
  • iCloud files tips iCloud Drive
  • 13 iCloud Drive iCloud based back
  • 14 icloud iCloud space
  • Maps Yosemite tips Maps in Yosemite
  • 16 Stoplights Full screen
  • 9updates Automatic updates
  • More stories
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Add widgets to Notification Centre

You can quickly view your calendar, reminders, stock prices, the weather and updates from your social networks in the Today view of Notification Centre on your Mac.

Just click on the three lines in the top right corner of your screen and the Notification Centre will overlay the side of your screen.

To add widgets to the Today view click Edit at the bottom of the Notification Centre window, and click the + to add any widgets you wish.

You can edit those widgets to show the information that’s pertinent to you by clicking on the i, and adding, for example, a town that you want weather forecasts for.

If you want to add to your widget repertoire visit the Mac App Store and search for widgets. There are a few there that you can install, and more are likely to arrive over the next few months.

We downloaded Countdowns (a widget for counting days left to events). It’s a free widget if you only add events less than 30 days in the future. Add an event > open Notification Centre by click on the Notification Centre icon > click Edit > Click + beside the new widget.

Read our Tips for using Notification Centre

We have even more tips for you: read our ultimate Yosemite tips for some advanced tips you won't find anywhere else!

Plus: read our full review of Yosemite

Next »

Next Prev Notification Centre Tips

You can quickly view your calendar, reminders, stock prices, the weather and updates from your social networks in the Today view of Notification Centre on your Mac.

Just click on the three lines in the top right corner of your screen and the Notification Centre will overlay the side of your screen.

To add widgets to the Today view click Edit at the bottom of the Notification Centre window, and click the + to add any widgets you wish.

You can edit those widgets to show the information that’s pertinent to you by clicking on the i, and adding, for example, a town that you want weather forecasts for.

If you want to add to your widget repertoire visit the Mac App Store and search for widgets. There are a few there that you can install, and more are likely to arrive over the next few months.

We downloaded Countdowns (a widget for counting days left to events). It’s a free widget if you only add events less than 30 days in the future. Add an event > open Notification Centre by click on the Notification Centre icon > click Edit > Click + beside the new widget.

Read our Tips for using Notification Centre

We have even more tips for you: read our ultimate Yosemite tips for some advanced tips you won't find anywhere else!

Plus: read our full review of Yosemite

 

Search your Mac and more using Spotlight

Spotlight is a quick and simple way to search the content on your Mac. Either click on the magnifying glass icon in the top right of your screen, or click cmd-space, both will bring up the Spotlight search window in the middle of the screen (it used to live in the right hand corner).

Type in what you want to search for and Spotlight will not only search your Mac, it will also search Wikipedia, offer suggested websites, and perform a search using Bing.

If you want to see more results in a particular category – when we searched it only showed a few documents for example – just click on the result type, e.g. folders, documents, images, and it will populate a Finder window with results that match that criteria.

Alternatively click the web links and you will be taken straight to that website.

You can also make phone calls directly from Spotlight. Search for a friend and their Contact sheet will appear, click the handset icon and you can place a call to them directly from your Mac (more on that below).

You can also email your friend this way: if you hover over their email address you will see an email icon appear, click on that and an email will open.

This is also a quick way to get directions. Search for an address using Spotlight, and you will see a Map option, once selected you will see the map and will have the option to get directions to the location. (Note you need to have Wi-Fi switched on to find your current location).

Finally, you can even perform currency conversions or find out how many inches in 12cm using Spotlight. Just type 12cm into the Spotlight search and it will tell you it is 4.72in.

Note that Spotlight now defaults to Microsoft Bing. Outside of a hack, yet to be discovered, there's no way of changing this.

Read: Tips for using Spotlight in OS X

 

Create shortcuts to your favourite sites in Safari

There are a few new features in Safari that will make getting to your favourite sites quicker than ever.

The first of these is the new Smart Search Field, which appears as a drop down menu when you click in the search/url field. You will see icons of all your favorite websites in this drop down menu.

When you open a new Safari window (cmd-n) or a new Safari tab (cmd-t) you will see either a bigger view of your Favorites, or the Top Sites view. You’ll see tabs on the right of the window, one is a star and the other a group of dots. The star is for Favourites, the dots represents your Top Sites view. There’s not really any need to set up both, we tend to use Favourites rather than Top Sites, especially as that integrates with the search field.

If you open the Favorites view, you can change the order of your favorites by clicking and dragging them around.

Adding a favorite isn’t so obvious. To add a site to your favorites tap cmd-D and choose Add to Favouites. Your Favorites will be available across all your Apple devices as long as you have set Safari to sync via iCloud (on your iPhone that’s Settings > iCloud).

Read How to use Safari on the Mac, Yosemite Safari tips

Plus: The best new Safari 8 features

 

Saving pages, RSS feeds, and social sharing in Safari

One of the new features in OS X Mavericks was the ability to add a webpage to your Safari Reading List. Just hover over the search bar and click on the + sign that appears in the corner. You can reveal the Reading List view by clicking on the icon beside the back and forward arrows, top left. Here you will also find all the stories being shared by your Twitter friends, also a feature of Mavericks. (If you aren’t seeing Tweets, go to System Preferences > Internet Accounts > Twitter and then add your details. Once you have signed in your Twitter account all the shares will appear in the Safari sidebar.)

New in Yosemite’s Safari is the ability to add RSS feeds to this column. To do so, click on Subscriptions at the bottom of the column, and click on Add Feed. You can choose to add feeds from the sites you have added to your Favorites, or  find the RSS feed page of a website, click on the feed link shown, and you should get the option to add it to your Shared Links. You can find Macworld UK’s RSS feeds here.

Finally there is the new Show All Tabs feature in Safari. It’s similar to the iOS equivalent (although with a much larger screen).

Click the Show all Tabs icon (top right) to reveal a preview of all the websites you have open, as well as access to iCloud Tabs on other devices. If you have a lot of tabs open it is very hard to see which is which in the tabs bar because Apple now concertinas them at the sides, so this way of viewing open tabs is certainly more effective.

Read: The best new Safari 8 features

 

Private web browsing in Safari

One last thing to mention with Safari. You can now open a private browsing window. Go to Safari > File > New Private Window (or shift-cmd-n). You can tell if a window is private because the search bar will be grey. Any new tabs you open in this window will be private.

For even more privacy, you can choose to always search with privacy-obsessed DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. Go to Safari > Preferences > Search, and click on the Search Engine. Then select Duck Duck Go from the Search Engine dropdown list. You can choose from Google, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo.  

Read: 10 tweaks for Mac OS X you didn't know are possible

 

Make & take calls from your Mac

You can now place phone calls, and answer calls to your mobile, straight from your Mac.

First of all you need to approve your Mac as a means of answering and making calls. Phone calling requires an iPhone running iOS 8 and an activated carrier plan, it works with any Mac that supports Yosemite. You need to be on the same iCloud account on all the devices.

Start by turning on Bluetooth on your Mac and iPhone. The devices need to be near each other and on the same WiFi network for this to work. (So if you are sharing your WiFi connection from your Mac to your iPhone you won’t be able to take phone calls on it).

Your devices also need to be signed in to FaceTime using the same iCloud account (although it won’t actually use FaceTime to make the call).

Now any device that shares your Apple ID will also get your phone calls (presuming that it is in the vicinity), so you may end up with your iPhone, iPad and Mac all ringing for your attention, which may be a little terrifying.

You will be alerted to an incoming phone call by the ringing and also by a notification on your Mac. That notification allows you to choose to Accept or Decline the call.

See also: How to make phone calls on your Mac

 

Dial or SMS from Contacts

You can also place a call, either from a Spotlight search, via the Contacts app. You may need to add the number to your Contacts app before you can place the call.

In Yosemite the Contacts app becomes a lot more useful because you can use it to initiate phone calls, assuming you have your iPhone logged into the same iCloud account as your Mac and it’s on the same Wi-Fi network. Just click the heading alongside the number you want to dial, and select Call from the menu that appears. The FaceTime app will open on your Mac and attempt to make the call.

You can also select Send Message, which will send an iMessage or standard text message, depending on whether your recipient has an iOS device. (SMS sending requires iOS 8.1 to be installed on your iPhone.)

Incidentally, your missed call history now automatically syncs between your phone and your Mac via iCloud, so you don’t have to fish your phone out of your pocket to see what that missed call was. Instead, just start FaceTime and look at the recent call list for Audio. If you want to remove an entry from the list, just right-click or Ctrl+click it and select the Delete option from the menu that appears.

 

Check the signal strength and battery of your iPhone hotspot

If you can’t get onto a network via your Mac, you’ll be glad to know it’s now even easier to share your connection to your Mac from your iPhone.

On your iPhone go to Cellular > Personal Hotspot and turn it on. You can then find the iPhone and enter the password you will find on your phone.

The big difference in Yosemite is that you should now be able to see how good the signal strength is and the battery status of your iPhone so you know how long you can stay connected. This aspect didn’t work for us when we tried it though, so it may be carrier dependent.  

Read: How to share the connection from your iPhone to your Mac

 

Send text messages to Android phones from your Mac

You’ve been able to send iMessages from your Mac since Apple launched Mavericks in 2013, but now you can also send and receive SMS text messages – which means you can communicate with your ‘friends’ who have Android devices. To send a text message to a friend open Messages, and tap in their mobile number (or search for them – if your friend is in your contacts their number will show up).

You can still send group messages from Messages on your Mac, but now you can add your iPhone-free friends, but note that those messages will not send as a group message; as soon as a non-iOS person is added the group message becomes individual text messages.

Read: How to fix iMessage problems

 

Add friends to group messages, share locations - and leave

You can now add people to a group message at any stage, and then if you have a change of heart, remove them. To do so, click on Details, and begin to type their name in Add Contact… Once they are added you can right click on their name, and choose to remove them from the conversation. If you right click on the other participants you may be able to remove them too (we found this only works some of the time).

If a group message conversation is getting out of hand you can choose to either leave the conversation, or switch on Do Not Disturb. Both options can also be found under Details.

Another new feature is the ability to share your location, and see the location of other friends who have shared their location in Messages.

You can also choose to leave a Message, or just to not be disturbed by further messages from that group.  Click on Do Not Disturb and you will stop seeing alerts, but the conversation will be there for you to reflect on later, or choose Leave This Conversation and it will never darken your doorstep again.

 

Use Handoff and switch work in progress from iPhone to Mac

Handoff is one of the flagship ‘Continuity’ features of Yosemite, and when you can get it to work it’s very useful.

The idea is that you can pick up from where you left of in a number of tasks. Say you are tapping in an email on your iPhone on the way to work? When you get into the office you can hand it off to your Mac, where you can attach a doc or two and send it. Similarly if you are browsing a webpage on your iPhone you can pick up where you left of on your Mac.

You simply need to be logged into iCloud on both devices and on the same WiFi network (which means that if you are sharing your Wi-Fi connection from your Mac, as we do when we are in the office, it won’t work).

Presuming you are on the same network, when you get into the office, with your iPhone in hand as you tap in a draft of your email, your Mac should show a Mail icon to the left of your dock, alerting you to the fact that it is aware of the email you are composing.

You can just click on this icon and Mail will open, showcasing your email in all its glory. Now you can continue writing the email in Mail, and then, when you are ready to send it, you can do so from your Mac. In our experience it was not possible to hand the email back to the iPhone though. Once it’s on the Mac, it’s gone from the iPhone.

The same is true of Safari. You could be browsing a webpage in Safari on your iPhone, and your Mac will show a Safari icon on the left of your Dock, click on this and you can open the same webpage on your Mac.

These features only work on certain Macs, and on the same WiFi network. If it doesn’t work chances are your Mac isn’t supported, although we did have a few issues getting some of Apple’s Continuity features to work even with a supported Mac, as you can see if you read this article: How to get AirDrop to transfer files from iPhone to Mac and back. We find that if it’s not working the best strategy is to turn the iPhone on and off again, the phone and Mac need some time to form the connection too, so if your phone is set to sleep after one minute it may never be connected for long enough.

There are a few other apps that work with Handoff. These include: Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Keynote, Numbers and Pages.

Here is how to get Continuity to work on older Macs and here's how to use Handoff: How to switch between your iPhone, iPad and Mac using Handoff

 

AirDrop files from your iPhone to your Mac and back

Like Handoff, AirDrop can be a little bit flakey. If you read this article: How to get AirDrop to transfer files from iPhone to Mac and back you will see just how frustrating it can be to get AirDrop working.

AirDrop lets you transfer files between devices. It’s been on iPhones and iPads since iOS 7 and has existed on Macs for even longer. But Macs and iOS devices were unable to communicate due to differences in the technology required (the iPhone and iPad use Bluetooth in conjunction with WiFi, while the Mac just used WiFi). That was all supposed to change with Yosemite. Now (presuming you have a supported Mac and iOS device) AirDrop should allow you to share content between two Macs or a Mac and iPhone, or Mac and iPad.

In the case of AirDrop the devices shouldn’t have to be connected to the same network, although in our experience it is much more reliable if they are.

To AirDrop from Mac to iPhone, open a Finder window on your Mac and select AirDrop. You can choose to be seen by Everyone, or only those in your Contacts. You may find it easier to find the other device if you choose Everyone.

Next, swipe up on Control Centre and turn on AirDrop on your iPhone or iPad.

Now you should see the iPhone in the AirDrop window in the Finder on your Mac and the Mac should show up on your iPhone or iPad as a sharing option.

In reality it seems to work better from Mac to iPhone. Our iPhone would generally show up on our Mac but seeing our Mac as an AirDrop in the share options was rare.

If you do see your iPhone in the finder window you can drag and drop whatever you wanted to share onto the icon representing the iPhone. You should see an alert on our phone to let you know that an image is incoming

To AirDrop from an iPhone to a Mac isn’t quite so straightforward currently. On your iPhone swipe up on Control Centre and make sure AirDrop is turned on. If you are planning to share a photo, go to that image and click on the share icon (a square with an arrow coming out of it). Now wait for your Mac to show up in the AirDrop row. tap on it and cross your fingers. Ours failed a couple of times before finally sending the image through. It landed in our downloaded items folder.

 

Notate PDFs and draw on images in Mail

There are some new features in Mail on the Mac that arrived with Yosemite. These include the ability to “Mark Up” (in other words, draw on) an attachment in an email, including being able to attach your own signature, and a way of sending big attachments without having to use DropBox or similar.

Mark Up might turn out to be useful, although we haven't really found a practical use for it yet. Like the Continuity features, we found it a bit tricky to get up and running,

Mark Up should enable you to receive a PDF in an email, click reply and then edit the PDF before clicking send. For this to work you need to make sure that Include Attachments from Original Message is selected before you click reply (if reply doesn’t work try clicking forward). Once you have selected reply you should see an icon appear in the top-left of the preview of the PDF or Jpeg you have been sent. If you click this icon and select Markup the item should zoom out into a separate window, and a toolbar will appear above it.

This tool bar includes various functions from lines, arrows and shapes, and a signature tool that lets you use the trackpad on your laptop to create a signature. If you are trackpad free you can sign your name on a white piece of paper and hold it up to the camera. Once the camera has captured the signature the way you want it, click Done.

Read our Mac email tips, using Mail in Yosemite

 

Send big files in Yosemite Mail

Mail Drop means you will never need to use DropBox or MailBigFile again when you need to send large attachments to friends and colleagues. If you have an attachment that is bigger than 5MB when you click send it will be uploaded to iCloud and when your friend clicks on it at the other end it will be downloaded again. The best bit is that, if you are both running Yosemite, nobody will even notice - it will just look like the attachment arrived with the email, but if your friend is at work she won’t have the IT department breathing down her neck.

If your friend doesn’t have Yosemite, or they are on a PC (the horror) then they will get a link to download the file, just as they would if you had used DropBox or similar, except that you didn’t need to do anything other than click send.

 

Always have access to your files in iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is what iCloud should have been all along (actually, it’s what .Mac and MobileMe should have been, but we can’t have everything). If like us you often email files to yourself to work on at home, or copy them onto a memory stick, or share them to DropBox, iCloud Drive will make everything a whole lot easier.

Now when you open a Finder window you will see your new iCloud Drive in the column on the left. Click on this and you will see folders of documents associated with the Apple apps that already had cloud support (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, for example). But you don’t have to keep files in these folders. Now you can create folders exactly the way you want them and keep your files in the cloud. 

One benefit of storing your files on iCloud Drive is that you can access them wherever you are, even if you don’t have your Mac, iPhone or iPad. All you need is a web connection and you can go to iCloud Drive and view them there.

The only thing you can’t do is send friends a link to an iCloud Drive folder for them to access content from. Perhaps this will change in time as it would be a useful collaboration feature.

When you are saving a file to iCloud Drive on your Mac you can choose where to save it in exactly the same way as you would if you were saving to your hard drive. Just choose iCloud Drive as the destination. When you switch to your iPhone or iPad and open up the app that relates to the one you were using on your Mac you will see the file - even if you haven’t saved it in the folder associated with that app.

There is slightly more flexibility with iCloud Drive on the Mac than there is on the iPad and iPhone, but it’s a very useful new feature.

Read: Everything you need to know about Apple's iCloud Drive

 

Keep a cloud based back up of your files

You could actually keep all your documents in the cloud rather than on your Mac, able to access your files at any time, on any device. Then if your hard drive failed on your Mac you wouldn't lose your files because they would be in the cloud.

Prices aren’t completely exorbitant; 20GB is 79p per month; 200GB, £2.99 per month; 500GB, £6.99 per month; and 1TB, £14.99 per month. That last figure is £179.88 for the year, which may be a lot more than the cost of a 1TB hard drive, but isn’t a horrific amount. Another reason to consider paying for cloud storage is that it can act as an off site back up should anything happen to your Mac, or your office. As you can see from this article: you ought to have a back up plan because hard drives and flash drives do fail

 

See how much iCloud space you have

In Yosemite a detailed view of the free space available in your iCloud account can now be viewed by clicking the iCloud option in System Preferences, and looking at the bottom of the window. Hover the mouse cursor over each block in the bar graph to see a tooltip showing what that block represents.

 

View traffic in Maps

There is a new Show icon in Mac OS X Yosemite’s Maps. You will see the icon in the bottom left and it enables you to quickly view Traffic and 3D Maps.

While you can view these in the Mavericks version of Apple Maps the new button makes it much easier to switch between different views and access traffic reports in Maps.

 

Minimize & Full screen

Apple has changed the way the "Stoplight" icons work in Yosemite. These are the red, yellow and green buttons in the top-left of all windows.

The green Resize button is now a full-screen button by default. Clicking the green blob at the top left of windows in Yosemite switches them to full-screen mode. What if this is not what you want? If you long for the old behaviour – of windows sliding to a larger size to make their contents more visible – then hold down Option (Alt on some keyboards) when clicking the button.

Alternatively, double-click the titlebar/grey bar at the top of the window (assuming you haven't got the Double-Click to Minimise option set within the Dock panel of System Preferences). With Safari you'll need to double-click the spaces between the icons and URL field. Note that this doesn’t work with a minority of apps, including Microsoft Office.            

 

Automatically update OS X

Previously OS X Mavericks allowed you to automatically download major point releases of OS X (i.e. OS X 10.10.1) but not install them without first manually authorising it. Security updates could be installed in the background without your knowledge, however.

In OS X Yosemite automatic installation of all updates is now possible, including third-party apps.

Open System Preferences, click the App Store button, and put a check alongside Install OS X Updates.

Incidentally, if you ever want to view how many updates are pending, just click the Apple menu at the top left of the desktop, where the number will be listed alongside the App Store entry on the menu (if there’s no updates then no number will be shown).

This last tip is from Keir Thomas's excellent round up of Yosemite tips - you can read that here: Advanced Yosemite Tips

Read our review of OS X Server (Yosemite).

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