Got a new M1 Mac this holiday season? If this is the first Mac
you've ever owned, a hearty congratulations! Your new Mac is easy
to use and more powerful than it's ever been. As easy as the Mac
is, doing some things may not be instantly obvious, and you owe it
to yourself to make sure you're getting the most out of your new
Here are 10 things that you can do right away that will help you
get started down the path towards being a Mac power user. Most of
these will cost you absolutely nothing except a bit of time to set
1. Set up your Apple ID
There's a good chance that if you're buying a Mac for the first
time, you already use an iPhone or an iPad. Just like those other
devices, your Mac wants your Apple ID and Apple ID password. You
connect iCloud on your Mac when you first set it up, or through the
Apple ID system preference afterward.
By connecting iCloud on all your devices, you can share photos,
contacts, calendars, and much more, without ever having to
physically tether or sync your devices. And if you haven't created
an Apple ID, here's your chance. Think of your Apple ID as your
keys to the kingdom.
2. Back up early and often
Time Machine is foolproof backup software made by Apple, baked
right into the Mac. You're crazy not to use it. Time Machine makes
recovering from big problems easy because it keeps a snapshot of
your Mac and makes it a breeze to migrate to a new Mac when the
time comes to replace or upgrade your system.
If you're worried that you're going to break your Mac or delete
important files, Time Machine should make you feel much more
comfortable. The time in Time Machine is a timeline that you can
review, restoring files or changes to files that were made at the
points where Time Machine saved its backups.
Time Machine works with external hard drives. To get it to work,
flip the switch in System Preference, tell it where to start
backing up, and let it do its thing. Time Machine backs up your Mac
hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly, so you'll always be able to
recover. As long as that drive is connected or that Time Capsule is
on the network, your Mac will be backed up.
If you've ever wondered why the Mac doesn't come with a thick
owner's manual explaining how it works and how all the apps work,
wonder no more: That manual is actually built right into
the computer. The Help menu is so obvious that most of us overlook
it altogether. But we do so at our peril because it can be a huge
help. The Help menu sits right there in the menu bar, and it's
contextual: Its contents will change depending on which
app is open.
Clicking on the Help menu will bring up a search field, table of
contents, lists of shortcuts, and other helpful tips and
step-by-step instructions, often with visual cues to show you which
menus to click on and what menu items to select. Any time you get
stuck in an app and don't know what to do next, click on the Help
menu to get you out of your jam.
The menu is in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.
Clicking on it gives you instant access to your Mac's system
preferences, the Mac App Store, and apps and documents you've
recently opened. You can also use the menu to restart your Mac
and shut it down.
If an app misbehaves and stops working, the menu also sports a
special function that's worth knowing: Force Quit. Force quit will
immediately quit a stubborn application, so you can restart your
computer and get back to business.
5. Visit the Mac App Store
Apple set up the Mac App Store as a convenient and safe way to
download software for your Mac, all using the same Apple ID and
password you use for Music and iPhones apps. There are thousands of
apps available, including many that won't cost you a dime.
The Mac App Store is much more important than just as a way to
download great new apps for your Mac. It's also how Apple
distributes essential app updates. To keep your Mac running in
tip-top shape and to keep everything as secure as possible,
download updates when you see notifications from the Mac App Store
or set apps to automatically update like on your iPhone.
On the M1 Macs, you can even install iPhone and iPad apps. When
you're searching, just click over to the iPhone iPad Apps tab
to download iOS apps right on your desktop.
6. Set up your email
Are you still accessing your email using a web browser, going to
Gmail or Microsoft's website to see what new messages you have?
There's a better way: Apple gives you a Mail app that can connect
to almost every email service. Using the Mail app is a lot more
convenient especially if you check multiple email accounts, and
it's well integrated with macOS's other core applications, such as
Contacts, Calendars, and Maps.
7. Find your printer
We don't like to admit it, but printers are still a thing most
of us have in our houses. In the past, you had to download and
install drivers and software, but the Mac makes it a way easier to
All you need to do is to connect your printer to one of your
Mac's USB-C ports or connect to a Wi-Fi network. Open System
Preferences, click on Printers Scanners and then
click the + button. If your Mac recognizes the device (and
it should), it'll configure it as needed and download any
applicable drivers from the Apple's servers.
8. Get to know Spotlight
Built right into macOS, Spotlight helps you quickly find things
on your computer: documents, apps, images, contacts, maps, and
files. What's more, it can connect to the internet to search places
like Wikipedia, news sites, movie listings, and much more. You can
even use Spotlight to do calculations, like converting feet to
meters or any sort of simple arithmetic you'd rather trust to the
Spotlight lives on your Mac's menu bar; it's the icon that looks
like a magnifying glass. Clicking on it brings up the Spotlight
search field, and typing anything into the search field will cause
Spotlight to start working. Or you can hold down the command key on
your keyboard and press the space bar, and Spotlight will
Once you get the hang of it, using Spotlight is the fastest way
to launch apps, find documents, and do tons of other stuff really
9. Customize the Dock
The Dock is that bar of icons that sits at the bottom of the
Mac's screen. Docks on new Macs will be filled with Apple's own
built-in apps, like Safari, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Notes,
but you can customize it to your liking.
You can tailor your Dock to show you only the apps you care
about. Don't use Maps or FaceTime? Drag them out of the Dock until
the word Remove appears to neaten it up a bit. Use Mail more than
anything else? Move it over to the left instead. You can also add
applications, folders, and files you need frequently simply by
dragging them and dropping them into the Dock.
You can also change the size, remove the Open indicators, turn
off the bouncing animation, and much more. Your Dock is the most
important part of your Desktop, so spend some time getting it just
the way you want.
Open System Preferences and click on the Dock icon to change
other settings. You can resize the icons that appear in the dock,
change the magnification of icons as you pass your cursor over
them, and reposition the Dock to the left, bottom or right edges of
your screen depending on what you like.
10. Learn keyboard
Apple's user interface is set up with straightforward menus such
as File and Edit, and most apps expose their major features through
those menus as well. Need to print something? Just click on the
File menu and select Print.
But you can save yourself so much time by using
keyboard shortcuts to do commonly used tasks instead. Instead of
clicking on the File menu and selecting Print, for example, you can
just hold down the Command key and press P.
Each app on the Mac has its own shortcuts. Opening Mac Help and
searching for keyboard shortcuts will yield some references,
There are a lot of common keyboard shortcuts—to learn some of
the most powerful keyboard shortcuts on your Mac, check out this great primer as well as our guide to more advanced macOS tips.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted in 2015.
It has been updated for the latest Mac operating system.