Part of:

4 Super Useful Mac OS X Features You Should Be Using

Why Trust Techopedia

Computers are designed to make our lives easier, so why not milk that productivity for all it's worth and investigate some of these time-saving tricks for your Mac?

Hello, Mac lovers. Are you ready to unleash your Mountain Lion? Chances are there are more than a few time-saving tools you aren’t using yet. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss out on. (If you like Apple, you’ll like this: Creating the iWorld: A History of Apple.)

Text to Speech

Imagine how quickly you could reply to emails if you could talk instead of type. Well you can. Just click the Apple menu in the top left corner, and select System Preferences. Choose the Dictation & Speech icon. Use the Dictation tab to turn it on and set a shortcut to launch (such as "Press Left Command Key Twice"). Once you’ve done this, you can speak continuously for up to 30 seconds – That’s a lot of text!

Business people and major multitaskers should explore the Text to Speech tab. Activate "Speak selected text when the key is pressed," and choose a key to launch (the default is Option + Esc). Now you can have that accounting report or lengthy email from your colleague read to you while you weed through the files on your desk. You can even choose the system voice you prefer, have alerts or application notifications announced and have the clock announce when it’s time to break out of your Facebook stupor and get back to work.

Add Speed Reading to Your List

Have you ever wished wished for a summary of a lengthy document you’re trying to read online? It’s actually pretty easy to do. Here’s how: Launch an application, such as Safari or Pages, and click on the application name in the upper left Finder bar. Choose Services, then Services Preferences to see a list of options you can activate to appear in your default Services menu.

Capture Full Screen lets you easily obtain an image of whatever’s on your screen, or activate Capture Screen using Timer to get images of what’s on your screen at certain times or intervals. Check the box next to Summarize, and the next time you want to speed read a lengthy document, select the text, click on the name of the application you’re using to view the material (such as Safari), choose Services and then Summarize. You’ll be presented with an abbreviated version that you can pare down further using the Summary Size scroll to increase or decrease the length of summarized text.

Customize Text "Hotkeys"

Hotkeys are nothing new, but it’s surprising how many people still aren’t using them. They’re a huge time saver! If you find yourself typing the same things repetitively (such as your email address), create a hotkey to make the text appear automatically when you type associated text or symbols. From the System Preferences menu, choose the Language & Text icon, and select the Text tab. The list of default symbol and text substitutions is shown so you can choose which you’d like to activate. To add your own, you also can click the + in the lower left corner of the pane.


Note: Third-party applications like Microsoft Word may not support your custom hotkeys.

Encrypt a Flash or External Hard Drive

Encrypting data you’ve transferred to a flash drive or external hard drive is a good way to keep it from falling into the wrong hands, should your portable device be lost or stolen. Connect the device you wish to encrypt, find the icon created for it on your desktop and right-click on the icon. A dialog box will appear with an option for Encrypt "<device name>." Once selected, a dialog box will appear prompting you to select a password and password hint.

Just remember that this takes time – Expect 5 GB to take 30 minutes or more, depending on your system’s capabilities. This feature also requires the device to have a GUID Partition Table, so you may have to format the drive before you transfer data and encrypt.

Computers are designed to make our lives easier, so why not milk that productivity for all it’s worth and investigate some of these time-saving tricks for your Mac?


Related Reading

Andrea Eldridge

Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service for consumers and businesses. Eldridge writes two weekly columns, "Nerd Chick Adventures" in Redding, California's The Record Searchlight, and "Computer Nerds On Call", a nationally syndicated column for the Scripps-Howard News Service. She regularly appears on ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS on shows such as "Good Day Sacramento", "Good Morning Arizona" and "MORE Good Day Portland", offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle and gadgets. Eldridge also works with Demand Media to produce content for and has written a book, "Smartphone101:…