How to use the Mac

You have reached a very important milestone and, as a reward for your hard work, you have received a new Mac as a gift . You were immediately fascinated by the physical appearance of the computer and did not hesitate for a moment to turn it on … but, after carrying out the initial wizard, here comes the bitter surprise: the interface and the functions of the operating system are completely different from the ones you are used to! Without losing heart and intending not to give up immediately, you searched the Internet for a guide that could explain you how to use the Mac , or at least give you some clarification regarding the most important features of macOS, and you ended up on this tutorial of mine.

If this is the case, I am happy to let you know that you are in the guide that best suits your case! Below, in a simple but effective way, I will list some of the peculiarities of macOS and, later, I will take care to illustrate some of the operations to be performed in order to make the most of your new operating system. Don’t worry if you don’t feel up to it: everything is much easier to do than to say!

So, do not hesitate any longer and take a few minutes of free time to dedicate to reading this guide, at the end of which, I guarantee you, you will have learned the main dynamics regarding the functioning of macOS. Seeing is believing!


  1. Features of macOS
    1. Apple ecosystem
    2. Program installation
    3. Viruses and Malware
  2. How to use your Mac better
    1. Associate an Apple ID
    2. Set up backup
    3. Use cross-platform programs
    4. Use keyboard shortcuts

Features of macOS

If this is the first time you are getting ready to use the Mac , especially if you come from Windows, I feel it is almost obligatory to immediately illustrate some of the main distinctive features of the Apple desktop operating system.

Apple ecosystem

Over the years, Apple has managed to create a real ecosystem of connected devices and services, united by a common thread: the Apple ID . This type of account, in fact, allows you to synchronize numerous data (including passwords, browser history and favorites, system settings and so on) not only between multiple Macs, but also with iPhones, iPads and other devices produced by the Cupertino giant. .

In particular, thanks to the services of the iCloud platform it is possible to synchronize data and settings via the Internet (with 5GB of free space), store photos and videos ( iCloud Photos ), access a vast catalog of streaming music that can be integrated with your favorite songs ( Apple Music with iCloud Library) and much more.

To make everything more “seamless”, ie without interruptions, are the systems called Continuity and Handoff , thanks to which it is possible to copy and paste texts, photos and videos between multiple Macs, between Mac and iPhone / iPad and vice versa, start a activity on an Apple device and quickly resume it on another ( Handoff function ), make and receive calls or send and receive SMS directly from your computer, if you have an iPhone and much more, all provided that the devices are paired with the same ID Apple.

To get a concrete idea of ​​Continuity and the use of the Apple ecosystem between Mac and iPhone, I suggest you read this guide , full of detailed information about it.

In other words, if you are about to work with a Mac you own, you should create and associate an Apple ID with your user account without any hesitation, as it could come in really handy – I’ll talk about that later.

Program installation

Another very important mechanism to know before even approaching a Mac is that relating to the installation of programs , which, on macOS, are more commonly known as “applications”.

In general, it is possible to follow two paths: the safest and simplest one is to download the applications directly from the App Store , ie from the “market” integrated into the operating system; the Apple store contains both free and paid applications and must be used with your Apple ID. By doing so, the risk of running into harmful software or not useful for the purpose for which they are designed is almost completely eliminated, as the App Store policies are extremely restrictive in terms of security and consistency.

To download an application from the App Store, after associating your account with an Apple ID, simply search for the software of your interest, click on its icon and then press the Get button : in some cases, you may need to enter the password Apple ID, or complete identity verification with Touch ID.

The second method, on the other hand, consists in downloading the installation files for the various software from the Internet: the procedure to follow to set up the applications varies according to the type of file downloaded. Here are the most common ones.

  1. .Dmg files: theseare packages that contain the entire application. After downloading and opening a file of this type, it is almost always possible to install the program by dragging its icon into the Applications folder of the Mac, through the window that opens on the screen. In some cases, .dmg files also contain informational text files, or a file that allows you to automatically uninstall the application.
  2. .App file type:these are the executable files of the applications, generally contained in .dmg packages or in .zip archives. Sometimes, these files may be individually downloadable. You can open an executable from any location on your Mac, as it contains everything you need to run the program in question, but it is always advisable to copy it first to the Applications folder to avoid errors or unexpected operations.
  3. .Pkg type files: theseare files that can be downloaded individually, or are themselves contained in .dmg files. Once executed, they propose a guided installation procedure that allows you to finalize the setup of the program; generally, it all boils down to pressing the Continue button a few consecutive times and entering the Mac password , to finalize everything.

Since the macOS system policies are designed to protect the user’s safety, in some cases, during the installation of a software, the “manual” granting of particular permissions by the operating system may be required; in these cases, a button called Open System Preferences usually appears , accompanied by instructions to proceed with unlocking the necessary permissions.

To uninstall an application downloaded from the App Store, you need to open the macOS Launchpad (by clicking on the grid- shaped icon located in the Dock bar), press and hold the mouse on the icon of the application to be deleted, press the button ( X) that appears on it and answer affirmatively to the next message.

To delete a program installed from the Internet, however, it is usually sufficient to move its icon from the Mac Applications folder to the trash . For further information on how to install and how to uninstall a program on Mac , you can take a look at the thematic tutorials on my site.

Viruses and Malware

Another aspect strictly connected to Apple’s security policies certainly concerns the spread of viruses and malware capable of damaging the Mac, altering / making data unreadable or, worse still, putting the security of personal information at risk.

The macOS operating system, by default, leaves the user very little room for action, especially on the delicate parts of the computer; for this reason, it is necessary to carry out often complex procedures to provide this or that authorization or to unlock one of the “advanced” features of the system.

Consequently, it is extremely rare that the applications installed or run on macOS can independently perform harmful or harmful operations without the user noticing it.

Therefore, unless you deliberately circumvent or disable the default macOS security settings, the risk of contracting computer infections is very, very low, becoming almost nil if you limit yourself to running only applications downloaded from the App Store.

To learn more about malware on macOS, I refer you to reading my guide on how to clean your Mac from viruses , in which I have given you all the explanations of the case.

How to use your Mac better

Apple has designed the macOS operating system based on the concept of simplicity and immediacy: thanks to the Dock bar , located at the bottom, it is possible to access the applications used most often , while the Mac menu bar , which changes depending on the open program, allows to quickly access the most important functions of the latter.

When there are no applications in the foreground, the menu bar can be used to log out and shut down the Mac (by clicking on the bitten apple symbol ), to quickly access computer locations ( Go menu ) and to perform various other operations on files, folders and settings of Finder, the default file manager of macOS, as well as the first application that opens at startup.

Now, after giving you some notions about the Apple ecosystem, application management and the presence of viruses and malware, I think it’s time to show you some operations to perform on the Apple desktop operating system installed, extremely useful to make the most of it. .

Associate an Apple ID

As I mentioned earlier, associating an Apple ID to your user account on Mac is a fundamental step, in order to fully enjoy all the features available on macOS: for example, the Apple ID allows you to store and share your images. across multiple devices, thanks to the iCloud photo platform .

In addition, you can also store passwords (iCloud keychain), operating system settings, default applications and browsers in your account, take advantage of the Handoff system , store Apple application data in the cloud (e.g. Pages , Numbers, Keynote and some other third-party apps), manage the Usage Time of your devices and much, recover the Mac password if it is forgotten and much more.

Generally, the procedure for setting up the Apple ID is proposed when you log in to your account on the Mac for the first time, through the Log in with Apple ID window : if you have already created an account of this type before, enter it the email in the appropriate, click on the Continue button , repeat the same operation with the password and follow the instructions that are proposed to you, to define the settings on privacy and data sharing.

If you do not yet have an Apple ID, click instead on the Create new Apple ID link , specify your date of birth using the appropriate drop-down menus and, after pressing the Continue button , provide the data requested ( name , surname , email and password ) and complete the account creation by specifying a phone number to use for password reset and two-factor verification. More info here .

If you have ignored the Apple ID setting, you can also do so at a later time, directly from within your account: after turning on the Mac and logging into your user account, open System Preferences by clicking on gear-shaped icon located on the Dock bar (or by clicking on the Apple menu at the top left and selecting the System Preferences item , from within it) and click on the Login button , located in the upper right corner of the screen that appears.

Once this is done, enter your Apple ID in the appropriate field, enter Enter and repeat the same operation also with the password ; if applicable, complete the two-factor authentication by typing the numeric code that, in the meantime, should have been sent to you via SMS (or in the form of a notification, on another device associated with the same Apple ID).

Now, enter your Mac password in the appropriate field, click on the OK button and wait a few seconds for the account information to be retrieved. When prompted, click on the Allow button to authorize Find My Mac to locate your computer in case of theft and that’s it!

Once logged in, you will be able to check your Apple ID settings, check synchronized applications, manage free space and all aspects of your account by opening System Preferences and clicking on the Apple ID button , located at the top right.

To learn more about setting up the Apple ID, I refer you to reading the specific tutorial I have dedicated to the topic.

Set up backup

One of the most functional tools included “standard” in macOS is definitely Time Machine : in fact, it is a utility that allows you to back up all the data on your Mac in a few clicks. Individual files archived via Time Machine can be restored on the fly, thanks to a real virtual “time machine”.

In addition, Time Machine backups can be used to completely restore the Mac, which is quite interesting to stem any data loss in the event of a disk failure.

In order to work, Time Machine requires an external hard drive large enough to store data, which can be connected via USB (but also Thunderbolt, for older Mac models) or via local network.

Once the disk is connected to the computer and the first Time Machine configuration has been made, a complete copy of all the data on the Mac is immediately created (an operation that can take several hours); next times, the backup system automatically checks all created, modified and deleted files, changes to the operating system and programs and updates the previous save as soon as the disk is connected to the computer again.

If the backup device is always connected, Time Machine will update the files every hour, taking care to delete, in case of insufficient space, the oldest backups. For further information, I refer you to reading my tutorial dedicated, specifically, to the functioning of Time Machine .

Use cross-platform programs

If you come from an operating system other than macOS and it is your first time with an Apple-branded computer, you will certainly be able to appreciate the software fleet present from the first installation of the operating system. Programs that can be used include the Safari browser , TextEdit and Pages document editors , Music media player , Preview document viewer , QuickTime Player video player, and much more. Furthermore, thanks to services such as Setapp it is possible to pay only one monthly subscription to have access to many applications (also for iOS / iPadOS) without having to pay the relative license:more information here .

However, to mitigate the transition between two different operating systems (such as Windows and macOS, for example), you can use some programs available for both platforms, including: Google Chrome , Edge and Mozilla Firefox browsers ; the LibreOffice office suite or the Microsoft Office package for Mac ; or the VLC media player , just to give you some examples.

By doing so, you will minimize any incompatibilities between the files shared between the two computers; in the case of browsers, using the same user profile on all operating systems, you can have your favorites, history, passwords and other navigation settings always with you, thanks to the cloud, thus eliminating the need to copy everything by hand.

Use keyboard shortcuts

When you used to use Windows, did you rely on keyboard shortcuts to speed up your work and, now that you use a Mac, have you noticed that the keys do not coincide? Well, don’t worry, it’s all normal and it’s just a matter of habit.

The “special” keys of the Mac, in fact, are a little different from those that can be used on Windows: for example, the task of the Ctrl key of the Microsoft operating system is delegated, on Mac, to the cmd  key (also called command or command ) For example, the keyboard shortcuts for cutting, copying and pasting become cmd + x , cmd + c and cmd + v respectively .

The Mac alt  key , also called option or option , is used both to type some special characters with the keyboard and to perform predefined quick operations (together with the cmd key ); the latter function is also assigned to the ctrl  , or control key .

Otherwise, the special shift , CAPS LOCK and fn keys have exactly the same function as on Windows computers. For more specific information about the keyboard shortcuts available on Mac, I refer you to the official guide on the Apple website.

Also, if you are “coming” from a Windows-animated PC and are in the process of upgrading to an Apple-branded computer, I recommend that you take a look at my tutorial on how to switch from Windows to Mac , in which I have given you some ” tips ”- theoretical and practical – useful for dealing with the transition from one operating system to another.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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