Macs For Dummies book cover

Macs For Dummies

By: Edward C. Baig Published: 05-31-2016

Take a bite out of all your Mac has to offer with this bestselling guide

So, you joined the cool kids club and bought a Mac. Kudos! Now, do you dare admit to your sophisticated Mac mates that you still need some help figuring out how it works? No worries, Macs For Dummies is here to help! In full color for the first time ever, the latest edition of this long-running bestseller takes the guesswork out of working with your new Mac, providing easy-to-follow, plain-English answers to every possible question in the book!

Whether you're trying to figure out the basics of getting around the OS X interface, learning the ins and outs of turning your Mac into a sleek productivity tool, or anything in between, Mac For Dummies makes it fast and easy to navigate your way around your new Apple computer. You'll get the know-how to rocket into cyberspace, browse the Web, send messages, back up files to the Cloud, deal with security issues, get productive with leading Mac apps, and have fun with one-stop shopping for music, movies, and media.

  • Navigate OS X El Capitan with confidence and ease
  • Use your Mac to power your audio and video systems
  • Add your Mac to your home network
  • Troubleshoot common problems when your Mac starts misbehaving

Fully updated to cover the latest hardware and software releases, Macs For Dummies offers everything you need to get your geek on—and make your Mac your minion.

Articles From Macs For Dummies

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30 results
30 results
What to Do When Your Mac Freezes

Article / Updated 10-29-2021

You know that frustrating, annoying, sometimes panicked feeling you get when your Mac isn’t doing what you expect? If an application freezes or your computer is generally misbehaving, try these tips to escape with minimal disruption. Use Force Quit when an application is unresponsive. Choose Force Quit from the Apple menu or press Command+Option+Esc keys. Click the name of the deviant application (it probably has not responding next to its name). You typically won’t have to reboot. Restart. If Force Quit doesn’t bail you out, try rebooting the computer. If a frozen Mac prevents you from clicking the Restart command on the Apple menu, hold down the power button for several seconds or press the Control+Command keys and then press the power button. If all else fails, pull the plug, but remember that powering down without logging out should be used only as a last resort. Restart in Safe Mode. Press the power button to turn on your computer, and then press and hold the Shift key the instant you hear the welcome chime. Release Shift when the Apple logo appears. You will see a status bar as the computer boots, after which the words Safe Boot appear in red in the upper right corner of OS X’s login screen. In Safe mode, the Mac unleashes a series of troubleshooting steps designed to return the computer to good health. If Safe Boot resolved the issue, restart the Mac normally the next time.

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Macs For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 09-10-2021

Macs and Windows computers have unique operating systems. They see things differently, and most Mac users would argue that Macs do things better. Macs come equipped with helpful keyboard shortcuts and a short list of procedures to follow if your Mac freezes.

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How to Use the Handoff Feature on Your Mac

Article / Updated 04-14-2017

Sometimes the person you want to share something with is yourself, as in when you start something on one device (be it a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, or even an Apple Watch) and want to resume on another device. The Handoff feature enables you to do just that, as long as every device is on iCloud, signed in with an identical Apple ID, and on the same Wi-Fi network. Handoff works across numerous apps — Apple’s own Calendars, Contacts, Keynote, Maps, Mail, Messages, Notes, Numbers, Pages, Reminders, and Safari apps — as well as some third-party apps. On your Mac, start by making sure that the feature is enabled. Go to System Preferences → General and make sure the Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices box is selected. Then when you come to the Mac on which you’re resuming work, note the icon at the left end of the dock (assuming that the dock is in its default place). Click that icon and you’re good to go. And if you started work on the Mac and now want to resume on an iOS device, you’ll see the Handoff icon on the Lock screen of that device. Swipe up or double-click the Home button to get going, and from the multitasking screen swipe right until you see the Handoff icon. On the bottom of the iOS device, tap the Handoff strip that appears with a message informing you which app and computer you were previously working on, such as Notes from Edward’s MacBook Air.

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How to Use Speech Recognition in El Capitan

Article / Updated 08-26-2016

Are you the bossy type who likes to bark orders? Lucky for you, your Mac doesn’t mind taking orders. For people who are physically unable to type or handle a mouse, speech recognition and dictation (spoken commands) may be the only way to get things done on a computer. First, choose →System Preferences  →Dictation & Speech, and then click the Dictation option to turn the capability on or off. Note your options here. You can choose a different language (other than English), select an Enhanced Dictation feature that lets you dictate without an Internet connection, and perform tasks on your Mac (you’ll need to devote some free space on your storage drive). And you can choose a shortcut to start or stop dictation: pressing the Fn (function key) twice does this by the default. You’ll know that you can dictate text or bark commands when you see a small microphone in a rectangle. You can also choose a word or phrase to enable Dictation. In System Preferences, go to Accessibility →Dictation and select the Enable the Dictation Keyword Phrase option. Then type the word or phrase you’d like to use for that purpose, unless you want to stick with Computer, the default word Apple chose on your behalf. To check out a list of the commands your computer can understand, click the Dictation Commands button. The list includes such commands as Select Paragraph, Capitalize That, and Redo That. Select Enable Advanced Commands for more listings, including commands in apps (Switch to application name). The Mac can also read aloud descriptions of items on the screen, useful for people who have poor eyesight or are blind. Back in Dictation & Speech preferences, select the Text to Speech tab. You can choose a male or female speaking voice and drag a slider to determine the rate at which that voice speaks. In Accessibility preferences, you can turn on or off the VoiceOver feature and receive VoiceOver training. While you’re here, Mac owners who have a disability of any sort should explore the many Accessibility options available. These tools may help people with poor eyesight or hearing loss, as well as those with physical motor difficulties, using controls for your keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and special switches.

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How to Get Transit Directions on Your Mac

Article / Updated 08-26-2016

You can get transit directions on your Mac. The Maps app is useful, of course, for helping you determine where you are, what is around you, and how to get to the next place, even accounting for traffic. But you’re not always going to want to (or be able to) drive to that next destination, even if it is too far from your current location to walk. Apple’s solution, at least for select cities, is public transit directions. Maps can display bus, subway, rail, and even ferry routes, along with schedules based on when you want to leave. To get going, make sure the Transit tab is highlighted (as opposed to the Map or Satellite tab), click Transit in the Directions sidebar, and choose your starting and ending points. Next, from the drop-down menu, indicate when you want to leave (soon, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 2 hours, or a custom time). Click a step in the itinerary you’ve chosen from the options presented (assuming you have more than one choice) to have Maps zoom in on that area. That itinerary will also direct you to the appropriate exit if, say, the subway station where you’re getting off has more than one. Place cards for certain stations will also show you the other transit lines you can pick up at that station as well as their schedules. If your route has service changes or disruptions, you’ll receive indications of them as well. What’s more, because it is typically impractical to schlep the Mac with you (especially a desktop), you can send the directions to an iPhone or Apple Watch. You can print directions otherwise.

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How to Take a Screen Capture (Stills and Video) on Your Mac

Article / Updated 08-26-2016

Unless you’re planning to write a book, you’re probably wondering why the heck you’d ever want to take a picture of your Mac’s computer screen. Consider a few possibilities. Maybe you want to take a picture of the screen for a presentation at work. Or perhaps you want to show precisely what a funky error looks like to the person who just might help you correct the problem. Whatever your motivation, if you want to grab a picture of the Mac screen (or any of its windows), it may be time to open the Grab utility. Choose Applications → Utilities, and click Grab. Through Grab’s Capture menu, you can take a picture of a full screen, window, or menu, as follows: Select Window (or press Shift+⌘+W), click Choose Window, and then click the window to grab its picture. Select Screen (or press ⌘+Z). Then, to capture the full screen, click anywhere outside the window that appears. Choose Capture → Timed Screen (or press Shift+⌘+Z) and then click Start Timer in the window that appears. Grab captures the full screen 10 seconds later. This time delay gives you a chance to prepare the screen to your liking (perhaps by activating a menu) before the image is captured. Select Selection (or Shift+⌘+A). Then use the mouse to drag over the portion of the screen you want to grab. Still other universal system shortcuts follow. These shortcuts don’t require you to open the Grab utility. Press ⌘+Shift+3 to take a picture of the whole screen. Press ⌘+Shift+4 and drag the mouse to select the part of the screen you want to grab. Press ⌘+Shift+4, press the spacebar, move the pointer to highlight the area you want in the picture, and then click. This shortcut is useful for taking a picture of, say, the menu bar. If you press the spacebar again, you can select the area by dragging the mouse instead. Press Escape to cancel. Screen shots captured in this matter are saved as files on the desktop. If you’d rather paste the captured image into a document, press the Control key when you press the other keyboard combinations, which places the picture on the Clipboard. From there, you can paste the image into your chosen document. Through QuickTime Player, you can record everything that appears on the computer screen, backed up, if you want, by your narration. With QuickTime open, choose File  → New Screen Recording. If you want to be heard while the person watching the video sees the goings-on of the screen, click the arrow button and select an audio input from the pop-up menu. You can also decide whether to show mouse clicks in your recording.

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How to Make or Receive a Call on Your Mac

Article / Updated 08-26-2016

iPhone owners with Macs can make or receive a call from or on the computer. And your Mac, with its bigger speakers, can substitute as a fine speakerphone. Incoming calls appear as notifications. This does not refer to FaceTime calls, but rather regular calls made over cellular to ordinary phone numbers. Ringtones come through the Mac the same as they do on the phone. The same is true for call waiting calls, which you can accept or reject on the fly. To dial from the Mac, hover your cursor over a phone number wherever you see it (in Contacts, Calendar, Mail, Messages, or Spotlight), and then click the phone icon that appears adjacent to that number. You can also highlight a number you come across on the web in Safari to initiate a call. Or dial conference calls with a single click from the Calendar (passcode included). The only requirements are that your iPhone and your Mac must be signed into the same Wi-Fi network and iCloud account. And because calls are routed through the iPhone, the phone has to be fairly close to but not necessarily in the same room as the Mac. Oh, and go into FaceTime preferences and make sure the Calls from iPhone check box is selected.

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How to Play Chess on Your Mac

Article / Updated 08-26-2016

Your Mac is full of neat tricks. You probably will never know all of the cool things it can do.Ah, the question posed by the (ultimately) defiant HAL 9000 computer in the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It turns out that your Mac can play a mean game of chess too, without, as HAL did, turning on its human masters. The Mac’s Chess program, located in the Applications folder, lets you compete against the computer or a human partner. You can open Chess and compete within the Game Center environment. What’s more, by choosing Chess → Preferences, you can change the board style and pieces, from the wooden board to grass, marble, or metal. You can also drag a slider inside Chess Preferences to make the computer play faster or stronger. Just like HAL, your Mac can speak as it makes its moves — in about two dozen voices, no less, from Deranged (probably appropriate for HAL) to Hysterical. Then again, you can speak back, so long as Allow Player to Speak Moves is selected in Chess Preferences. Try it out for size by saying something like “Pawn e2 to e4 to move the white king’s pawn.”

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How to Remotely Install Software on Your Mac

Article / Updated 08-25-2016

Most recent Macs have ditched the optical drives that were once staple features. If you’ve been employing such drives for years to install software, you’re probably left wondering how to complete the task given their absence. You can connect an optional USB accessory to replace the missing drive, of course. In many instances, you can download new programs directly from the Internet. And the Mac App Store makes it a breeze to fetch programs that you buy there. Still, you may have come upon installation discs that are required to load older programs (and possibly new ones as well). Even without a built-in disk drive, you figure that there must be a way to install the software. You figure right, at least if you have an available DVD or CD drive on another computer, whether that computer is a Mac or even a Windows PC. That other machine must be connected to the same network as the Mac on which you want to load software. Also, your Mac must support the Remote Disc feature, but the good news is that all the recent models do. Proceed as follows: If the optical drive you’re sharing is on a Mac, open System Preferences, choose Sharing, and select the check box for DVD or CD Sharing. At your discretion, also select the Ask Me Before Allowing Others to Use My DVD Drive check box. Place the DVD in the drive you’re sharing from and then go to the Mac that doesn’t have an optical drive. On that computer, open a Finder window, and select Remote Disc on the Sidebar. You should see an icon for the computer that has the optical drive. Double-click the icon, and click Connect. Click Ask to Use if the other computer chose the aforementioned Ask Me option. The other computer must then accept your request. Assuming that this happens, you can install the program as though the optical drive were local to the computer that’s gaining the new software. If the optical drive you’re sharing from is on a Windows PC, you must download DVD or CD Sharing Update 1.0 for Windows. Then enable DVD or CD Sharing in the Hardware and Sound section of Control Panel. Back on your Mac, open a Finder window, and proceed as before.

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Making the Switch from Windows to a Mac

Article / Updated 08-25-2016

Okay, so you’re ready to defect and become a Mac user. But frankly, you’ve invested time and energy over the years in getting your Windows files and preferences just as you like them. The information you find here describes ways to replicate your Windows environment (within certain limits) on a new Mac. Help from Apple When you buy a new Mac at the Apple Store, and opt for the $99 One to One service, you can get a certified Mac technician, not so modestly known as a Genius, to transfer all your data. Of course, you may be better off doing it yourself via the Migration Assistant by following the instructions found here. Burning a disc Because your Mac can read CDs or DVDs formatted for Windows (assuming that the machine has a built-in or connected optical drive), you can burn your important files to a disc and copy them to your Mac. You may not have to burn all your files to a disc, but a good place to start is the My Documents (XP) or Documents (Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10) folder on the Windows machine. This folder may very well include photos and videos. External hard drives You can exchange files on external USB or FireWire-based hard drives and USB thumb drives. You can even use an iPod as an external drive by setting it up for disk use. Temporarily dump songs off the iPod to create more room (and add the music back later). Visit Apple Support for a detailed explanation. Not all Windows PCs recognize external hard drives that have been formatted for a Mac. Using an existing network Another way to get files from Windows to a Mac is to use a network. Make sure that file sharing is turned on in Windows. Head to the HomeGroup (inside Control Panel) on an older Windows PC or Networking and Sharing Center on a Windows 10 machine. Add your Mac to your wired or wireless network (if it’s not already part of it), and exchange files. The KVM switch If you just bought a Mac mini but are holding on to your Windows computer for a while, consider a KVM (keyboard–video–mouse) switch. This device uses USB to let the two machines share the monitor and various peripherals. You can get a two-port Belkin KVM switch with all the necessary cables priced between $20 and $30.

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