There is a whole jungle of apps out there that show you the status of your computer in the menu bar, on your desktop or in the Dock, but did you know that the best tool of them all comes with macOS?
Activity Monitor is an application that allows you to monitor exactly what is going on with your computer at all times by showing you how much memory, cpu, network and disk space is currently being used. It can also show you which application is using the resources and it allows you to quickly kill a process that is going haywire or has stopped responding.
The handiest feature of all is that it can show the status in the Dock so that you can quickly see if something has gone wrong and prevent crashes. Open up Activity Monitor (in Utilities inside Applications), then select the type of information you want from the View, Dock Icon menu. To make the most of this we’d recommend setting Activity Monitor to automatically launch when you log in. This is done by right clicking the icon in the Dock and choosing Options, Open at Login.
Keeping Activity Monitor in the Dock also has all sorts of unexpected benefits, for example it is very handy if you feel that your computer is getting slow. Most Macs that are kept in good shape can live for many years and still be as fast as the day they were purchased. The key to this? Keep an eye on the memory usage.
If all the memory is being used up soon after booting up your computer macOS will start using the hard drive to give you more memory than what is physically available (this is called swapping). The catch is, swap memory is much much slower than real RAM memory so you will notice this by feeling that the computer gets much slower. The solution? Use Cocktail to purge inactive memory (System > Memory), try cleaning up the applications that run in the background or install more memory.
Activity Monitor can also help you debug other problems. Battery life is directly dependent on how much load there is on the processor so if the battery in your laptop doesn’t last as long as you expect, have a look at how the processor is being used. Generally, to get anywhere near Apple’s specified battery life you should be around 10-20% usage so if the processor is averaging more than that some process is draining your battery.
Mac users in higher security risk situations may wish to enable an optional firmware password on their machines, which offers an advanced level of protection. In short, a firmware password is a lower level layer of security that is set on the actual Mac logic board firmware, rather than at the software layer like FileVault encryption or the standard login password.
The result of setting an firmware password is that a Mac can not be booted from an external boot volume, single user mode, or target disk mode, and it also prevents resetting of PRAM and the ability to boot into safe mode, without logging in through the firmware password first. This effectively prevents a wide variety of methods that could potentially be used to compromise a Mac, and offers exceptional security for users who require such protection.
Like any other essential password, use something memorable but complex, and do not forget a firmware password after it has been set. A lost firmware password is unrecoverable on most modern Macs without a visit to an Apple Store for service and recovery.
Setting a firmware password is rather simple.
• Start up from macOS recovery mode by holding down Command (⌘)-R immediately after turning on your Mac. Release the keys when you see the Apple logo.
• When the utilities window appears, choose Utilities > Firmware Password Utility from the menu bar. On iMac Pro, choose Startup Security Utility instead.
• Click Turn On Firmware Password.
• Enter a firmware password in the fields provided, then click Set Password.
• Quit the utility, then choose Apple () menu > Restart.
The firmware password will not appear during a regular restart or boot of the Mac, it only becomes mandatory when the Mac is attempted to boot from alternate methods. This may be in situations where a Mac is attempted to boot from an macOS installer drive, an external boot volume, recovery mode, single user mode, verbose mode, target disk mode, resetting the PRAM, or any other alternative booting approach that will summon the rather plain looking firmware password window. There are no password hints or additional details provided, only a simple lock logo and a text entry screen. An incorrectly entered firmware password does nothing and offers no indication of login failure except that the Mac won't boot as anticipated.
Safari for both macOS and iOS have a setting you may never have noticed, since we so often have Internet access. This is an easily overlooked feature that’s actually really cool. Here’s how to save your Safari reading list for offline viewing.
In Safari for macOS, choose Safari > Preferences and then click Advanced. You can then check next to the Reading List label Save Articles for Offline Reading Automatically. If that option isn't checked, you can also view the Reading List in the sidebar, right-click an item, and choose Save Offline.
With iOS Safari, you navigate to Settings > Safari and swipe down to the bottom, and then tap the switch to on for Automatically Save Offline. If you have that option disabled, which it is by default, you’re prompted the first time you choose Add to Reading List from the Sharing sheet whether or not to save items from then for offline reading automatically.
Content caching is a new feature available in macOS High Sierra. Content caching reduces bandwidth usage and speeds up installation on supported devices by storing software updates, apps, and other content on local computer.
Content caching is a great idea, especially if you have an always-on (or often-on) Mac in your home or office. Instead of having to download the same stuff over and over, you only do it once. Then, any other devices on your network pull their data from your Mac, instead of from Apple's servers. That's probably a boon for Apple's data bills, but for us it could make a huge difference to update speeds. When this feature is switched on, both Mac and iOS content is saved locally.
How to set up content caching in macOS High Sierra?
• Open Sharing from System Preferences.
• Unlock the pane. Click the padlock icon in the lower-left and authenticate.
• Configure the Content Caching service.
Shared content: store apps and software updates.
iCloud content: store iCloud data, such as photos and documents.
Share Internet connection: share this computer's Internet connection and cached content with iOS devices connected using USB.
• Switch it on. Click the checkbox on the left of the service name to enable it.
Keep in mind that content caching will download all content requested by any client device, so the service will consume vast quantities of storage space unless you limit the storage. You can inspect how much storage space is being used on your Mac by the caching service by clicking the Options button. You can also use Cocktail (Preferences > Caches > System > Content caches) to flush/clear content caches.
Preview is a great basic image editing application bundled with macOS, but recent versions have simplified the available image export format options down to JPEG, JPEG 2000, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG and TIFF. Or at least that's what you see on first glance.
It turns out you can still access all the traditional image format options from the Save and Export panels just by holding down the Option (Alt) key when clicking on the Format menu.
Holding the Option (Alt) key when selecting format reveals all possible image formats. You can use this to convert existing images to different formats, or to save the file as a less common format.