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Use Messages to share your screen in macOS

If you need to quickly offer help to another Mac user you know, there's no quicker way to remotely provide assistance than via Apple's own Messages. Here's how to take control of another person's Mac on their behalf, and how to allow others to do the same to your desktop.

As part of the Messages app in macOS, it is possible to establish a remote desktop session where you have control of a Mac across the Internet or someone else has control over your Mac desktop. What's more, as well as being simple to get going, it also doesn't require any real installation of extensions or other components.

What does Messages' screen sharing feature do? When a screen share is initiated, the screen from the Mac being controlled will be streamed as a live video feed to the other participant, the Mac that will be used for control. This will allow the user on the controlling Mac to see what is on the desktop of the Mac being controlled. At the same time, a FaceTime Audio call is started between the two users, providing two-way audio. This enables the users to speak to each other, such as advising on what they are doing for the other user or additional instructions. The feature doesn't automatically enable the ability to remote control the other person's display by default, but the option is presented. If control isn't provided by one party to the other, the screen is shared but it is not remotely controllable.

To share your screen with another user:

• Open Messages on your Mac.

• Select the conversation with the person you want to share the screen with. If no prior conversation exists, send a message to them.

• In the main menu, select Conversations then Invite to Share My Screen. The sharing and audio call will begin automatically once the remote user accepts the invitation.

To request another user shares their screen:

• Open Messages on your Mac.

• Select the conversation with the person you want to share the screen with. If no prior conversation exists, send a message to them.

• In the main menu, select Conversations then Ask to Share Screen. The sharing and audio call will begin automatically once the invitation is accepted.

Once sharing is enabled, a new window appears called Screen Sharing, which will host the call and show the sharing user's desktop. There are also some options within the window that can be used. Clicking the mouse pointer icon in the menu will send a request to the sharer to enable remote control of the Mac. Clicking on the remote display will highlight elements on the shared Mac, which can be useful for pointing out elements of an app's interface without taking control. When you have control of the remote Mac, you can also control the Clipboard, which means you can copy and paste text and images between the two computers. This is handy to save you from retyping a URL into a remote browser when you have the link locally. You can even transmit files from the remotely-controlling Mac to the shared Mac by dragging and dropping them onto the window.

To end a screen sharing session:

• For the screen-sharing Mac, click the Sharing icon in the menu bar then End Screen Sharing. Alternately, you can select Pause Screen Sharing if you want to stop for a while.

• The remote controlling Mac can do the same by selecting Screen Sharing in the menu followed by Quit Screen Sharing.

If screen sharing doesn't work, make sure the user of the Mac being shared is signed in to iCloud on that Mac using the same Apple ID that they are using for messages. If they are using different IDs, add both Apple IDs to the same contact within the Contacts app and try again. Also, make sure that they are not limited by Screen Time. If one party is restricted and the initial Messages communication cannot be established, that could prevent Screen Sharing from functioning properly.

Useful macOS Big Sur features

macOS Big Sur has been out for a while now, but macOS releases never get quite as much attention as iOS releases, so there may still be some features that you're not aware of.

• AirPods Auto Switching - With ‌macOS Big Sur‌ and iOS/iPadOS 14, your AirPods will swap automatically to the device that you're using at the current time, with no need to manually change the device you're using them with. ‌AirPods‌ will work with iPhone, iPad, or Mac you're actively using and listening to audio on.

• Drag and Drop Menu Bar Icons - If you open up the Control Center, you can click and drag on any of the options to add it to the menu bar. So if you want Do Not Disturb to have a one-click menu bar toggle, just drag it to the menu bar from Control Center. This works for Now Playing, AirDrop, DND, and more.

• Enhanced Voice Memos - When you use Voice Memos in Big Sur, there's a new option to automatically reduce background noise and echo with a single click, useful when you're recording lectures or meetings.

• 4K YouTube Videos - YouTube videos can be watched in 4K HDR in ‌macOS Big Sur‌ because the OS supports YouTube's VP9 codec. Note that 4K YouTube options are going to be limited to newer Macs by default, but there's a trick to enable them on older Macs. Enable the Develop menu in Safari settings (Safari > Preferences > Advanced), select Experimental Features, and make sure both VP9 Decoder and VP9 SW Decoder on Battery are enabled.

• Resize Widgets - ‌macOS Big Sur‌ has a new widget interface, and if you right click on any widget that has sizing options, you can choose a new size.

• Silent Notifications - On any incoming notification in the Today center, if you right click you can select "Deliver Quietly." This setting will prevent future notifications from that app from popping up on your screen, but you'll see them in the notifications list.

• Message Effects - Messages in Big Sur is a lot more like the Messages app on iOS devices. You can use Message Effects to enhance messages, find GIFs and insert photos. Just click on the little "A" on the left of the text bar to see a dropdown list of the options.

• Disable Tinting - Want a Dark Mode that's even darker or a Light Mode that's brighter? That's possible if you turn off window tinting. Open up System Preferences, choose General, and uncheck "allow wallpaper tinting in windows." With this disabled, windows won't be affected by the wallpaper that you're using.

Set a Do Not Disturb keyboard shortcut

Do Not Disturb mode is one of the best features you can use if you want to focus on a task, and not be distracted by the myriad endless notifications and alerts that pop up on the Mac. Enabling and disabling the feature with a keyboard shortcut offers a quick way to toggle the feature off or on as quick as possible and at any time.


To be able to toggle Do Not Disturb off or on by keyboard shortcut, you’ll need to enable a keyboard shortcut for it first. Here’s how to do that:

• Go to the  Apple menu and select “System Preferences”
• Go to “Keyboard” and then choose the “Shortcuts” tab
• Select “Mission Control” from the Shortcuts options
• Locate “Turn Do Not Disturb On/Off” and make sure that is checked to be enabled
• Click directly to the right of “Turn Do Not Disturb On/Off” and then press a keyboard shortcut combination to set as the Do Not Disturb keyboard shortcut

In the example (see screenshot), the keystroke combination "Shift F6" was set as the keyboard shortcut for enabling and disabling Do Not Disturb mode. You can set any keyboard shortcut you want for this purpose, just make sure it’s unique and does not overlap with another keystroke combination or feature. Once the keyboard shortcut for toggling Do Not Disturb mode is enabled, you can use it at anytime by pressing the keystroke combination you set in the above steps.

When Do Not Disturb mode is on (the Notification Center icon in the menu bar is dimmed), all notifications and alerts will not show up, but they will still be contained within the Notification Center.

When Do not Disturb mode is off, all alerts and notifications will come through to the Mac as usual, showing up as pop-up alerts in the upper right corner of the screen.


Quickly end a sentence with a full stop

macOS Mojave includes a shortcut for ending a sentence with a full stop by just pressing the space bar twice. This means that hitting the spacebar twice will insert a period and a space automatically at the end of a sentence (or a word).

Automatically typing periods comes to the Mac from the iPhone and iPad world. To enable this feature:

• Go to the  Apple menu and choose "System Preferences"
• Select the “Keyboard” preference panel, then choose the “Text” tab
• Locate the setting for “Add full stop with double-space” and toggle the checkbox to the "On" position
• Exit System Preferences

Now when you hit the space bar twice, a period and a space will be inserted automatically.


Resolve Wi-Fi and Bluetooth issues caused by wireless interference

Wireless interference can cause Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices to disconnect or perform poorly. Bluetooth enabled keyboards and mice may not pair or connect consistently, or audio from Bluetooth enabled earphones or speakers may be choppy, but you can take steps to reduce or overcome it.

Any of these symptoms could be caused by interference affecting the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal:

• Device doesn't connect or stay connected
• Connection is slow and signal strength  is low
• Bluetooth audio skips, stutters, cuts off, or has static or buzzing
• Pointer movement is erratic or jumpy

These general steps can help achieve a cleaner, stronger wireless signal:

• Bring your Wi-Fi device and Wi-Fi router closer together. Bring the Bluetooth devices that are connecting to each other closer together.
• Avoid using your wireless devices near common sources of interference, such as power cables, microwave ovens, fluorescent lights, wireless video cameras, and cordless phones.
• Reduce the number of active devices that use the same wireless frequency band. Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices use the 2.4 GHz band, but many Wi-Fi devices can use the 5 GHz band instead. If your Wi-Fi router supports both bands, it might help to connect more of your Wi-Fi devices to the 5GHz band. Some dual-band routers manage this for you automatically.
• Configure your Wi-Fi router to use a different Wi-Fi channel, or have it scan for the channel with the least interference. Most routers perform this scan automatically on startup or when reset.

If you're using USB 3 devices with your computer, you can limit their potential to interfere with nearby wireless devices:

• Use a high-quality, shielded USB cable with each USB 3 device.
• Move your USB 3 devices—including any USB hubs—farther away from your wireless devices.
• Connect USB 3 devices to the ports farthest from your computer's Wi-Fi antenna. For example, if your computer has ports on the back, prefer the USB ports closest to the middle. If your computer has ports on the side, prefer the USB ports closest to the front.
• Turn off any USB 3 devices that aren't in use.

Avoid physical obstructions in the path of your wireless signal. For example, a metal surface between your Bluetooth mouse and computer could cause the mouse to perform poorly, and a metal-reinforced concrete floor between your Wi-Fi router and Wi-Fi device could cause poor Wi-Fi performance.

• Low interference potential: wood, glass, and many synthetic materials
• Medium interference potential: water, bricks, marble
• High interference potential: plaster, concrete, bulletproof glass
• Very high interference potential: metal