Your Mac can improve plenty of things for you, but what can you do to improve your Mac?
This simple guide will suggest enhancements to your Mac that will help you get more from both work and play, as well as other things like better backups and easier ways of doing things.
Enjoy our 30 tips to get more from your Mac.
If you've not yet made the jump to OS X Lion with all of its extra features and improvements, now is the time to do so.
Your Mac will need to be running an Intel Core 2 Duo chip or better, and have a minimum of 2GB RAM installed. You'll also need to be running the latest version of Snow Leopard (10.6.8) - open the Apple menu and select Software Update to verify that this is the case.
Once your Mac is ready for the jump to Lion, open the Mac App Store from the Dock and you'll find Lion is the top-rated purchase - a bargain at just £20.99.
Just how much is your data worth to you? The importance of backing it up can't be overstated, and all you need to do is buy an external hard drive.
Prices start from around £60 for a 1TB model that you plug into your Mac's USB or FireWire port.
But if you've got two or more Macs to keep backed up, save yourself time and hassle by buying an Apple Time Capsule. It's a wireless hard drive designed to work with all your Macs seamlessly and easily. Prices start from £249 for 2TB, or £399 for 3TB.
Discover just how capable your Mac is as a games machine by downloading Steam. Think of Steam as an App Store for games - here you can download demos, buy games and gain access to free updates and reinstalls.
You can also set up communities with friends and other gamers, and create and join multiplayer games. Add a social dimension to the way you play, plus add existing games to your library so you can launch them all from one handy location.
Select Spaces (Snow Leopard) or Mission Control (Lion) from the Dock, and you can quickly organise your apps into different virtual desktop windows known as Spaces. Set things up from System Preferences > Mission Control, or Exposé and Spaces.
Once enabled, you can quickly switch between Spaces using the Ctrl and arrow keys. You can launch an app within a Space, or move it to another Space via System Preferences.
1. Install TeamViewer
Download TeamViewer from www.teamviewer.com to each Mac you wish to control remotely. Once done, open TeamViewer.dmg, double-click TeamViewer6.pkg and follow the setup instructions, selecting for unattended access. Enter a password for remote use.
2. Set up account
Click the TeamViewer icon in your menu bar and select Partner list. Click the Sign Up link to create an account that will simplify connecting to your Mac from another computer or your iOS device(s). Once done, enter your username and password to sign in on your Mac.
3. Connect remotely
When your Mac is on and connected to the internet, you'll be able to access it from another computer – install TeamViewer on that computer or log in at https://login.teamviewer.com. You can also take control via your iOS device and the free TeamViewer app.
1. Locate missing artwork
Can't find an album cover for a ripped CD? Install Album Art Assistant. Launch iTunes then the assistant. Select tracks from the album, switch to the assistant and click Get Albums. Select the album's thumbnail and click Add Immediately.
2. Search and replace tags
Quickly search and replace multiple tags by downloading Search-Replace Tag Text. Follow the instructions to install, and access it from iTunes' Scripts menu. Enter search and replace terms, and tick Dry run to preview your changes.
3. Copy artist to album artist
iTunes doesn't always duplicate the Artist name in the Album Artist field. Download Artist to Album Artist and once installed as a script, select the offending tracks and select Script > Artist to Album Artist to rectify the problem.
If you're yearning to discover new sounds (or rediscover old classics), but can't afford to pay for the privilege, head over to Grooveshark. Click Explore to browse for new music, or search for a specific artist or track.
Click the track name to listen to it, then sign up for a free account to build playlists, a library or to share music with friends. The service is ad-supported; remove them by signing up for a premium account.
Fancy having a go at painting on your Mac? ArtRage 2 Starter Edition lets you paint using a variety of brushes, pencils, crayons and other painting tools and on a number of different surfaces. It's quick, simple and intuitive to use, and you can load in favourite photos to trace over too.
Your Mac's built-in speakers aren't designed for heavy duty use, although they're perfectly adequate for system sounds and the like. But if you want to fully immerse yourself in a game or make the most of iTunes, you'll want to plug in a dedicated set of speakers.
If you regularly play games, listen to music or watch movies and video on your Mac with a pair of headphones plugged in, you could be missing out. Cheap headphones deliver a limited range of sounds, with bass muffled or lacking and vocals drowned out in a sea of noise. And if you're still using the white buds that came with your iPod, you have our sympathies.
Of course you can spend a bewildering amount on a pair of phones - just take a look at the £750 Ultrasone Signature PRO cans at www.ultrasone.com. While these aren't a realistic option for the vast majority of us, that doesn't mean you have to live without quality sound.
Take a look at Audio Technica's ATH-ES7 wired headphones (£130, www.superfi.co.uk). While still expensive, they provide a crisp, clean sound across the entire spectrum, from pumping bass to soaring vocals. They'll sound great with your iPod too!
Why spend hundreds of pounds on software when you can often get all the functionality you need for free? Take a look at the following five apps, all of which are free and will help make you more productive.
Scribus: A desktop publishing alternative to QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign, perfect for designing more complex newsletters, brochures and other publications.
GIMP: Why fork out for an image editor when you can have the power of Photoshop for free? If you find the panes, filters and brushes of GIMP a little impenetrable, try SeaShore instead. It's based on GIMP, but features an interface and toolset that's aimed at less advanced users.
Inkscape: This capable vector drawing program offers the features of Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW for free.
SketchUp: 3D modelling tools aren't just traditionally expensive, they're also difficult to use. Google's SketchUp application knocks both assumptions for six - it's not just provided free, it's easy to get to grips with, too.
LibreOffice: Looking for a free office application suite? LibreOffice offers a comprehensive range: it packs a capable word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentations package, a database and a drawing tool in one complete suite.
Have you signed up for iCloud yet? You're missing a trick if you don't - iCloud makes it easy to keep your mail, contacts, photos, documents and more effortlessly synchronised between all your Macs and iOS devices. It'll even sync certain items with Windows PCs too.
You'll need OS X 10.7.2 installed, but once it's in place, just sign in with your Apple ID, choose what to sync and that's it. Within minutes your devices will be wirelessly talking to each other, making sure you have access to your precious photos, documents and settings wherever you are. And remember: you automatically get 5GB iCloud storage for free!
Let your Mac help you find suitable routes for your fitness regime with the help of a free app called Trail Runner. This helps you plot local routes for biking, hiking and running.
Get started by clicking the Community button to find local routes entered by others, or create your own from scratch by plotting your own course on the map. Once created, you can sync your route with your iPod, iPhone or other mobile device. You'll be covering more distance in no time!
One of the most effective ways you can speed up your Mac - particularly if you're running Lion with just 2GB RAM - is to double or even quadruple your memory.
For many Macs, it's the simplest upgrade you can perform, in which case save yourself some serious dosh and source your memory from a site like Crucial where an 8GB upgrade for the 2011 Mac mini costs just £35 at time of writing.
Check out our tutorial on How to install Mac Memory. If you're unhappy opening up your Mac, contact your local Apple retailer to get an estimate for a fitting.
The cost of phone calls - particularly abroad - can be prohibitive, but the good news is that you can make voice and video calls for free using your internet connection.
Download Skype and get your contacts to do the same. Then you can find out when they're online and make a direct video or voice call using your webcam and headset.
Skype is extremely simple to set up and will save you a fortune in phone charges. You can even use it to place voice calls to phones worldwide at a fraction of the cost of your landline or mobile tariff. Skype's been around for years - isn't it time you got in on the act?
It's possible to watch both live and catch-up TV on your Mac over the internet, using services such as BBC iPlayer and TVCatchup. But you can also turn your Mac into a fully functioning TV with recording capabilities.
Plug in the Elgato EyeTV Diversity, connect it up to your TV aerial and you can watch and record digital Freeview on your Mac. Thanks to its dual tuners, you can even watch one show while recording another.
Combine it with the Apple TV and you stream your recordings back to your HD TV. Use TV internet services, or turn your Mac into a fully functional TV set with PVR capabilities.
Frustrated at having to switch on a computer just to access its shared printer? Annoyed because you can't listen to your iTunes library in another room?
Replace your existing router with an Airport Express, set it up next to your home stereo or speakers and you'll be able to stream music direct from any iTunes library on your network direct to that room. Better still, plug in your USB printer to the Airport Express and you'll be able to print directly to it without having to faff about with shared printers or switching on another computer first.
If you've got a big-screen TV, imagine watching some of the video content stored on your Mac on it. Rather than attempt to set up your Mac in the same room as your TV, why not invest in an Apple TV?
You'll need a HD TV with a spare HDMI port for it to work, but once you've set it up, it won't just stream video content (and photos from Photo Stream) from your Mac, iPad 2 or iPhone 4S. It will also enable you to access lots of online content on it, from YouTube to HD film rentals, all streamed directly to your television.
Got an old Mac (or discarded PC) lying about? Why not convert it into a dedicated media server using Plex.
Plex uses a slick and easy-to-navigate interface for you to access your media. Once configured and set up - a simple process - you can store your video, music and photos in one central location, then access it from other computers on your network.
You can even purchase the Plex iOS app (£2.99, App Store) to stream content to your iPad or iPhone while on the move. With a bit of legwork (see the Plex wiki for details) you can also set up your media server so that you can access it while away from home.
Your Mac, coupled with the internet, is the perfect tool for family history research. You have a choice of two heavyweight apps - MacFamilyTree (£42, App Store).
The records are easily searchable from within the app, which can also download and merge them into your research for easy access. Version 2.0 also introduces TreeSync, which allows you to keep your research synchronised between computer, web browser and iPhone or iPad via the free Ancestry 3.0.1 app.
Ripping CDs to your Mac is simplicity itself with iTunes, but what about your vinyl or cassette collection? If you've still got a turntable and/or cassette recorder, the simplest solution is to purchase a USB 2.0 audio capture cable, which plugs into your home stereo at one end and your Mac at the other. ClimaxDigital sells such cables for just £15.
If you don't have a means of playing your old music, take a look at Ion Audio's range of USB turntables and cassette recorders - they're widely available online and in the shops from stores like Maplin (just search for 'USB turntable'), with prices starting from £40.
Your Mac can help here too - by forming part of an efficient portable photo studio. Armed with a portable kit like Photxpro's Mini Photo Studio (£32, www.fstopdirect.com), you can give your product photos a professional look through the supplied lights, tripod and photo tent, which gives you a plain background to shoot on.
Once done, just transfer your photos over to your Mac, ready to add to your listings.
Whenever you plug in your phone or iPad, up pops iPhoto to grab your attention. It's a nifty tool for your photos, and can manage your video too. But if you really want to spruce up your home videos, you should use iMovie instead.
From here you can quickly and easily edit your videos, correct basic mistakes, add Hollywood-style effects and put together a full movie from a series of clips. The latest version even lets you create themed projects, providing effect-laden transitions between scenes and allowing you to really give your home movie footage a lift. Go on, impress your family with a pro home movie!
Another way to improve your cashflow is to monitor your incomings and outgoings - that way you don't spend what you don't have, avoiding costly overdraft charges and loan expenses. You can set up a simple spreadsheet in Numbers (or LibreOffice Calc if you're looking for a free alternative), or save yourself time and hassle by using a dedicated personal finance tool.
There are many excellent applications out there, but again, if money is tight you can manage your finances for free - try Buddi. Commit to regularly updating it, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how simply recording your transactions helps boost your bank balance.
Getting a professional company to redesign the rooms of your house is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking - and there's no guarantee they'll be able to come up with a plan that you like. Why not do it yourself?
But don't waste time and effort rearranging all the furniture in your home - before committing to any revamp, download and launch a free Java app called Sweet Home 3D first. You can then set up your rooms: walls, doors and windows. Next, place furniture in each room - many basic types are provided, and more can be downloaded through the Sweet Home 3D website.
Once everything's in place, take a virtual 3D tour, and then start rearranging your furniture to see how different layouts will look, all without giving yourself a hernia in the process.
01. First steps
Visit http://software.joelares.net/blog and click the Software menu to download DVD Hunter, Book Hunter and/or Game Hunter. Double-click the downloaded DMG to install. Launch the application. Click New List to create a category for your first item to be stored in.
02. Input item details
Now click New Movie, New Book or New Game. Enter the title of your item plus extra information to identify it, such as director or author's surname. Click Auto-complete. A list of potential matches will be shown - select Amazon (UK) from the drop-down list.
03. Review and move on
Fill in any details, then click New Movie to start again. It won't take long to build up your collection - close the box to create new lists for different categories of book, game or DVD. Open the item and select Lending History when someone has borrowed an item.
Do you have a passion for cars? A special interest in pedigree breeds? An extensive list of food recipes or drinks cocktails? Then why not create online presence around it? Not only is it fun to run, you get to share your knowledge with like-minded folk.
But if you really want to push the boat out - and craft a more general purpose website around your daily blog - then take a look at WordPress. All three services provide free hosting, so all you need to do is sign up for a free account, choose a style and start posting.
It's never been easier to get your writing published professionally. And devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader Wi-Fi make it possible to publish without having to print a single physical copy of your book.
Compose your book using dedicated software like Sigil, which allows you to create books in the universally popular EPUB format. Once complete, the book can be distributed to friends with compatible ebook readers; or you can sign up for a service like lulu.com to publish and sell your ebook online, with no up-front costs to pay.
Mendeley is a free cloud-based service aimed at academics and researchers for organising their research, journals and published articles. But you don't need to be an academic to make use of it - we've used it to organise a series of PDFs and DOCs containing articles and magazines, for example.
It's simple to use - sign up, download the free desktop tool and start importing the files you wish to organise, which are securely stored in the cloud for backup and sync purposes. You can then access them through your web browser or iPhone and iPad with the Mendeley Lite app.
If you've got GarageBand then you'll know how it's possible to compose music using an on-screen keyboard. Why settle for virtual, though, when the real thing delivers a much better experience?
USB keyboards are widely available - try to plump for a model with at least 49 full-size keys for the best possible experience. M-Audio's Keystudio 49 (£80, Apple Store) is a great entry-level device to try, but if you've got an older keyboard with MIDI ports stashed away in the attic, Google 'MIDI USB' for a suitable cable (less than £25) to hook it up to your Mac instead.