Yosemite Quick Tips

PDF signature

No need for a paper and pen. You can now sign PDF forms using your Mac’s trackpad. Simply click the Sign button in Preview’s annotation toolbar and trace your signature on the pad with your finger.


Activating Spotlight with Command-Space now brings up a search box in the centre of your desktop. It no longer just searches your Mac for files either. It also retrieves news headlines, maps, Bing web search results, iTunes store media, and it can even convert currencies on the natch.

Green button goes fullscreen

In Mavericks, the green button at the top left of windows is better known as the zoom button. But in OS X Yosemite, it takes windows full-screen. You can still access the traditional functionality however by holding the Alt/Option key when clicking the traffic light.

Record output from an iOS device

Want to record a live screencast of apps or games running on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad? With iOS 8 and Yosemite, you can. Simply attach the device to your Mac using a Lightning cable and it shows up as a video input source in QuickTime. You can then capture anything you’re doing on-screen and store it as a video file.

Check compressed memory

OS X utilises memory compression features when resources are tight, making the system more efficient at passing data from place to place. Activity Monitor’s Memory tab now displays how much your Mac relies on compressed memory, which can be a good indicator of how much you’d benefit from a RAM upgrade.

Safari Tabs

The way Safari organises your browser tabs has changed. You can still switch between tabs in the horizontal strip above the main window, but click the new Tab View button in the top right corner of the toolbar and you get thumbnail previews of all open tabs. Multiple open pages from a single site are stacked on top of each other, while below these are iCloud tabs open on your other devices in a layout reminiscent iOS 7.

Duck Duck Safari

In addition to the typical search engines Safari has traditionally aligned with, you now have the option to choose DuckDuckGo as your default search service. For those late to the private party, DuckDuckGo is a slick search engine that doesn’t track your search activity or share personal information with advertisers or security agencies.

Safari Private Browsing window

Continuing the theme, Safari now allows you to create a separate window of tabs exclusively for private browsing (meaning your actions are not saved or tracked), while enabling you to also maintain separate windows that aren’t set to be private.

Markup in Mail

Apple Mail has aped Preview’s annotation tools. Now, whenever you add an image to an email you’re composing, a down-facing chevron appears in its top-right corner. Clicking this reveals the option to mark up the image with shapes, text and arrows to make your point clearer to your recipient.

Dashboard off by default

Some old-school OS X users may be rankled at the apparent disappearance of the Dashboard in Yosemite. Actually, it hasn’t been removed; it’s just disabled by default – you can switch it back on in Mission Control’s System Preference pane if you still find it useful.

Notification Center overhaul

Notification Center in Yosemite doesn’t just import iOS 7’s Today view. Apple has also opened it up to third-party widgets with what it’s calling ‘Today Extensions’. This will allow developers to feed bespoke information into Notification Center – think your favourite football team’s next fixture or eBay auctions you’re watching, for example.

AirDrop advanced

AirDrop has seen significant improvement in Yosemite. It now works between Macs and iOS devices that don’t share the same local network or have an internet connection. It also now works on older Macs that missed out in previous versions of OS X. Not only that, you don’t need Finder to be open on the recipient’s Mac to initiate a Drop (although it still needs to be authorised at the receiver’s end).

Mail Drop

Everyone’s experienced the frustration of an email not arriving at its intended destination because of an attachment the server deemed too big to handle. In Yosemite, Mail gets round this with Mail Drop, in which large attachments are now uploaded to your iCloud account. If the recipient is also using Mail they see the file just as if it was attached to the email; if they aren’t using Mail, they get a link to download it instead. Note that the size of an attachment will be limited to the free space on your iCloud account.

Soundbites in Messages

You can now send quick voice memos to your Messages contacts with the new Soundbites feature. These disappear shortly after the recipient has read them, but you can choose to save them if you wish. You can also now send short video clips or multiple images directly from within Messages.

Message/iPhone tones

One new feature Apple is rightly proud of is Yosemite’s ability to make and receive iPhone calls. Tied to that is Messages’ ability to send and receive SMS and MMS messages linked to your iPhone number. As a result of this extended phone service, Messages has also inherited all the ringtones of iOS, allowing you to match or differ the sound your Mac and your iPhone make when a message or call is incoming.

Batch rename

Batch renaming files in OS X used to require installing a third-party app or a trip to Automator. No more. In Yosemite, you simply click-drag a selection box over the files in Finder you wish to rename, right-click and select the Rename XX items… option in the dialog.

Screensharing in Messages

Previously screen sharing was only possible in Messages using a third-party service such as AIM. However now Apple has implemented a built-in screen sharing feature that operates automatically over iMessage accounts, meaning you don’t have to set up anything in order to help or receive Mac assistance from a friend or colleague remotely. Simply initiate a Message conversation and click on the Details button in the top right-hand corner of the screen and select the ‘Invite / Ask to share my screen’ button indicated by two overlapping rectangles.

Group messages

Not only can you initiate group chats in iMessage, you can also add and remove participants in your ongoing chat, as well as change the chat thread name (which will subsequently appear on all devices). Using the new Details button, you can also enable Do Not Disturb on individual chats to opt out of the conversation without terminating it.

Dark mode

Dark Mode was demoed on stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference as an option to benefit those who prefer to save their eyesight from glare at night as well as photographers and video editors who manipulate colour. You can turn it on via the ‘Use dark menu bar and dock’ toggle in the General pane of System Preferences.

Safari bookmarks

Just like iOS, your website bookmarks and bookmark folders can now be quickly accessed simply by left-clicking Safari’s address bar. Below your bookmarks you’ll also see links to those sites you’ve most frequently visited.

Double-click to zoom

For those who miss the instant action of the green maximise traffic light, try double-clicking an empty part of a window’s toolbar – it should automatically resize the window to fit its content. Note that this functionality may not work on third-party apps and later versions of iTunes.

Finder preview pane

Previously Finder’s file preview pane was restricted to Column view, but in Yosemite you can make it visible in any view mode you like. From the menu bar, choose View > Show Preview to turn it on.

Accessibility improvements

Not everyone gets on with transparency. Happily you can reduce its effect significantly in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences. What’s more, you can change the contrast level of windows and borders as well as increase the overall contrast of your display if you find Yosemite’s new look not so easy on the eye.

Calendar suggestions

Calendar in Yosemite is a little more intelligent than previous iterations and now learns from previous events in order to auto-complete event details as you input them – this includes likely attendees and even suggested dates to schedule the event. The more you use Calendar, the more accurate it becomes at predicting your schedule.

RSS feeds in Safari

RSS feed subscriptions are back in Safari. Simply click on the RSS feed icon in a web page and Safari will prompt you to OK the subscription, whereafter it will appear in the Shared Links sidebar alongside your other shared links piped in from Twitter and so on.




Install OS X 10.10 Yosemite

You can install OS X to a choice of media, such as USB drive, SD Card or an external hard drive connected via USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire or Thunderbolt.

It is possible, theoretically, to run OS X from any of these different types of media though–practically speaking–it is probably best to choose USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. This is down to the transfer speeds possible. With USB 2.0 the experience is quite slow.

You should also note that it is not normally possible to install a version of OS X prior to the version that originally shipped with the particular Mac that you are using.  For example, if the Mac originally shipped with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, then it is not normally possible to install OS X 10.7 Lion.

Whilst the OS X installers are much smaller, you will need to factor in approximately 10GB for the installed version of OS X. If you are using aUSB Flash Drive, or an SD Card, it will need to be 16GB or greater in capacity.

For the best possible experience, I’d recommend using this technique in the following circumstances:

  • Testing a later version of OS X to the one you are running on the Mac
  • Using USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt external drive, or
  • Using USB flash drive (16GB or greater)

I do not particuarly recommend using an SD Card or a USB 2.0 external drive.  They’ll work, but they are quite slow.

The process for installing OS X on an external volume is quite straight-forward. Essentially, it’s just the downloading of the particular OS X installer required, the correctly formatting of an external volume and the installation of OS X.

Connect an external drive
  • Connect an external drive to the Mac.  In this example the drive is a 1TB USB 3.0 external hard drive that is preformatted in the Microsoft File Allocation Table (FAT) format.
Partitioning, naming and formatting the external hard drive
  • Select the hard drive in the left hand pane, as shown, and click thePartition tab
  • Ensure that 1 Partition is selected int he Partition Layout field
  • If you wish, name the drive in the Name field
  • Select the Options… button
Ensuring that the external drive is correctly formatted
  • Select GUID Partition Table to allow the external drive to be used as a startup volume with a Mac.
Confirming the partitioning, and formatting, of the external volume

Check the confirmation dialogue box and, if in agreement with the proposed action, click Partition to format the external volume.

Downloading an OS X installer from the Mac App Store

Open the Mac App Store application and navigate to the Purchasespane. Provided that you have previously purchased them, you should seeLion and/or Mountain Lion, though they may show as Installed.  Note, Yosemite is only available to registered Apple developers at the time or writing, so you’ll not see this option in the Mac App Store.

To download the installer, hold down the Option key and click thePurchases tab.  The button to the right of the app should change toInstall.

Use Spotlight to find OS X Installers that are already on the Mac

If that does not work, search for the installer on the Mac, as it may already have been downloaded.  Open Spotlight and type Install OS X to find the required installer.

This example shows how to install OS X 10.10 Yosemite, though the procedure remains the same for OS X 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.9 Mavericks.

Launch the OS X installer

Launch the OS X installer that was downloaded from Mac App Store. The installer is normally located in the Applications folder.

You may have found it, instead, using Spotlight.

Read the terms and conditions.  You’ll need to Agree to them in order to continue with the installation.

Click the button Show All Disks…

Be aware that only the hard drive in the Mac will be shown by default. Click the button that says Show All Disks… to reveal other volumes that are attached to the Mac.

Select the appropriate external volume onto which OS X is to be installed

Select the external volume to which you’d like to install the operating system.  In this example, I am installing OS X 10.10 Yosemite to the external volume Yosemite 1TB from a Mac that is running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Installing OS X to the external drive volume

A progress bar will indicate the status of the installation of the software to the external volume.

Click the Restart button to restart the Mac, or wait 30 seconds for a restart

The Mac will then count down from 30 seconds before restarting unless you click the Restart button within this timeframe.

The Mac will then restart

The Mac will then restart and finish the installation process on the external hard drive.

When the Mac restarts, it will reboot into the version of OS X that you’ve installed to the external volume.  In my example, it’s OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

When you boot the Mac, listen out for the startup chime.  Immediately after the chime sounds, press and hold down the Option key (sometimes marked Alt).

After a short time, you will be presented with a screen similar to the one shown above.  Use the left and right arrow keys to navigate to the external volume, in my example an external 1TB USB 3.0 drive, and pressEnter.

Navigating to Apple > System Preferences > Startup Disk

If you are currently using your Mac and wish to reboot to a different volume, open up System Preferences by clicking on the Apple on the lefthand side of the menu bar.

Select the appropriate startup disk into which to boot next time the Mac is turned on

Select Startup Disk then choose which volume from which you wish to boot you restart the Mac.

Startup Key Combinations

Startup key combinations are invoked immediately following the startup chime, and before the grey Apple logo appears in the middle of the screen, when you power-on your Mac.

The object of these key combinations is to perform different functions, many of which are useful in the maintenance of Macs. The key combinations listed in this tutorial are specifically for use with Macs with Intel processors.

Tip: If you have a Windows keyboard, you can usually use the Windows key as the substitute for the Command key on the Mac keyboard.

Tip: If you are having difficulty invoking startup key combinations, ensure that you press and hold the keys immediately after the startup chime. Alternatively, use a wired keyboard where possible, to rule out any issues possible with Bluetooth keyboards.


Pressing the C key immediately after the startup chime will enable the option to boot from a range of media such as a bootable CD, bootable DVD or a bootable USB drive. This might include OS X install media (up to OS X 10.7 Lion) or USB install drives that you have created for other versions of OS X.


Pressing the D key immediately after the startup chime will boot your Mac into a suite of diagnostic utilities that enable you to test the hardware of your Mac. This is a useful way to rule out any hardware issues when trying to diagnose a possible problem with your Mac (which is why you may not have heard of it and, no doubt, have never used it!)

Tip: Remember D for Diagnostics.


This one is a bit of a finger-twister and, unless you are more dextrous than I, you’ll need both hands. The PRAM, on PowerPC Macs, or NVRAM, as it is on Intel Macs, is the non-volatile (random access) memory that stores various information about your Mac. This information includes:

  • speaker volume
  • screen resolution
  • startup disk selection
  • recent kernel panic information, if any

Resetting the NVRAM, on Intel Macs, may be one way of solving an issue related to the above areas.

When you invoke the Command-Option-P-R keyboard combination, keep the keys held down immediately after the first startup chime and release them upon hearing the second startup chime.


Pressing the Option key immediately after the startup chime will show you the available startup volumes.

A startup volume is a hard drive, USB drive, CD or DVD that contains a usable operating system from which the Mac can be booted.

This is particularly useful if you have your hard drive partitioned with two (or more) operating systems from which you wish to boot your Mac. Or, in the case of maintenance and recovery, when you need to boot from an external drive.


Pressing the Eject or F12 keys immediately after the startup chime will eject any removable media, such as an optical disc.

This is a useful option on those occasions when you just don’t seem to be able to get OS X to eject a DVD from the SuperDrive.

That said, the reliance on optical media is diminishing now that modern Macs are supplied without a SuperDrive.


Pressing the N key immediately after the startup chime will allow you to boot the Mac from a compatible network server. This option is most likely to be used by businesses with a network of Macs.


Pressing the T key immediately after the startup chime will allow another Mac with a FireWire port (the target Mac) to be used as an external hard drive connected to another Mac (the host).

Target Disk Mode is useful for accessing the contents of a Mac which cannot be booted from its own hard drive.


Pressing the Shift key immediately after the startup chime will start up your Mac in a way that performs particular checks and prevents certain software from automatically loading or opening.

This is particularly useful if any maintenance is required on your Mac and can be used to resolve or isolate certain problems that exist on the internal hard drive (startup volume).


Pressing the Command-V keys immediately after the startup chime will start up your Mac in verbose mode. Verbose mode is typically used for troubleshooting; it shows what is happening during system startup.

It is possible to start in verbose mode every time you start your Mac, by opening Terminal and entering the following command:

sudo nvram boot-args="-v&"

To disable verbose mode booting, enter:

sudo nvram boot-args=

If you just want to boot into verbose mode on an ad-hoc basis simply hold the Command-V keys.


Pressing the Command-S keys immediately after the startup chime will start up your Mac in single-user mode.

Single-user mode is a mode in which a multiuser OS X operating system boots into a single superuser for the purposes of maintenance.


Pressing the Option-N keys immediately after the startup chime will start up your Mac from a NetBoot server using the default boot image. This is of most use to businesses with a network of Macs.


Pressing the Command-R keys immediately after the startup chime will start up from the OS X Recovery System.

The OS X Recovery System is available with all Macs that originally shipped with OS X 10.7 Lion onwards. That said, the following Macs may require the download and installation of updated EFI Firmware for these computers to use the OS X Internet Recovery feature:

  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011)
  • iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011)
  • iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011)
  • MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2010)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2010)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2010)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch and 17-inch, Mid 2010)
  • iMac (21.5-inch and 27-inch, Mid 2010)
  • MacBook Air (11-inch and 13-inch, Late 2010)

The OS X Internet Recovery System allows you to start your Mac directly from Apple’s servers. Starting up in this way performs a quick test of your Mac’s memory and hard drive to check for hardware issues. OS X Internet Recovery can download and start from a Recovery System image before you are offered the same utilities and options as a local Recovery System.