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① If you have a Yosemite or El Capitan Mac and an iOS 8.1 or later device that both meet Apple’s hardware requirements, you can use AirDrop sharing between them. Prior to Yosemite, AirDrop simplified transferring files between Macs on the same network, and later between iOS devices in.

Whether you’ve purchased a new Mac with OS X El Capitan preinstalled or have upgraded from a previous version of OS X, you’ll find that OS X El Capitan makes your Mac easier to use and offers myriad improvements to make you more productive. Get additional information on things you should never do to your Mac; a compendium of useful and timesaving keyboard shortcuts; a discussion of when folders are too full and when (and when not) to create subfolders; recommendations for backing up data; and a short discussion of iDevices and Continuity.

What Not to Do with Your Mac Running El Capitan

Treat your Mac and OS X El Capitan with care. To keep your work and leisure projects safe, never do any of these things with your Mac:

  • Never shut off your Mac by pulling the plug. Always use the Shut Down command from the Apple menu in El Capitan (or press the Power button and then click the Shut Down button).

    If you’re using a laptop, you can usually get away with pulling the plug while it’s running because the battery automatically kicks in. The only caveat is that if your battery is totally depleted, damaged, or missing entirely, you could suffer directory damage or data loss by pulling the plug. Just use the Shut Down command, and you’ll sleep well.

  • Never bump, drop, shake, wobble, dribble, drop-kick, or play catch with a hard drive while it’s running El Capitan. Don’t forget: Your desktop Mac has a hard or solid-state drive inside it, too.

  • Never get up from your Mac without saving your work. Just before your butt leaves the chair, your fingers should press Command+S (the keyboard shortcut in OS X that saves your work). Make it a habit.

  • Never keep only one copy of your important documents. Make at least two backup copies and keep one of them in another physical location. Period.

  • Never clean your monitor with a glass cleaner, such as Windex (or another product not designed to be used on a video display). And nix the paper towels or tissues, too. Use a soft cloth (microfiber is best) to avoid scratching the display.

  • Never pay attention to anyone who says that Windows 10 is just like the Mac. Yeah, right. And a Kia is just like a BMW.

Handy Keyboard Shortcuts for OS X El Capitan

Make your work go faster with these OS X El Capitan keyboard shortcuts. Print this chart and refer to it while using OS X El Capitan.

CommandKeyboard Shortcut
Add Selected Item to SidebarCommand+Control+T
Add Selected Item to DockCommand+Control+Shift+T
Close All WindowsOption+Command+W
Close WindowCommand+W
Eject DiskCommand+E
Get Info (on selected item or items)Command+I
Show Inspector (on selected item or items)Command+Option+I
Go to All My FilesShift+Command+F
Go to Applications FolderShift+Command+A
Go to DesktopShift+Command+D
Go to Documents FolderShift+Command+O
Go to Home FolderShift+Command+H
Hide Current ApplicationCommand+H
Hide Other ApplicationsCommand+Shift+H
Log Out Current UserShift+Command+Q
Make AliasCommand+L
Minimize WindowCommand+M
Mission Control: All WindowsControl+Up Arrow (F3 on Apple keyboards)
Mission Control: Application WindowsControl+Down Arrow (Control+F3 on Apple keyboards)
Mission Control: Show DesktopF11 (fn+F11 on laptops) (Command+F3 on Apple keyboards)
Move to TrashCommand+Delete
Empty TrashShift+Command+Delete
New Finder WindowCommand+N
New FolderShift+Command+N
New Smart FolderOption+Command+N
Next WindowCommand+`
Quick Look (at selected item)Command+Y or Spacebar
Select AllCommand+A
Show Original (of selected alias)Command+R
Show/Hide DockOption+Command+D
Show/Hide ToolbarOption+Command+T
Show/Hide SidebarOption+Command+S
Show/Hide Path BarOption+Command+P
Show/Hide Status BarCommand+/
Show/Hide Tab BarShift+Command+T
Turn VoiceOver On/OffCommand+F5 (fn+F5 on laptops)
View Window as IconsCommand+1
View Window as ListCommand+2
View Window as ColumnsCommand+3
View Window as Cover FlowCommand+4
Show View OptionsCommand+J

Tabbing around El Capitan’s Save or Save As Sheet

In the expanded view of OS X El Capitan, if you press the Tab key while the Save As field is active, it becomes inactive, and the Search box becomes active. Press Tab again, and the Sidebar becomes active. Press the Tab key one more time, and the file list box (more accurately known as the detail pane — the part with Icon, List, Column, or Cover Flow view buttons in it) becomes active.

That’s because the file list box, the Search box, the Sidebar, and the Save As field are mutually exclusive, and only one can be active at any time. You can always tell which item is active by the thin blue or gray border around it.

When you want to switch to a different folder to save a file, click the folder in the Sidebar or click anywhere in the file list box to make the file list active. The following tricks help you get a hold on this whole active/inactive silliness:

  • If you type while the file list box is active, the list box selects the folder that most closely matches the letter(s) that you type. It’s a little strange because you won’t see what you type: You’ll be typing blind, so to speak.

  • When the file list is active, the letters that you type don’t appear in the Save As field. If you want to type a filename, you have to activate the Save As field again (by clicking in it or using the Tab key) before you can type in it.

  • If you type while the Sidebar is active, nothing happens. You can, however, use the up- and down-arrow keys to move around in the Sidebar.

  • Pressing Shift reverses the order of the sequence. If you press Shift+Tab, the active item moves from the Save As field to the file list box to the Sidebar to the Search box and back to the Save As field again.

Creating Subfolders in OS X El Capitan . . . or Not

How full is too full? When should you begin creating subfolders in El Capitan? That’s impossible to say, at least in a one-size-fits-all way, but having too many items in a folder can be a nightmare — as can having too many subfolders with just one or two files in each one.

If you find more than 15 or 20 files in a single folder, begin thinking about ways to subdivide it. On the other hand, some of your biggest subfolders might contain things that you don’t often access, such as a Correspondence 1992 folder. Because you don’t use it often, its overcrowded condition might not bother you.

Here are some tips to help you decide whether to use subfolders or just leave well enough alone:

  • Don’t create subfolders until you need them. That way, you avoid opening an empty folder when you’re looking for something else — a complete waste of time.

  • Let your work style decide the file structure. When you first start working with your Mac, you may want to save everything in your Documents folder for a while. When a decent-size group of documents has accumulated in the Documents folder, consider taking a look at them and creating logical subfolders for them.

Dr. Mac’s Backup Recommendations

When working in OS X El Capitan, would you like to ensure that you won’t lose more than a little work no matter what happens — even if your office burns, floods, is destroyed by tornado, hurricane, or earthquake, or robbed? If so, you might want to follow the setup described here.


I am continually testing new backup solutions, so the software I use can change from month to month. I’ve tried most of the popular backup solutions and many of the more obscure ones, but before I say anything about my current setup, here is what I’m trying to accomplish (at a minimum): I want at least three (reasonably) current backup sets with copies of all my files.

I update two of them every day and keep the third somewhere offsite, such as in a safe deposit box at the bank. Every month or two, I swap the offsite backup for the latest backup from home — and then reuse the older backup disk.

Note that after I set up the following programs, they run automatically in the background with no further action on my part. Think of this as a “set and forget” feature.

  • My first line of defense, of course, is El Capitan’s excellent Time Machine. There’s no excuse not to use it. But although Time Machine maintains multiple copies of files, they’re all stored on the same disk. If something’s worth backing up to one place, it’s worth backing up three times.

  • And so, in addition to Time Machine, I use the excellent CrashPlan (free for local backups; $5 per month for unlimited cloud storage). I might use it to back up my Documents folder four times a day to two different hard drives. It also backs up my Home folder continuously to yet another hard drive, so every time I make a change to a document, the backup copy is updated in real time. Finally, it backs up my Home folder over the Internet to the CrashPlan cloud-based servers. Best of all, it does all that for a mere $5 per month.

  • Every night at midnight, Carbon Copy Cloner ($39.99) clones (duplicates) my startup disk to another hard drive, which provides me a bootable backup I can use with almost any other Mac.

  • Finally, I use the excellent and free (up to 20GB) Dropbox service to synchronize current projects among several Macs and my iPhone and iPad, giving me even more backup copies of my most important files.

There is one last thing: I test the integrity of each backup regularly, and so should you. For one thing, it confirms that the files I think are there are actually there, and it reassures me that the files in that backup set aren’t corrupted or damaged and are capable of being restored successfully.

iDevices and Continuity in OS X El Capitan

Continuity is the blanket term for a set of features in El Capitan and iOS 8 that allow you to seamlessly move between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

At present, four features provide Continuity:

  • Handoff:Start working on an email or document on one device (your Mac, for example), and pick up where you left off on another Apple device such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

  • Instant hotspot:Use your iDevice’s cellular Internet connection to connect your Mac to the Internet.

  • Phone calling:Use your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch to make and receive phone calls using your iPhone.

  • SMS:Use your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch to send and receive SMS and MMS messages (i.e. “text messages”) using your Mac, iPad, and/or iPod touch.

They’re a useful little quartet, but they only work with relatively new Apple devices. So before you get too excited, peruse the system requirements for each feature.

Intro and system requirements

Handoff and Instant Hotspot are supported by the following Mac models and require Yosemite or OS X El Capitan:

  • MacBook (2015)

  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 and later)

  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 and later)

  • iMac (Late 2012 and later)

  • Mac mini (Late 2012 and later)

  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

Instant Hotspot requires one of these iDevices with cellular connectivity and Personal Hotspot service through your wireless carrier:

  • iPhone 5 or later

  • iPhone 4s (sharing iPhone calls only)

  • iPad (4th generation), iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro

  • iPad mini, iPad mini with Retina display, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4

  • iPod touch (5th generation and later)

Phone Calling requires an iPhone with at least iOS 8 and an activated carrier plan, and works with any iOS device that supports iOS 8 and any Mac that supports El Capitan.

SMS requires an iPhone with at least iOS 8.1 and an activated carrier plan, and works with any iOS device with iOS 8.1 and any Mac that supports El Capitan.

If your gear isn’t listed, Continuity isn’t going to work for you. So, assuming you have at least two or more devices that meet those requirements, here is how to put these useful features to work for you.

How to use Handoff

Handoff lets you start a document, email, or message on one Apple device and pick up where you left off on another. It works with Apple apps including Mail, Safari, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote as well as some third-party apps.

To use Handoff:

  • Sign in to the same iCloud account on all of your devices.

  • Turn on Bluetooth on all the devices you want to use. Make sure your devices are near each other. “Near” means “in the same house” if not “in the same room.” Separate your devices by more than a couple of rooms (or 25–35 feet) and Handoff won’t work.

  • Connect all your devices to the same Wi-Fi network.

Then, use one of the aforementioned apps on one of your devices. For the sake of this example, start a new presentation in Keynote on the Mac.

When Keynote is open on your Mac, you’ll see a tiny Keynote icon on your iDevice’s Lock screen.

If you swipe up from the bottom-left edge of the Lock screen, where you see the icon, Keynote will launch on your iPhone, and you’ll see the presentation you started on your Mac, ready for you to continue working on it.

Another way to open an app available for Handoff on your iDevice is to double-click the Home button and then tap the app (Keynote in this example) in the multitasking display.

Going the other direction, if you had started the presentation on your iDevice, you’d see a Keynote icon on the left side of your Dock, as shown.

Click the icon to launch Keynote, which will open the presentation that’s currently open on your iDevice.

You can also use El Capitan’s app switcher (Command-Tab) to open an app that’s displaying a Handoff icon in your Dock.

If you decide you want to disable Handoff:

  • On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch: Tap Settings→General→Handoff & Suggested Apps, and turn off Handoff.

  • On your Mac: Open System Preferences, click the General icon, and uncheck Allow Handoff.

Try using Handoff with Safari. If you start reading a web page on one device, as long as you don’t quit Safari you can pick up reading it on any of your other devices. You might find that you use Handoff more with Safari than with documents, messages, and mail combined. Bottom line: Handoff is a sweet feature when it works.

Handoff isn’t as robust as some features. Many users have experienced inconsistent or nonexistent behavior with Handoff. I’m sure Apple will get it sorted out in an iOS or El Capitan update. Meanwhile, if it stops working (or never started working) for you, you might have some luck by disabling Handoff, logging out of iCloud on all devices, restarting all the devices, and then reenabling Handoff. It’s a pain but it works more often than not (assuming all of your gear meets the requirements).

How to use Personal Hotspot

Another Continuity feature allows you to use the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone or cellular iPad to provide instant Internet access to other iDevices.

Some cellular operators and data plans don’t include Personal Hotspot. If you don’t see a Personal Hotspot in Settings→Cellular Data on your iDevice, contact your wireless operator.

The first thing to do is enable the hotspot on your cellular device by tapping Settings→Cellular Data and enabling the Personal Hotspot switch.

Now, to get Internet access on your (non-cellular) device:

  • Sign into iCloud using the same Apple ID used on the cellular iDevice.

  • Tap Settings→Wi-Fi and select the name of the iPhone or iPad with the Personal Hotspot.

To get Internet access on your Mac:

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  • Click the Wi-Fi menu in the menu bar and select the name of your iPhone or iPad with the cellular connection.

And that’s all there is to it!

The data consumed by the non-cellular devices comes from the cellular device with the Personal Hotspot’s data plan. If your data plan is unlimited, you’re golden. For those who pay for data by the gigabyte: Keep an eye on your cellular data usage to avoid unpleasant surprises on your next bill.

How to make phone calls with Continuity

With Continuity, you can make and receive cellular phone calls from your iPad, iPod touch, or Mac when your iPhone is on the same Wi-Fi network.

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To make and receive phone calls on your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch:

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  1. Sign in to the same iCloud account on all your devices, including your Mac.

  2. Make sure all devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.

  3. Make sure all devices are signed in to FaceTime using the same iCloud account.

    This means that any device using this Apple ID for FaceTime will receive your phone calls. See the instructions for turning off iPhone cellular calling later in this section to disable phone calls on a device.

  4. Wi-Fi Calling must be turned off.Tap Settings→Phone and if you see Wi-Fi Calling, turn it off.

Now that you’ve got everything configured, here’s how to make a call from your Mac, iPad or iPod touch:

  • Tap or click a phone number in Contacts, Calendar, or Safari, or tap a phone number from a recent contact in the multitasking display of iDevices.

  • To answer a call on your iPad or iPod touch, just swipe to answer.

  • On a Mac you’ll see a notification when you receive a call on your iPhone. You can then click to answer the call, send it to voicemail, or send the caller a message.

  • Finally, to disable iPhone cellular calls on your iPad or iPod touch, tap Settings→FaceTime and turn off iPhone Cellular Calls. To disable them on your Mac, open the FaceTime app and choose FaceTime→ Preferences, click Settings, and deselect the iPhone Cellular Calls checkbox.

SMS and Continuity

With Continuity, all the SMS and MMS text messages you send and receive on your iPhone appear on your Mac, iPad, and iPod touch, even if the person on the other end is less fortunate and doesn’t use an iPhone or a Mac.

Furthermore, you can reply from whichever device is closest to you, including your iPad, iPod touch, or Mac.

To use Continuity for SMS and MMS with your iPhone and your Mac, iPad or iPod touch, all of your iDevices need iOS 8.1 or higher and your Macs need Yosemite or OS X El Capitan. And all devices need to sign in to iMessage using the same Apple ID.

Now enable SMS on your iPhone by taping Settings→Messages→ Send & Receive→You Can Be Reached By iMessage At and enable the check boxes for both your phone number and your email address.

Now tap Settings→Messages→Text Message Forwarding and enable the devices you would like this iPhone to forward SMS messages to.

Each device you enable will display a code; just enter the code on your iPhone to verify the SMS feature and you’re done.

10 Favorite Websites for OS X El Capitan Users

To learn about all things Macintosh and OS X El Capitan, hop onto the web, check out these sites, and stuff your brain with Mac information:

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  • Alltop aggregates information from dozens of great Mac-oriented websites and makes it easy to skim headlines and story summaries. You can even build your own custom version that contains only sites you want to see. Feel free to use the Apple-oriented Alltop page.

  • The Apple support site and Apple support communities are treasure troves of tech notes, software update information, troubleshooting tips, and documentation for most Apple products.

  •, the site formerly known as VersionTracker, is the place to go to find freeware, shareware, and software updates for OS X. If this site doesn’t have it, it probably doesn’t exist.

  • Macworlddescribes itself as, “Your best source for all things Apple,” and it’s not far from the truth. Macworld is especially strong for comparative reviews of Mac and iPhone/iPad products. If you want to find out which inkjet printer or digital camera is the best in its price class, probably has feature comparison charts and real-world test results.

  • The Mac Observeroffers insightful opinion pieces in addition to the usual Apple news and product reviews. The quality and depth of the writing at The Mac Observer is superior to most other sites covering the Apple beat.

  • TidBITS bills itself as “Apple news for the rest of us,” but there’s much more to TidBITS than just the news. You can also find thoughtful commentary, in-depth analysis, and detailed product reviews, written and edited by pros who really know the Apple ecosystem.

  • Six Colorsis Jason Snell’s latest venture. The former lead editor for Macworld (for over a decade), he and his team provide daily coverage of Apple, other technology companies, and the intersection of technology and culture. It’s only been around for a year, but the writing is strong, opinionated, and fun to read.

  • Other World Computingis a favorite maker of accessories and peripherals for Macs. They have a wide array of storage upgrade kits and memory upgrades that are guaranteed for life.

  • DealMac is the place to shop for deals on Mac stuff. With a motto like “How to go broke saving money,” this site is often the first to find out about sale prices, rebates, and other bargain opportunities on upgrades, software, peripherals, and more.

  • The BobLeVitus.TV Showis here, frankly, because one more site was needed to make ten. So visit the home of this fledgling TV series and check out the author’s vision of how you make a TV show about technology fun and interesting.