Opening apps on your Mac

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WHAT’S BETTER THAN having an app able to handle whatever kind of file you want to open? Answer: having a choice of ways to run your apps. Such flexibility is one of the characteristics of the Mac, enabling it to suit whatever you need to do right now or the way you like to work.

So to find an app you want, you can browse the Applications folder in Finder, and create desktop aliases or add favourites to the Dock for easy access. If you’re more familiar with iPad or iPhone, the macOS Launchpad presents large app icons in an iOS-like grid. You can use Spotlight or Siri to find apps for you. To open a file with a specific app, drag-and-drop the file onto the app icon or alias in Finder or the Dock.

At the other end of the scale, you can use the Terminal utility to launch apps from the command line, or to open files with a specific app. To run an app, type the open command, for example: “open/Applications/Mail.app”. Add ‘-a’ to open a named file with a specific app, for instance: “open -a Preview ~/Pictures/ pumpkins.jpg”.

If you’re a keyboard fan but don’t feel ready for Terminal commands, consider setting up app shortcuts to open selected items using a key combination. To do this, create a Service using Automator, another tool that comes free with your Mac, then set up a keyboard shortcut for the Service in System Preferences (see steps 8–9 opposite).

How about not having to open apps yourself at all? You can configure your Mac to open specified apps automatically when you log in to your user account, so they’re already running when you need them. Go to ‘System Preferences > Users & Groups’, and click the Login Items tab for your user account. (You can also do this for other user accounts you manage.) Click the plus sign beneath the right-hand pane to add an app. Click the Hide checkbox next to an app if you want its windows to be hidden even though it has launched in the background.

[ STEP BY STEP ]

OPEN APPS USING A VARIETY OF METHODS

 
01 USE FINDER

To open apps in Finder, simply click the Finder icon in the Dock (it’s always there, on the left), then click Applications in the sidebar — if this is hidden, go to ‘Finder > Preferences > Sidebar’ — and double-click an app icon.

 
02 APPS IN THE DOCK

The Dock provides single-click access to your favourite apps. To tell your Mac to keep an app there, ‘Ctrl-click’ the app’s icon and pick ‘Options > Keep in Dock’. You can drag any app’s icon from Finder straight into the Dock.

 
03 USE SPOTLIGHT

You can use Spotlight to search for apps wherever they are on your Mac and open them. Press ‘Command+space’ to reveal its search bar, then type an app’s name. Use the arrow keys to select the app; press Return to open it.

 
04 USE ALIASES

For fast access to an app, create a shortcut to it. Hold ‘Opt-Command’ and drag the app icon to your desktop or a folder; the arrow on the pointer shows it will create an alias when you let go. To open the app, double-click the alias.

 
05 LAUNCHPAD

Launchpad works like an iPhone’s Home screen. Click its icon in the Dock or use Spotlight to open its icon grid, then click the app you want. You can drag icons to rearrange them across multiple pages and in folders.

 
06 OPEN WITH

Double-clicking a file opens the app set as default for that type of file — to set this, ‘Ctrl-click’ it, select ‘Get Info’, pick an app under ‘Open with’, and click ‘Change All’. To open a file in a different app, ‘Ctrl-click’ and use ‘Open with’.

 
07 ASK SIRI

Click Siri’s icon in the Dock or menu bar and enable Ask Siri. Now click either icon again or hold down ‘Commandspace’ to open Siri and try saying commands, such as “Launch Mail”. You can disable Siri in System Preferences.

 
08 MAKE A SERVICE

Open Automator and create a new Service document. Change the ‘Service receives’ item to ‘no input’. Drag Launch Application from the left to the right pane. Select your app in the pop-up, and press ‘Ccommand-S’ to save.

 
09 ASSIGN A KEY COMBO

Name your Service, and press ‘Command-C’ to copy the name. Go to ‘System Preferences > Keyboards > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts’. Click ‘+’, paste the name, click the shortcut box, and press your desired key combo. Finally, click Save.