Customize your Screen Saver, Display, and sleep settings (Energy Saver).
I like to keep interruptions to a minimum. If I am going to be looking at my screen pondering a sticky problem, I prefer not to have it go dim (or into a boring Screen Saver) too soon.
My favorite Screen Saver is a slideshow of about 500 perfectly-edited Interfacelift images, assembled by a very good friend of mine. Second favorite? The word of the day. I like to get smarter whenever possible.
To add a folder of pictures for your Screen Saver slideshow, go to System Preferences -> Desktop & Screen Saver -> Screen Saver tab, then hit the + sign. You can also change the Screen Saver start time with the slider. To change your sleep settings, go to System Preferences -> Energy Saver, then adjust the sleep timers for both Battery and Power Adapter.
I will always set the Screen Saver start time to 4 minutes, display sleep to about 15, and computer sleep to about 25. I like to turn off the “Slightly dim the display…” and “Automatically reduce the brightness before sleep” options. I also install a great little utility called Caffeine that puts a little coffee cup icon in your menu bar. You can enable it to tell the Mac never to sleep or go into the Screen Saver. Great for Youtube videos.
Lastly, the “Automatically adjust brightness as ambient light changes” setting annoys me. It’s usually the first to go, from System Preferences -> Display. Not that I’m picky or anything.
Adding password security to your Mac.
I like to have a password on wake from sleep or Screen Saver as well, which you can do from System Preferences -> Security -> General tab, and “Require password immediately after sleep or Screen Saver begins.”
To make sure someone doesn’t just restart your Mac to get into it, in System Preferences -> Accounts, click the lock in the bottom left to unlock that panel with your Admin password, click Login Options, and turn Automatic Login “Off”.
Lastly, I will also set a hot corner in the bottom right of my screen so I can toss my mouse cursor down there when I walk away from my Mac to start the Screen Saver, thereby locking my screen. You can do that from the Screen Savers area of System Preferences, then Hot Corners… in the bottom left. Then just set it up like this (or however you want):
Add frequent-access folders to your Sidebar.
The nice thing about the Finder window sidebars (shortcuts and Places on the left of the windows – see my “where am I” post) is that those same shortcuts show up in Open and Save dialogs in all your applications. I will always add my important folders to that sidebar for quick access.
You can do that just by dragging the folder from wherever it lives and placing it in that sidebar. Be sure to drop it in there carefully so you see the blue insertion point show up between the other two items.
Note that you can’t drag something from sidebar to sidebar, it will just remove it if you do that.
Power user tip: Command-click any folder in the Sidebar to open it in a new window. Great for having two windows side by side, to move items back and forth. Try also right-clicking (or Control-clicking) the sidebar items to get some helpful options!