10:59 am

MacMost Now 336: User Accounts and Fast User Switching

If more than one person uses your Mac, you should set up multiple user accounts so each person has their own space for files and their own application preferences. You can use Fast User Switching to keep multiple accounts logged in at the same time so applications remain running and documents remain open.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode, let's learn about user accounts and fast user switching.
Do you share a Mac with other members of your family? A lot of people do. And a lot of people also use just one account and everybody just shares that account. There's a better way to do it. You can set up individual user accounts for every member of your family.
You'll find Accounts under System Preferences, in Accounts. There's a list on the left of all the users who have an account in this computer. Click on the padlock here, and authenticate to be able to make changes.
Now, you have to be an Admin account to make changes. Chances are, if you just have the default account set up on your Mac when you got it, it's an Admin account.
So, admin accounts can make changes here, including using the plus and minus buttons to add and remove accounts. So, to add a new account, press the plus button and you can enter in a name, an account name, which is kind of like a short name.
So, you might enter in, for instance, Bob Smith here, and you must just put Bob as the account name. And then, give the account a password and verify it.
Every user account you set up has a different user folder. That's a folder that has documents, music, pictures, movies, all that stuff in it. Not only does it have its own space to put files, but all of the preferences for all of the programs are different.
So, for instance, for mail, you would have a different mail account set up. In the browser, you would have different bookmarks and different customizations. Any program you set up, if you create preferences for it, it's going to customize those preferences for that user.
So, the applications are shared across all users, but the specific preferences for those applications are specific to those users. After you've created a user, you can make them an Admin by clicking 'Allow user to administer this computer'.
Now, an admin can remove and add new accounts and can also get access using their password to files in other users' accounts folders. So, it depends on your level of trust for that user, whether or not you want to make them an Admin.
You, of course, as the administrator of the computer, definitely want to be an Admin. So, each user would sit down at their computer and log in as themselves. All of the applications would be set up with their preferences, and they would have access to their iTunes library and their iPhoto library, etc.
Then, when they're done, they would log out, and the next person would log in. Instead of seeing the other person's stuff, they would have all of their own stuff. So, it's like each person has their own Mac, but it's all on one computer.
So, logging out is simply a matter of going to the Apple menu and choosing log out, and then it will go to the log in screen. Any applications you were running and things you were doing are closed just as if you had shut down the computer.
So, this can be a real pain, if someone needs to get on the computer to check something really quickly, you've got to close out all of your work. Well, there's a better way to do that. It's called fast user switching. You can enable it by clicking on log in options in the Accounts preferences, and then enable fast user switching right here, and you can choose to show as an icon, short name, or name.
Once you've done that, you get this menu up at the upper right hand corner of your menu bar. Right here, I just have it by icon, and I can see, I can view the two accounts on this machine, and quickly switch to one.
The check marks mean that that user is now logged in. The fast user switching implies that it's fast. But the most important thing is that you haven't logged out the first user. All their applications are still open, all the windows are still open, the document they are working on is still there. Everything is still going. You have just temporarily suspended it, gone to the second user, they can perform something, and then you can use fast user switching to go back to the first user.
So, many people can be logged into the same Mac, and in the middle of tasks, and you don't have to stop what you're doing to let somebody else use it.
You can also enable the guest account as another way to log in. If you allow guests to log in to this computer, then they can log on as a guest, and it will create a temporary user account. They can then use all of the applications, and when they log out, all of their files and settings are wiped away.
So, it is a great way, if somebody visits your house, and they want to quickly check something on the internet, to allow them to use your computer without actually having to use one of the accounts you've got set up.
If you look on your Mac hard drive, you will see there's a users folder. If you look in there, you'll see there's a folder for each of the users you've created. A little home icon is used for the one that is currently logged in.
In addition, there's a shared folder, and the contents of that shared folder are available for everybody on all of the accounts. So, it is a great way to pass files back and forth between users.
So if you have more than one person using your Mac, I encourage you to create multiple user accounts. It's to help you avoid stepping on each others' toes, and create a better computing experience for everybody.
Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig, with MacMost Now.

Comments: 2 Responses to “MacMost Now 336: User Accounts and Fast User Switching”

    11/21/12 @ 8:16 pm

    This was a very interesting MacMost Now. I would like just the icalendars in my MacBook Pro, my iPhone 4s and Ann’s iPhone4S to work as one. I’m hoping I wouldn’t have to set up a new account for Ann. It would be so nice if all our calendar entries were visible to both of us to avoid double bookings. Ann has her own PC (she doesn’t use my Mac)and does not use her computer calendar. Is this possible?

      11/21/12 @ 9:17 pm

      So all you want to do is have a single shared calendar? Well, if your wife has an iPhone 4S then she probably has an Apple ID, right? (Apple ID = iCloud account). She should in order to buy apps and music, etc. So then just create a shared calendar with your iCloud account and share it with her using her iCloud account.

Comments Closed.