Mac 101: Tips for getting more out of your Apple Remote

It might seem like the small Apple Remote (s aapl) that used to come in the box with new Macs is a one-trick pony for controlling iTunes or DVD playback, but there are actually some hidden ways to use it. Here are a few ways to get more mileage out of this small Apple accessory.

Pair your remote with your Mac

If there are multiple Macs around when you’re using your remote, you’ll find that pressing a button once will perform the same action on every nearby Mac. To solve this problem, you can pair the remote specifically with a single target Mac. Open System Preferences, and then open the Security & Privacy pane.

At the bottom is a button labelled Pair…. Click this button, then follow the instructions that appear by holding the remote near your Mac and holding down the Menu and Next buttons on the remote. (Next is the button on the right-hand side of the ring at the top of the remote.)
Once you’ve done this, your remote and your Mac will be paired, meaning that using that remote will only control that one Mac.

Send your Mac to sleep with the remote

When using your Mac as a media center, you may wish to put the computer to sleep once you’re done. To do this quickly, you can use your remote. All you need to do is hold down the Play/Pause button on the remote. After a few seconds, a graphic will appear on the screen and your Mac will go to sleep.

Set up custom actions for your remote

By downloading the free utility BetterTouchTool, you can set up custom actions, which will be performed when you press specific buttons on your remote. This is great if you don’t use your remote for controlling iTunes or FrontRow, since you can override the default actions (play, next, pause, etc).
Once you’ve downloaded BetterTouchTool, you can add custom actions (called Gestures in BTT) by clicking its icon in the menu bar and choosing Preferences. Click Gestures at the top, then Apple Remote and other.
Next, click Add new gesture at the bottom of the screen. You can then select a ‘gesture’, i.e. a button on the remote, from the drop down in the lower left. After that, choose an action from the other drop down in the bottom right corner, or type a keyboard shortcut in the box.

For instance, you could set up an action which locks your computer when you hold down the Menu button on the remote by setting the gesture to Menu, Holding and the action to Show Loginscreen. (Note that since OS X doesn’t have an explicit ‘lock’ feature, this is the next best thing since it requires you to enter your password to get back into your Mac afterwards.)

Change the startup disk and eject CDs

As your Mac starts up, if you hold the Menu button on the remote, you’ll see the same menu as if you hold the Option key on the keyboard – a list of available startup disks. You can then use the remote to select a disk, and boot from it using the Play/Pause button.
In the same menu, you can also use the Volume Up button to eject a CD or DVD after selecting it.