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Exploring the Mac's sharing features

Christopher Breen | Feb. 25, 2013
Last week I showed you how to connect your Mac to the Internet and to a local network. Now that your computer is on speaking terms with other devices and services, let's examine exactly how you can put those powers of communication to use for sharing the devices and files associated with your Mac.

Another user can also browse your computer over Bluetooth. In the next section of the window, you may choose  to allow this browsing automatically or to be presented with a dialog box where you can make such decisions case by case. In the same section of the window, you also select the folder that the connected user can browse. (By default, this is the Public folder within your user folder, but you can select a different one.)

To establish a connection over Bluetooth, each party must have Bluetooth switched on and discoverable. (Both options are located in the Bluetooth system preference.) To make a connection, click on the plus (+) button at the bottom of the Bluetooth window. Bluetooth Setup Assistant will launch, and the names of any discoverable devices will appear in its window. Select the one you wish to connect with, and click Continue.

Bluetooth Setup Assistant will generate a code on the Mac where it's currently running and will send that code to the device that you wish to connect to. The other device must acknowledge that code. Once it does, the two devices are paired. Quit Bluetooth Setup Assistant, and you'll find your paired device listed in the Bluetooth system preference.

To send a file to a paired device, click the Bluetooth menu in the menu bar, locate the name of the paired device, and choose Send File from the device's submenu. In the window that opens, you can navigate to the item you wish to send. Select the item and click the Send button in the window. An Incoming File Transfer window will appear on the other Mac by default. Click Accept on that Mac, and the system will transfer the file to the folder configured to accept it.

You can browse another device similarly. Click the Bluetooth menu, but this time choose the paired device and select Browse. You can then see the contents of the folder that the other user has granted you access to.

Note that you can't use Bluetooth to share files between iOS devices. Although the iPod touch, the iPhone, and the iPad have Bluetooth capabilities, they don't support file transfer.

The last thing: AirDrop

If this last operation sounds especially tedious, I have good news for anyone who uses Lion or Mountain Lion and wishes to quickly transfer items from one Mac to another. That good news is called AirDrop, and it works like this.

With each Mac connected to Wi-Fi, open a Finder window on both computers. Select AirDrop in each window's sidebar. Any Macs that are running Lion or Mountain Lion on your local network and that have their AirDrop window open will appear as round icons in the window, with their names below. To transfer a file from your Mac to another Mac, simply drag the file on top of the other computer's icon. You'll be asked if you'd like to send that file. Click Send, and a notification will appear on the other Mac, inviting you to save and open, to decline, or to save. Click Save and Open or Save, and the item will be transferred to the other Mac and placed in that Mac's Downloads folder.


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