Posted on the 26th of May, 2008
A couple of months ago, I made the long waited switch. I decided to convert to Mac, all the way. This was in my plans for a long time but I waited for the right time. The initial plan was to make the switch on September 2008, just before I start my MSc degree. Due to an unexpected PC failure though, I decided to get a Mac a bit earlier. After a couple of months of using it I collected various tips that I hope will help early Mac adopters out there. These tips include useful software or keyboard shortcuts that made my life easier and probably will make yours as well.
Note: Since I have an iMac, some of the tips mentioned will not apply for Macbook/Macbook Pro/Air users due to the lack of the full sized keyboard. Also the tips/apps mentioned were tested on Mac OS X Leopard. I don’t know if these work on previous version of OS X.
- The “I use this for Mac” website has a really nice list of software that can help you find Windows replacement software.
- The “Enter/Return” keys will rename a file instead of open it. To change this behavior (iMac only), I installed an app called “Return Open” where the “Return” key opens a file. The “Enter” key on the numpad will still rename files. If you don’t like the idea then you can stick to Finder’s default “cmd+o” to open a selected file.
- Spotlight can also do mathematic calculations and find word definitions. Just fire it up using the keyboard shortcut (mine is cmd+space) and start typing your mathematical expression or even a word. Spotlight will help you right away. If you want some more power over your Spotlight, I suggest trying Quicksilver.
- If you are a movie/tv series junkie and you download lots of movies then you will need some codecs to play some unsupported video files. Perian does exactly that.
- iMac users will notice right away that the Mighty Mouse lucks some advance configuration. Also it feels a bit weird controlling it over the really large 20” (or even 24”) monitor. I found out that a software called “SteerMouse” provides some better drivers for your Mighty Mouse or other USB compatible mouse.
- While on the Mighty Mouse chapter, you may notice at some time that the “scroll ball” will stop working. This is a really common issue with the Mighty Mouse. To fix this, just unplug the mouse, turn it upside down, and start rolling and cleaning the ball at the same time with a dry piece of cloth. Try all the possible directions while cleaning. If this fails to fix the problem try the same technique with a damp cloth.
- If you get asked to install an application called “Growl“, go ahead and install it. It is a notification service/application that runs in the background and provides visual feedback (notifications) from various software that you are already running. Growl supports a lot of applications and it is really useful.
- Mac OS X supports some basic unzipping functionality. For more advance archive extracting, like multiple archives, or even rar files download “The Unarchiver“.
- When you press the “cmd” key while clicking an icon on the dock, Finder will open the directory where that application is located. This is useful to quick open the “Applications” directory.
- By default Finder does not show the current path of an opened Finder Window. To enable this you can go to “View -> Show Path Bar” or alternatively to display the path on the top of the window you can issue the following commands on the terminal:
$ defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YESThis can be reset back to default by issuing:
$ killall Finder
$ defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool NOI suggest the first way though.
$ killall Finder
- The shortcut “cmd+q” will quite an application while the keys “cmd+w” will close the window of an application.
- The shortcut “cmd+tab” will cycle through open applications but not through same application windows. So if you have several Finder windows you will not be able to navigate through them with “cmd+tab”. You will only get to access the latest window. To access multiple windows of the same application, use the shortcut “cmd+~”. A similar key combination also works on Adobe’s Photoshop CS3. You just have to press the “shift” key as well.
- If you are a developer, then you should try either Coda or TextMate. Both powerful text editors, each one with unique features. Personally I found Coda better but I guess I didn’t give TextMate a fair chance.
- Don’t pay Apple to upgrade your RAM. You can do it yourself for 1/3 of the price that they will charge you. Memory is really cheap and there are tons of tutorials on how to install more RAM modules on your Macbook or iMac.
- Many applications cost money. Mac applications are not expensive either. Most of them cost from $10 to $60. If you still can’t afford it you can try the “iSerial” or “Serial Box” applications. Both of them use a “special” database file that can be downloaded from famous torrent sites. This file keeps an up to date list of working serials for all the shareware apps. Have in mind though that most of the shareware apps are updated by their authors quite often so many of the provided serials get banned pretty soon. After all, paying the author the small amount of the application cost, gets you out of this hustle.
- Mac OS X does not come with an uninstaller. To delete/remove applications, just drag them to the Trash bin. Having though an unistaller helps removing system files (plist) created by each application upon run. There are many options out there. I use “AppZapper“.
- The “AppFresh” application keeps all your apps up to date. This is really useful when you want the latest version of your software installed on your Mac.
- The “delete” key does not delete a selected file. To do so, you need to press “cmd+backspace”.
- If you use a lot of Instant Messaging applications you can switch to “Adium” where it supports most of the well known protocols out there. Personally I find it easier and less baggy than Microsoft’s MSN for the Mac.
- For torrents, use “Transmission” if you don’t need advance configurations. If you need a torrent client with lots of advance settings like scheduling and proxy support, use the more “heavy” Java based application “Azureus“.
- Mac OS X comes with a built in screen capture application. This site, has a complete list of all the possible key combinations to either capture a section, an active window, or even the whole screen.
- To play WMA/WMV files, either locally on your mac, or even embedded on webpages, install the “Flip4Mac” application.
- Changing icons of files, applications or folders is a bit tricky but totally possible without the need of 3rd party applications. To do so, first you need to get the icon you want to use. This is achieved by selecting the icon and then pressing “cmd+i” (this brings the information window of the selected icon/application). On the top left corner, click once on the icon. You will notice that it gets “highlighted”. Then press “cmd+c” to copy the icon. Now select the file you want to change its icon and again press “cmd+i” after you select it. Highlight its icon on the top left corner and press “cmd+v” to paste over the new icon. This may look confusing but after you do it once, you will get the hand of it.
- Dashboard is considered as useful as you make it. Having lots of unnecessary widgets can slow down your system because Dashboard runs in the background. If you do need to have a really “heavy” dashboard you can install the “Stop Dashboard” widget that exits the Dashboard until the next time you use it. This keeps your system Dashboard free until you need it.
- Learn to use Expose. Personally I use regularly the show desktop feature. I assigned the Mighty Mouse’s squeeze keys to “show desktop”
- You can move a file to another directory by drag and drop. When you drag an icon and hover it over a directory, it will pop up that window after a couple of seconds. You can speed up this process by pressing the space bar while hovering over a folder. The same method can be performed on additional directories. If you perform this method while also pressing the “shift” key, it will slow down the animation of “window popping up” even more.
So here you have it. After I collect some more tips or really useful shortcut keys, I will post a follow up. Until then I hope you find these tips useful.