My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 7

My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 7

Summary: In this installment of my MacBook Pro Experience I'm going to be covering some of the basic skills and knowledge I’ve discovered that someone making the switch from Windows to Mac really needs to carry out basic functions within the Mac OS X environment.


In this installment of my MacBook Pro Experience I'm going to be covering some of the basic skills and knowledge I’ve discovered that someone making the switch from Windows to Mac really needs to carry out basic functions within the Mac OS X environment.

If you are already a Mac user, this post might come across as pretty basic, but the idea here is to get across the main differences between the two platforms to readers not familiar with the Mac.  If you know what you are doing when it comes to all things Mac, you can help others by posting your tips and tricks here. 

 Next -->

Keyboard and Keyboard Shortcuts

The first difference to get used to is the keyboard and the keyboard shortcuts.  For those new to the Mac there are two keys that you need to become familiar with:

  • Command key (sometimes called the Apple key).  This is the main modifier on the Mac.  However, don't expect it to work like the Windows key - it doesn't bring up a system menu.  In fact, the Command key is similar in function to the CTRL key on a Windows PC.
    Mac command
  • The Alt/Option key is a key that doesn't seem to be used as much as the Command key (or Control) but I've found that it comes in handy when navigating through documents.
    Mac option

If you're handy with Windows you're more than likely familiar with keyboard shortcuts for cut, copy and paste.  However, just because the Mac keyboard has a Control key (marked on my MacBook Pro as CTRL), don't think that you can use the same CTRL+X, CTRL+C and CTRL+V that you're used to.  On the Mac the Command key (shortened to Cmd) replaces the CTRL key.  Fortunately, the letters used are the same, so CTRL+X, CTRL+C and CTRL+V becomes Cmd+X, Cmd+C and Cmd+V.

Now I'm not going to list a gazillion keyboard shortcuts in this post, instead I'm going to pick on a few that I've found most useful over the past few days.

  • Open a file
    Gotta file on your desktop you want to run.  You can't just select the file and hit ENTER.  It doesn't work, that only allows you to rename the file.  Nope, instead you have to hit Cmd+O.
  • Delete
    On the Mac platform the Backspace key that is at the top right of the keyboard is the Delete key.  When working with text this deletes from right to left just like the Backspace key in Windows does.  If you want the features of the Delete key (deleting left to right) you press Fn+Delete (Fn stands for Function).
    Got a file on your desktop you want to get rid of?  Pressing the Delete key won't shift it.  You have to press Cmd+Delete instead.  This will send the file to the Trash.
  • Closing and quitting applications
    When using the Mac OS there's a subtle difference between closing and quitting an application.  After you've closed a application, the application is still running actually running, you just can't see it.  The application's actually been minimized to the Dock.  You can tell that it's there by looking for the icon on the right-hand side of the Dock.  You close applications using Cmd+W.  Quitting an application means that the app's no longer running and if you want to use it again you have to relaunch it.  You quit apps using the Cmd+Q keyboard shortcut.
  • Minimize vs. Hide
    It took me a little time before I got the difference between minimize and hide.  Minimizing an application means sending it to the Dock - you'll see the icon on the right-hand side of the Dock. 
    Mac tutorial
    You can do this using Cmd+M.  Hiding an application (done using Cmd+H) means that the window or windows are hidden from view but nothing is sent to the Dock (apart from a little arrow that you can see underneath the icon in the Dock). 
    Mac tutorial
    The main difference between the two is that if you minimize an app to the Dock, using Cmd+TAB to switch to the app (analogous to ALT+TAB in Windows) keeps it minimized in the Dock while switching to a hidden window restores that window and it's ready to use. 
  • Working With Text
    Here are a few useful keyboard shortcuts when working with text:
    Cmd+Left Arrow - Go to the beginning of a line
    Cmd+Right Arrow - Go to the end of a line
    Alt+Left Arrow - Jump one word to the left
    Alt+Right Arrow - Jump one word to the right
    Alt+Shift+Left Arrow - Select one word to the left
    Alt+Shift+Right Arrow - Select one word to the right
    Ctrl+P - Go up one line
    Ctrl+N - Go to next line
    Ctrl+K - Delete to end of line
    Ctrl+T - Transpose letters
  • Taking Screenshots
    Here are some useful keyboard shortcuts for taking screenshots:
    Cmd+Shift+3 - Take screenshot of whole screen
    Cmd+Shift+4 and drag - Capture selected screen area
    Cmd+Shift+4 then press spacebar then click on a windows - Captures selected window
    To copy to the clipboard instead of a file, press Ctrl while using one of the above keyboard shortcuts
  • Drag Background Windows Without Switching To Them
    Interesting trick this - you can move background windows without switching to them using CMD and drag the titlebar.
  • Force Quit
    Applications do still misbehave under Mac OS.  Sometimes they misbehave so much that the only thing left to do is to kill them.  This is where Force Quit comes in handy.  It's a lot like CTRL+ALT+DEL but instead you hit Cmd+Alt+Esc.  The Force Quit dialog then allows you to choose an unresponsive application to close.
    Mac tutorial
  • Immediate Shutdown
    If you want to shutdown your Mac in a hurry then the keyboard shortcut you need is Cmd+Option+Control+Eject.  No chance of pressing that by accident.
  • Shutdown Dialog
    To display the shutdown dialog press Ctrl+Eject.
    Mac tutorial
  • Eject CD/DVD on Boot
    This one can be handy too - to eject a CD or DVD at bootup hold the mouse button down while powering on the system.

Next -->

Installing Applications

Installing applications is strange under Mac OS if you're used to installing stuff under Windows.  It's strange not because the process is confusing as such but because it's so simple - if you know what you're doing.
The first application that I installed on the MacBook Pro was Firefox.  I downloaded a .DMG file and this seemed to mount similar to mounting an .ISO under Windows.  This fired up an installer of sorts which just sat on the screen doing nothing.  I expected something to happen.  When nothing seemed to be happening I tried clicking about.  Still nothing.  Then I stopped and took a look at the image - was this telling me to drag the Firefox logo to the Application folder?  I tried this and by accident dragged it to the desktop.  I assumed that this had messed things up but I still tried running Firefox - and it worked!  Amazing!  I then dragged the icon to the Application folder (you'll find this in the Finder), and tested it again - and it worked.  Pretty neat.  My only complaint here was the lack of language on the screen - it assumed that I knew that I was doing.  Since then I've installed other apps and noticed that there's a huge variety of installers out there.  Firefox maybe wasn't the easiest to start off with.
You can also run the applications directly from the .DMG file - just mount it and open it up but this is long-winded - however, I wonder how many people do this?  If you don't "get it" that you move the app out of the downloaded .DMG file, it's easy to think that it's already installed. 
After copying the app from the .DMG file, you can either delete it (unmounting it first - the easiest way to do this is to click the eject button in Finder) and then selecting it and hitting Cmd-Delete.
Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Next -->

Login Items

There's a really good way under the Mac OS of controlling what applications run at startup - it's called Login Items.  You can access Login Items by clicking on System Preferences and then selecting Accounts and the Login Items tab.  From here you can define which applications and files you want to see run at startup.
Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

The Dock

Don't make the mistake of thinking of the Dock in the Mac OS as being a substitute for the Windows taskbar.  In fact, the Dock is more a combination taskbar and quick launch menu. 

Mac tutorial

The Dock comes with preconfigured applications that you can click on and run much like the Windows quick launch menu does.  Click on them and they run.  You can also get up a context menu by using a secondary click (two-fingered tap for me on the MacBook because I changed the settings in the Keyboard & Mouse applet in System Preferences).  This context menu allows you to control the behavior of the application.

As I said earlier, you can spot applications which have been minimized to the Dock because you'll see the icon there.  You can also see hidden windows - notice the little arrow underneath the icon in the Dock.

Oh, and to empty the trash secondary-click on the trash can and choose Empty Trash.
Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Mouse Interaction with Applications

If you're not the kind of person who likes to memorize keyboard shortcuts, then you'll want to use the mouse to interact with applications running in the Mac OS.

Windows users will find that interacting with apps in the Mac OS is not a huge paradigm shift.  It's pretty intuitive - red button closes the application, the yellow button minimizes it and the green button maximizes and restores the app.

Some apps have a button on the right-hand side of the title bar that allows the sidebar to be expanded/collapsed.
Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Creating Archives

I was pleased to find just how simple it is to create ZIP archives in Mac OS X.  Just select the files, hit secondary click to bring up the context menu and select Create Archive.  Nice!

Mac tutorial

Full gallery of images here.

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Topic: Apple

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  • Keyboard Shortcuts

    There are so many keyboard shortcuts, and they come in so handy, that a guy
    named Leland Scott created a Dashboard Widget that lists them all for you. I'm
    not a big fan of Dashboard Widgets, but I find this one indispensible. It's
    called XCuts and I think the most recent version is 1.2. You can get it from
    MacUpdate at:
    • Cheers!

      That'll be both handy and a great tip for others.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • The option key

    Does a whole lot more than it might appear to on the surface. It's basically the mother of modifiers keys. Press it with keystrokes to access extended characters, accents, etc. Press it while dragging to force a copy instead of a move.

    Within applications, pressing option will often reveal additional tool settings, additional mouse click functionality, etc. There are many little gems of functionality hidden in the humble option key.
  • Intellect vs Muscle Memory

    As you're finding out, sometimes the unfamiliarity comes from the ease of use
    itself. The "desktop" metaphore goes very deep with Mac OS. Files are objects on a
    desktop, they can be manipulated as such. Double click on a file (instead of cmd +
    O). Take a file, grab it and hold it over a folder for a moment, and fly through
    hierarchies. Set up expose in the preferences (I like the F1-F4 keys) and get a new
    understanding of multitasking on a grand scale. Tinker with Unix's powerful
    command line. Automate with Automator, the evolution of Apple Script. The list
    goes on and on.

    Add to this pivotal Leopard's rumors:

    Resolution independance

    An implementation of Sun's radically innovative ZFS file system and it's leverage
    with Time Machine.

    It is possible that the Mac will become Intel's poster child for massively parallel
    desktop computing. I would trust these partners over the Microsoft ecosystem to
    deliver a dev environment that greatly mitigates the law of diminishing returns
    associated with the use of multicores. While .Net parrots Java and adds a new
    runtime and layer of abstraction to an already overburdened system, X-code is
    evolving as a rigorous object oriented environment designed to create 3 brilliant
    calendar apps rather than 324 mediocre ones. The gold rush is over and
    settlement has begun.

    OSX shipped six years ago with 1/4 of the system requirements that Vista is now
    asking for. There are an increasing number of markers pointing to the notion that
    Redmond is being left behind. Your blogging compatriots are quick to dismiss the
    Steve "distortion field", but painting Apple exclusively as a purveyor of "fashion"
    is... let's just say it's not accurate.
    Harry Bardal
    • Distortion indeed

      WoW now that's a way to warp reality. OSX is a cut-down 70s style OS with a pretty front end. If you really think .Net is somehow a bad copy of that slow and useless Java then you obviously don't have the necessary expertise to evaluate it.

      I also love the way people keep talking about right clicking when it ships with one mouse button. Oh and say the X-code thing again, I'm still laughing...
      • Distorted Opinion...

        WoW you are a bigot.

        I own, love, and use a Mac. Do I hate Windows? No. I don't want to use it. A
        couple big gripes with your opinion.

        1. OSX is by far and away more advanced than anything M$ offers, even Vista. I
        am a programmer and have done work on Windows, Linux, and Mac. So for the
        serious readers out there here is the real lowdown on the tech of the three.

        1. Linux

        Linux is a great system. Stable, Secure, and reliable. You have to do a lot of leg
        work yourself, but once you have it setup and running you can lock it into a closet
        and forget about it. Of course Linux is based on Unix, that means it runs basically
        the same. Server applications.. It rocks.

        It does not work well for a desktop system however, the cohesion and simplicity is
        just not even close to there yet, but if you want a desktop on the real, real, real,
        cheap then by all means...

        2. Windows CAN BE a great system. Again, you must put a lot of work into it, and
        be very careful how and what you install etc.... You must purchase a lot of
        software, for security, and to just do anything useful after you have it. If you want
        to have the greatest compatibility with software available for purchase then
        choose this, but be warned your in for a constant struggle with it. Unless of course
        you don't ever connect to the Internet, or download anything, or use any drivers
        that are not M$ certified etc....

        3. Mac OSX Tiger.

        When I use my Mac I never cease to be amazed by how well thought out
        everything really is. I am also amazed at all the power user features it contains
        that CAN be used, but you don't have to.

        OSX is really easy, easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to get a lot of work
        done on. Not to mention it has the slickest UI interface around. You also get
        software bundled in that you can use for pretty much anything your going to
        normally do. And the software is fantastic! It just works, and how often can you
        really truly say that about any software that is very complex?

        OSX is based on Unix. Think all the security of Linux/Unix with the best UI

        So, that pretty much wraps it up. Everything just works.

        I think the Mac users are the ones still laughing..... While they happily GET THINGS
        DONE without having to hassle with a bunch of security problems, driver
        problems, etc....

        I think you have never really used a Mac, because if you had, that's what you
        would be using now.
      • Your obvious predisposition aside...

        The fact is that every Mac that ships with a mouse has right-click available on the "one button" mouse which is actually a very slick three-button mouse. You do need to get out more and keep up if you're going to spout off like this.

        Oh, and on laptops you can right-click by putting two fingers on the trackpad rather than one. Works great. Much simpler than two buttons. Sam applies for pointing/scrolling. One finger on the trackpad = pointing. Two fingers = scrolling (horizontally as well as vertically). Again, works great.

        It's pretty obvious you've never used a Mac (or at least haven't for quite some time). I suggest you troll over to the closest Apple store and see what you've been missing first hand instead of relying on old wife's tales, urban legends, and out-of-date opinion.

        Ultimately, which OS you prefer is (and should be) a matter of personal preference and not a target for derision or misinformed platform bigotry. I use both the Mac and Windows (XP and Vista) every day. They're all mature systems with a lot to offer.
      • One mouse button???

        What century did you stray from? My Apple mouse has 4 buttons (all progammable)
        and horizontal as well as vertical scrolling...
      • press my button- gawd the stupidity! And these

        guys always talk about loving the ability to configure their own computers! Buy a different mouse for freeks sake! The only microsoft product I use is their intellimaouse. I like it, and it works well. Never tried the IM on an MS system- should imagine it crashes all the time- everything esle does!
  • Intuitive?

    The comment I most often see from Mac users is how "intuitive" the Mac is to use, and from your descriptions and my limited interaction, I'm just not seeing it. I'm a Linux and Windows users (80/20%), and from what I'm seeing the mac looks like it does things different. Not better, not more intuitive, just different.

    I've really enjoyed this review of the mac - because I've been curious about all the hype. But I have to ask - What is so intuitive? It looks like the mac still has a learning curve. The description of various functions doesn't exactly sound obvious. So I'm not sold yet. Am I missing something?
    • What's Missing...

      The Mac has a reputation for appealing to flakes and creative types. Why?
      Creativity demands a dive into a subjective cesspool where answers are not
      necessarily right or wrong. Hundreds of options have to be explored, often
      concurrently. Potential variants number in millions. File sizes are not big, they are
      enormous. Photoshop is literally doing more floating point calculations in seconds
      than Excel is doing in months. if you're doing one simple thing at a time, Windows
      is fine. If you're doing dozens of complicated things at a time, Windows is a liquid

      The "intuitive" aspect of the Mac could be summed up with one simple edict. In
      the partnership between the user and the computer, it's essental that the human
      mind is seen as by far, the most powerful cpu in play. The key here is not asking
      for an explanation as to what the hype is all about. The key is trying it, and giving
      it a good chance to win you over. As computers are asked to do more and more,
      Apple's paradigm will be seen as the standard, not because it exerts a presence,
      but because it gets out of the way.
      Harry Bardal
      • No compelling reason

        The problem is I don?t see the compelling reason to give it a chance to win me over. I?m not saying the Mac can?t do amazing things ? but I can already to some amazing things in Linux and/or Windows, and I guess I was looking for something concrete that would demonstrate this is an easier, better, more intuitive system. In all honesty ? I?m also looking for a reason to justify the price tag. (esp. when I build my own systems and use Linux)

        I was also looking for the intuitive (read simplistic) system for my wife. She uses Windows because she knows it ? not because she likes it. I even built her a new system and tried to get her to use Linux but she felt it to difficult (different) to use. I had been told to try a Mac because it?s so easy and intuitive. But that?s not what I?m seeing. She doesn't want to learn something new, even though it might be better in the long run - just use.
        • Exactly right though the Mac zealots won't like it

          I remember when the Zune came out, certain zealots (I'm not allowed to name names or tic will get mad at me... oops... I named a name) said that Zune needed to be [b]better[/b] than the iPod to convince people to switch. For whatever reasons you want to believe, both iPod and Windows have become the product chosen by the majority of consumers in their respective markets. iPod owners have bought peripherals that will only work with their iPods and Windows users have bought software that will only work with Windows. Not only that but switching from iPod to Zune requires all new hardware (by definition) and switching from Windows to OSX requires all new hardware (because Apple artificially and onerously charges their customers to artificially and onerously prevent OSX from working on hardware that it would otherwise just naturally work on). So now that we've established that a change in status quo costs real money, I need to be convinced that I'm getting something for that money. After reading this blog for 7 days now, it turns out that if I switched to OSX:
          1. Everything that OSX can do is just something that XP can do except it is called something different. Command button is the control button. Archive is a zip. Dock is a taskbar.
          2. I [b]still[/b] need to run Windows so I really haven't saved myself any administration (I've just doubled it in fact).
          3. My choices are limited to 3 desktop models and 2 laptop models and all of it is white and all of it is expensive. Want a card reader in that laptop? Tough, you can't have it. Want a quad core CPU in your desktop? Tough, you can't have it. Have a desktop and just want a really cheap laptop because you won't use it very often? Tough, you can't have it.

          To convince people to switch, you have to give them a [b]reason[/b] to switch because it will cost them real money to switch. Also, as I've shown above, they will have to live with very real disadvantages that come with choosing a Mac. In 7 days, no one has been able to show even one thing that the Mac can do better.
          • Wow...

            Impressive for once seeing a reasonable response that isn't full of zealotry. :P

            Although you do know that if you were a MAC user that you have no reason to switch to Windows has just been adding the stuff MAC has had for years.

            But I will agree with you.. That I see no incentive to switch operating systems/computers just because I want more security. I can handle my Windows box quite well. The incentive that would push me over the edge though.. The ability to play all my games.
          • whinge whinge whinge- you wanna cheap

            laptop you CAN have it. I suspect that you already do! You want an expensive laptop, you can have that too, if you can afford it.

            We live in a capitalist society, and the things you whinge about are just fundamental things about capitalist societies- choice. Seems you have a problem- as zealots do- with others exercising that discretionary power.

            Stick with your crappy cheap systems by all means, or buy an expensive system- but stop your damn whingeing.
        • yep- old people are like that- they stick with

          what they know, and the vast majority of them never learned to 'program' their vcr machines to record a tv program!

          VCRs fault that the vast majority of people who bought them only know how to press the record button? Dont think so. What you say is nonsense.

          Big deal, people stick with what they know, and go for the cheapest option.

          That shouldn't actually come as a shock!'

          What comes as a shock for me is all the gloating that occurs by people who wish to maintain their ignorance! And demand that they are taken seriously. Sick world hey!
        • Well...

          this may come across as rude, but leave you wife where she is and tell to either quit
          bitching or be willing to try something new. I had to do this with my wife to wean
          her off the Windows juice. She tried Linux, Suse, and did not like it at all, but she has
          taken to the Mac. We bought her a Windows machine because her job will only let
          her VPN with a windows client, and it is driving her mad. We purchased Virtual PC,
          and, not the perfect solution, but it is acceptable.
    • Intuitiveness (is that a word?)

      It's true that there is a learning curve to OSX just like there is to most
      everything. But where I find a lot of the intuitiveness is in the fact that once
      you learn "the Mac way", all programs tend to work with the same set of
      actions. In the Windows world, it seems as though different program
      developers have designed their own user interface for their program, such
      that you can't just jump right in and be totally comfortable in it. Whereas
      on the Mac, most applications (not all, but most) adhere to a basic set of
      "user interface rules" that make them seem to all work in a similar fashion.
      It just makes them more user friendly and intuitive right from the get-go.

      Plus a number of the programs that come with the Mac (like the iLife Suite)
      as well as thousands of other free, open source programs, all have a high
      degree of interoperability. Similar to the way that the Microsoft Office
      applications all have a high degree of similarity in the way they do things,
      but on the Mac that interoperability extends way beyond the Office suite.
    • I think it is relative......

      You have to become familiar with the basic conventions of any environment you choose to use.

      Why I always thought it a little odd why those who only or primarily have experience with Windows expect "everything" to be the same as Windows & when not, consider it odd or difficult. For no other reason that it is different, even when those conventions, as in the case of Mac, have been used maybe even a decade longer.

      As a Linux user you may have explored some of the dozen or more DE's & WM's, KDE, Gnome, Xfce, OpenBox, ICEwm, Enlightenment, etc, etc.

      One of the qualities that makes KDE my favorite is its configurability.

      One of the things you can do (if so inclined) is choose its conventions & behaviors, in the Desktop Settings Wizard. You can set it to behave like Windows, Mac, Unix or the default KDE (which is a combination of Windows & Unix behaviors) or any combination.

      So if you have KDE you can explore "some" of that Mac behavior set. You will probably prefer what you are familiar with.

      But if you had a Mac and it was new to you, there would be some adjustment. I would bet you would quickly become familiar & it would become second nature.

      No different really than becoming familiar with a different cell or remote.
    • Consistency

      I think one of the keys is that actions are consistent across programs. Apple has had a strong set of interface guidelines for years that they (mostly) follow, and that programmers follow.

      This is the main reason for sticking with a one button mouse for so many years--not that multi-button mice weren't useful, but because it forced programmers to follow the same set of rules, to write programs that worked the same way and that would work for everyone, regardless of how many buttons your mouse has.

      Apple (and other software companies) are certainly not perfect in following these guidelines, and on occasion you'll see something that doesn't fit with the rules (and boy, will you hear about it on Mac websites). But in general, it's intuitive because regardless of what you're doing on the computer, the rules are the same.
      tic swayback